Asian Hall of Fame highlights Asian excellence

Asian Hall of Fame announced their top 30 nominees for their class of 2023

Photo collage of four women

Asian Hall of Fame held their Celebrate Asia Festival on Saturday where they officially announced the top 30 nominees for their class of 2023. Like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or Pro Football Hall of Fame, the organization honors individuals who have made an impact in their respective industries.

The event was held at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles and included a red carpet event and a live concert with Queen Nation, a tribute band to Queen. Among this years’ nominees are K-pop artist Lisa from Blackpink, actors Ram Charan and Gemma Chan, California attorney general Rob Bonta and Nintendo as their first corporate nominee. This includes several posthumous nominations including ones for Freddie Mercury and Ryuichi Sakamoto.

The mission of Asian Hall of Fame is to “promote Asian artistic excellence and cross-cultural narratives.” President and CEO Maki Hsieh explains the vision behind their festivities for this year in particular.

“We do honor great people, amazing people like Blackpink’s Lisa and Steve Aoki and his father, Rocky Aoki, but [it] really is to come together as a unified voice in order to overcome the bias against Asians,” Hsieh says. “Right now, we’re seeing escalating rhetoric. Asians are being accused of being communist, anti-American and deceitful, and we’re just here to show that Asians are not the enemy and we’re here to contribute.”

Photo of a woman with several microphones held in front of her

According to Hsieh, the event previously inducted just four to  six individuals, but this year they chose to announce thirty nominees. Out of the thirty, twelve will be officially inducted in a ceremony in October.

Asian Hall of Fame was founded 19 years ago by philanthropist Karen Wong and her Seattle-based organization the Robert Chinn Foundation. Wong spoke about the importance of recognizing individuals from a wide range of professional backgrounds.

“[Asian Hall of Fame] honors everybody in all different fields, from the entertainment industry to sports to engineers and technology,” said Wong. “We wanted to make everyone aware of their accomplishments not just in our own community, but also the broader community of everyone.”

This work is especially valuable given how Asian representation in media continues to be a pressing issue in the United States. Asian Hall of Fame is just one of the organizations looking to move the conversation forward by spotlighting individuals that can inspire others.

Photo of a woman standing in front of a banner

Miss Universe Japan 2021 Juri Watanabe attended the event to present a few of the nominees. After a career in tech, she is now pursuing acting in Los Angeles. She reflects on her own experiences, discussing the desperate need for Asian visibility.

“I think at least [for] me growing up as an immigrant child, I had a lot of difficulty with my identity,” she said. “I would look at TV and I wouldn’t see that many Asian people in media and I would think like my problems are not well represented or I don’t see myself represented on screen. So you feel belittled sometimes, right? And I feel that’s why Asian representation is so important. I made it my mission to have that be my platform.”

That is  apparent in spaces like the entertainment industry where better representation is still an ongoing process. Actress Ren Hanami (“Star Trek: Picard,” “Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Criminal Minds”) was inducted in 2021 and continues to support the Asian Hall of Fame through their charity work.

She says that despite progress from the recognition of actors like Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan at the latest Academy Awards, the road ahead is long.

Photo of a woman in front of a banner

“It’s still not a level playing field,” she says. “I think we’re seeing more of an influx in the entertainment industry, at least films and TV programs, from Asia which is exciting. However, in America, Asian Americans are in a weird position of we’re not like Asians from Asia, but we’re not seen as Americans because of what we look like.”

But Hanami is optimistic, and she feels that supporting organizations like Asian Hall of Fame and their related philanthropy is a step in the right direction.

“The things that they’re working on are things that I’m passionate about,” she said. “Happy that I’m part of the solution now, and Asian Hall of Fame is giving me that opportunity.”

Beyond external perceptions and opportunities, however, Watanabe hopes that people within the Asian community can be proud of their culture through their work in various industries.

“It took a bit of time for me to really appreciate my heritage and my culture, and once I realized that that’s such an important part of [my] development, I actually was able to gain so much confidence,” she said. “When I started to connect with my Japanese and Korean side and be proud of that heritage that I have, my confidence – not in an arrogant way – changed and it opened up so many more opportunities.”

In making known Asian excellence, the organization encourages those within the community to use their background as a strength. To the global community, it pushes for the expansion of opportunity and recognition of trailblazers, visionaries and icons across all industries.

The official Asian Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on October 21 where 12 of the 30 nominees will be selected.