No.9 February 11, 2002
A New Year's Revolution
GIRLZ ~ Margaret Cho
~ I am Ali - a film by dream hampton
ESOTERIC ~ Women of Color & Cervical Cancer
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Interracial Love Reveals Hidden
How absolutely unreal was the drama in 2001? I know I wasn't the only one
who could not wait to move beyond the somber, shell-shocked mood that seemed
to fill lives in the wake of September 11th. Never really one for making
resolutions, I definitely knew this year had to be different. I mean we
can all say we're going to start eating right, exercising or quit smoking.
But by February how many of us even remember these empty vows, never mind
the fact that by Valentine's Day we've had more Haagen Daaz and Newport
Lights than we can count.
Many, many years ago famed philosopher, Dr. Ambedkar declared, "For
ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom.
It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality." Having resolve
and dreams are great and probably even essential, but lately I've been focused
on actualization. In 2002, I have New Year's Revolutions. In light of having
debt, being out of shape and especially in light of 9.11, I am going to
create a thriving business, travel abroad and start working on that book
I've been yapping about for the past 5 years. This year I'm going to eat
my ice cream and hangout online at theHotness.com and enjoy the freedom
I have to do both!
I'd be interested in hearing your New Year's Revolutions. Please send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org and
we will post them on the site.
creative and groundbreaking
by Uma Amuluru
11pm on a warm Sunday night in mid-October and Margaret Cho is about to
take the stage for her sold-out one-woman show at Hammerstein Ballroom
in New York City. I can barely sit still as I think back to the first
time I saw her. It was the mid-nineties and my entire family stood perplexed
in the living room as we watched one of the first Asians we had ever seen
on prime time television. Soon the five of us were cackling with delight
as she imitated her mother and joked about what it was like to be different
in America. I pushed my enormous glasses up a little higher on my nose,
ran my tongue over my brace-lined teeth and thought, she is going
to change my entire life she makes being different look so cool.
Years later when I picked up her autobiography, I Am the One That
I Want, I realized there was more to Margaret than her ability to
make people laugh. A stunningly humane confession, the book delves into
the comedians struggle with alcohol, love, eating disorders, and
self-esteem. Although she has now overcome most of those issues, she betrays
her trades reliance on the punch line this book is not about
the happy ending but rather about the journey to it. Make no mistake,
though, she had me laughing the entire time.
Currently on tour with her latest show, Notorious C.H.O.,
Margaret is stronger and funnier than ever. She jokes about sex and being
a fag-hag, but also laces her show with poignant vignettes
about gay rights and a womans self-image. Its not just about
being Asian anymore she is a tribute to humanity with her candor
and grace. Now she makes being strong and surviving look cool.
With her book coming out in paperback in May 2002, Margaret is getting
ready for big things this year and no doubt shes laughing all the
way to the bank. During a break from her recent tour, Margaret sat down
with theHotness and talked about being Korean, loving Lil Kim and
dealing with, of all things-- sadness
theHotness: I loved the show, loved
listening to people laugh during the show. Why did you title it Notorious
Margaret Cho: It was kind of a joke
between my friends and I. We were talking about a new title for my show
and we had a kind of a funny idea conversation about Lil' Kim and how
much I love her and she named her album Notorious K.I.M. and
from there, the title just stuck.
tH: What are your thoughts on female
rappers like Lil' Kim and Lauryn Hill?
MC: I think they are great. I really
love their music and to me, they represent a new wave of feminism and
power. They take feminism out of theory and put it into practice. Feminism
always seemed to be about universities and education and these huge womens
studies departments; it is very much an ivory tower thought process and
these women take feminism down to almost street level-- into practice--
where they actually live it and do it. It's very multicultural and very
exciting-- music to me is so much about social reform and more than just
what it is on a superficial level, so I really respect these artists for
what they do.
tH: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
MC: Oh yeah - as much as I consider
myself a woman I consider myself a feminist - I never understood women
who don't consider themselves to be feminist - it always seemed that just
by being a woman, you had to be a feminist.
tH: When you first got started, there
weren't (and still aren't) many Asian women in the media. How did you
feel when you started - was it the driving impetus-- a "someone's
gotta be the first one" attitude-- or did it really not have anything
to do with why or how you got into comedy?
MC: It didn't really have much to
do with it, to be honest with you. I was more looking for freedom from
the life that my parents wanted for me and from the restrictions that
my culture placed upon me. I basically didnt want to be a bank teller!
My parents had a very conservative vision of what I could grow up to be
- a teacher, an accountant, etc. My job options were not appealing and
I couldn't exist within the framework that was set up for a young Korean
woman at the time. So to leave it and go be an artist - that to me was
the only option. I never thought about whether or not I was going to be
successful or not - it was more about what I wanted to do and what made
tH: But now you are a role model to many Asian American women
- how do you feel about that? Are you comfortable with it?
MC: Oh, I am very comfortable with
it. I think it's great. I mean, I live my life the way that I want to
live it. I'm very happy and if I can help other people get to a place
with that kind of joy, then that is a really great way to be a role model.
tH: Do you think that things have
changed in the media for Asians since you started?
MC: Not really. It really hasn't changed.
It's actually amazing how little has changed across the board for all
minorities. I think the one place it has changed is for gay men - that
really has blossomed in mainstream media. Lots of wonderful stuff that
has happened for them and I think that is because so many gay artists
and gay writers have taken it upon themselves to create and get behind
or in front of the camera, spurring a wonderful acceptance across the
board of gay culture.
tH: I know everyone asks, but how
do you feel about your show, All American Girl being cancelled?
MC: You know, it really wasn't the
right show. I was devastated but knew it wasn't the right thing. There
were too many people involved in that show and the whole process was just
really difficult. In the end, it wasn't me on television anymore.
tH: There is a lot of overlap in material
between the show and the book - how are the two mediums different for
MC: They are different in that the
book allows me to be a lot more detailed and a lot more melancholy. There
is more of a sadness to my writing as opposed to my performance because
I have to keep things light in a performance and still be funny. I have
to take the audience and bring them to different places and make them
understand where I am coming from. With my writing I can explain a lot
more and go more into depth with the subject matter.
tH: You talk about several difficulties
in your show and your book - weight control, being a minority, drugs and
alcohol. Does the book symbolize closure on all that? Do your life lessons
signify the end of a journey of sorts - perhaps reaching peace within
MC: I still struggle but I struggle
in a different way. Over the years a lot of things have changed and what
I go through right now is a lot less extreme. It is a constant process
of growing and improving my life. It's helpful that I have been able to
chronicle my life and hopefully it will help others who are struggling
with their own lives.
tH: I have definitely been affected
by your book. There were a lot of things that touched me and I feel like
I know you now! (laughter)
MC: That's great. It really is such
a personal project to write a book - you lay down a lot of yourself, but
it has been really rewarding.
tH: You have a movie out, a book and
a new show - you're gaining accolades and praise from everyone. What's
left for you? What do you want to work on next?
MC: I really want to write another
book - which is hard because the touring is extensive. A lot of my energy
is devoted to that right now and I get home after a night of two shows
and I'm exhausted. But that is what I am planning on doing.
tH: I was touched by the sad childhood
stories in your book. If you could tell yourself as a little girl one
thing, what would it be?
MC: I would say that everything is
going to be okay. You know, you grow up with this incredible insecurity
and dread that things won't work out when you grow up and it is so scary
and I just want to reassure her and say, 'Just wait - it's gonna be so
fabulous. You are going to be so fabulous!
Uma Amulurus New Years Revolution
is to do like Margaret Cho and put her money where her mouth is and attend
Journalism School in the fall.
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books, film, tv and websites
Am Ali ( dream hampton, Director )
all the fuss and rah, rah over Michael Manns epic bio pic of Muhammad
Ali featuring the fresh rapper, Will Smith, emerges an independent short
directed by one of journalisms most hated writers, dream hampton.
dreams cinematic debut is a 17-minute sagacious slice of mania,
fear and frailty that zeros in on the lives of Cam, played by Ishmael
Butler (formerly known as Butterfly of the now defunct Grammy-Award winning
hip-hop trio Digable Planets) and his girlfriend Bobbi, who is portrayed
by Hollywoods best kept secret, Aunjanue Ellis. Two minutes into
the film and everything seems normal-- two twenty-something urban-bohemian
lovers lying in bed watching footage from one of Alis famed bouts
getting ready for another day of work. However, minutes later when the
surface is scratched, what we initially took as Cams fascination
with Ali, suddenly tragically distorts into all out mental dysfunction
and we realize that this romance isnt going to be your usual love
Bobbi is clearly a stand-by-your-man type of woman and under dreams
direction, Aunjanue is able to infuse her character with a subtle mix
of vulnerability, passion and innocence without coming off as some silly
ho. Its not like this is the 8th grade and this is the fucking
Victory tour, Bobbi blasts, letting us know shes got some
spine to back-up all that heart. But its when she sees Cam, outside
her Times Square office window taking off his jacket, doing push-ups and
boxing the air declaring in Cassius Clay speak that bettin
on Sonny, they gon lose all they money to passersby, that Bobbis
determined exterior cracks and her pain and frustration ooze like maple
from a punctured sapling. Although this short focuses on Cams schizophrenia,
it is more how his behavior affects Bobbi that keeps I Am Ali,
more about desolation than about debilitation.
When asked if this project was autobiographical, dream reveals, I
am an activist, and when I met Assata Shakur in the summer of 2000 all
she talked about was mental and spiritual health. Then Angela Davis gave
a speech saying the next revolution would occur in mental health, so those
two women, two activists, whose opinions mean so much to my personal work
inspired me to look more closely at the subject. I'm also inspired by
bell hooks' recent direction, focusing on love, and I imagined what it
would be like to be in love with a man unraveling in that way, admits
dream. The film to me is about her (Bobbi).
dream, a Detroit native who has made a name for herself interviewing hiphops
finest such as Tupac, The Notorious BIG and Jay-Z for a number of national
hiphop, urban mags, chose to juxtapose the braggadocio of Ali with mental
illness to show how both define and refract young black manhood. Before
Q-Tip put me on to Muhammad Ali I wasn't up on him. I mean he was like
Charlie Parker, I knew he was the greatest and new his bio-sketch, but
who has listened to much more than "Salt Peanuts"? Well I hadn't.
One of my friends was arrested on the Grand Concourse (a major avenue
in the Bronx, NY) in his underwear. He told a woman he was Jesus and to
give him her car. So I began thinking about the kind of delusions that
are had-- that they are all so grand. And Ali fits into that because he
is so messianic...with the whole black male iconography thing. So they're
all very personal, intellectual, even political, issues I was working
in a dark comedy. Cuz when we get uncomfortable we laugh.
And when we laugh we heal. I guess you could say I Am Ali
floats like a butterfly, but soars when it stings like a bee.
Am Ali, executive produced by Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson
from the Roots was the first film screened at this years Sundance
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bits and news bytes
Campaign Aims to Decrease the Shocking Incidence Rate of Cervical Cancer
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Office of Women's Health,
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, have announced the launch
of an aggressive public education campaign to help decrease the alarming
rates of cervical cancer among high-risk, women of color residing in Los
Angeles County. In support of the program, The California Endowment awarded
a $2.2 million grant, matched by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
to fund a multicultural media, education and community outreach campaign
targeting high-risk, undeserved women of color.
According to USC's County Surveillance Research, cervical cancer disproportionately
affects women of color. The incidence rates in Los Angeles County among
Latinas is 19.5/100,000, 10.8/100,000 among African-American women and
15.2/100,000 among Korean women which is nearly three times higher than
the national rate of 7.4/100,000.
For the full story, go to:
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Love Reveals Hidden Hate
By Asako Konishi
have been in a wonderful relationship for 4 years now. I am Japanese and
he is African-American. The fact that he is Black is not agreeable with
my mother who is disappointed that I am not with a nice Asian or at least
a Caucasian man that is either a doctor, investment banker or a lawyer.
If she only knew how boring I find these types. Believe me, I know as
I have dated quite a few of them.
My boyfriend, Kevin, is the creative type and owns his own business. He
is a hip restaurateur. Having opened many high profile restaurants in
Manhattan, he is not only brilliant, but a gifted entrepreneur. Yes, Im
biased, but many would agree hes been successful. Our relationship
is no different than anyone elses. It requires a lot of work and
it can get hard at times. What is difficult is maintaining the balance
of everyday life between the home and the restaurant. As with most couples
this has been very challenging. But it is even more difficult because
of the misperceptions and stereotypes that we must deal with on a daily
basis-- from our families, our friends, our community and even sometimes
In Japan, it is highly taboo to date out of your race. Good girls
from good families date and marry Japanese men from good families.
White men even still raise an eyebrow and require a thorough background
check. Anything else is out of the question. We dont even accept
Koreans or Chinese. I knew all of this.
Having been raised in Japan at an International School where I went to
school with kids from 28 different countries around the world, I thought
the traditional rules didnt apply in our family. My friends of all
colors and races reflected this at my birthday parties. We had become
a true cosmopolitan family. Or so I thought. Why didnt she show
any signs of distress then?
Needless to say, my decision to date Black men has significantly altered
my relationship with my mother. We have gone months without talking to
each other. It is very strained and volatile to this very day.
In my mothers eye, my Black boyfriends are unacceptable and in the
past, she has threatened to disown me. I do not think you just read that
last sentence very carefully. I said, disown. When your parents
or in this case, my only parent, seriously contemplates disowning you
from the family, it breaks you. I was blinded by tears with a myriad of
feelings, mostly of anger and shock. Then depression set in and I have
not been quite the same person since.
She believes that all Black men are dangerous or bad. I remember us watching
TV during the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict and seeing this white
truck driver dragged out of his truck and beaten. What savage animals
they are, she screamed in Japanese. I recall a time when we were
watching MTV Music Awards and she said, Blacks are so good at dancing;
or when we would see the Knicks play on TV, she would make a similar statement
about their athletic ability and she meant it as a compliment. The fact
is she has difficulty believing that my Black boyfriends are not drug
dealers, basketball players or entertainers.
It all started when I first brought my paralegal Black boyfriend to meet
her. He was a loser in the end but thats not the point. She immediately
dismissed him because of the color of his skin. For this reason alone,
I stayed with him much too long just to prove to her that his color was
not an issue.
I know that when my mother first met Kevin she was searching for something
negative to say about him. We went to dinner and right away, she started
her investigative reporting. She was impressed that he owned his own business
and was even surprised that they had much in common. She couldnt
find anything bad to say so she surmised:
I just cant figure out why he has gotten married? He is in
his mid 30s right? I find that strange
Mom, he was married and divorced, just like you.
Oh, I see, she said curtly and then stated, He would
be a good friend.
It is not good enough for her that I found a great guy in New York who
loves me a lot, not scared to make a lifetime commitment, that deals with
all my shit, and is good to me.
As if there wasnt enough drama with my mother, there are those tense
moments I experience sometimes with Black women and men. When Kevin and
I walk down the streets in New York, I get these looks-- piercing looks
from some Black women. I dont know exactly what they are thinking
but I have my suspicions. Look at another brother not with a sister.
And she probably doesnt even speak a lick of English. I get
those looks a lot.
Then there have been those Black men who think just because I am with
another Black man that I want to sleep with him too. They mouth things
like, Sweet and Sour and call me China. This puts
me face to face with one of my own misperceptions and pet peeves-- those
Hip Hop, black men loving Japanese girls with braids or an artificial
afro here on a temporary US visit. There is a contingent of these girls
here with their Black boyfriends and I wonder how they communicate or
walk in those chunky shoes. Most can barely speak one complete sentence
and they pay for everything. I used to get so upset seeing these girls
that were clearly being taken advantage of but not anymore. I have a different
outlook on them today. I suppose most are here with a vacation attitude.
Like when we go to Cancun or Hedonism in Jamaica. And I guess I just have
issues of my own to face up to.
In the end I love Kevin and we are going to get married. At the same time,
my mother, a single parent who raised my sister and I while holding down
a very successful real estate empire in Japan is my role model. She taught
me that as a woman there is nothing you cannot achieve, if you put everything
you got into it. The sad part is that she will never understand that I
have invested deeply in my relationship and have everything I want. I
have found love.
Asako Konishi and Kevin are planning to get married sometime
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