2018 has been a banner year for Asian Americans on and off screen, more so on film than on television, and the mood was celebratory as the 17th Annual Asian American Awards were handed out Saturday night, Dec. 8, at the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton, the favored venue for many awards shows including the upcoming Golden Globes.
Hosted by television personality Jeannie Mai for the fourth year, the Unforgettable Gala honored trailblazers in the entertainment industry including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu, actors Lana Condor, Manny Jacinto, Sandra Oh and John Cho and “Queer Eye’s” Tan France.
The blockbuster film “Crazy Rich Asians,” based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel and starring Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan and Awkwafina, received the Vanguard Award at the event, sponsored by Kore Asian Media and presented by Audi.
Mai kicked things off by shouting out TV shows of her youth that she said provided inspiration to a young Asian American girl growing up in the Bay Area, “Punky Brewster” and “I Dream of Jeannie.” “You create the winner that you are,” she said. “No one can beat you at being you and it’s great to be here to support each other and to support those who paved the way.”
Fresh on the heels of its Globe nominations, “CRA” screenwriters Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli presented Chu with his directing honor for their film — for which a sequel is already being discussed.
“Our community is creating new heights and it’s we who are doing it,” Chu said. “It’s changed me. I understand what pride means for the first time. Our movie is a result of this room. Never underestimate the power of planting seeds and helping others tell their stories.”
Echoing Chu’s sentiments in accepting the Vanguard Award, Kwan also celebrated the increased presence of Asian Americans in entertainment, but said Hollywood still has a long way to go in terms of representation. He alluded to the fact that the last American film with a large Asian cast was 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.”
“One movie every 25 years is just not f—ing enough,” said Kwan, who has written several other novels that comprise, along with “Crazy Rich Asians,” a trilogy of satirical tomes about Singapore’s ultra-wealthy elite, “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.”
Ms. Oh, who will co-host the Golden Globes Jan. 6 with Andy Samberg, was awarded the Actor in Television Award for “Killing Eve,” in which she plays Eve Polastri, the latest accolade she’s received for the role.
Other awards went to Cho, who was recognized with the Actor in Film Award for the psychological drama “Searching,” France, who received the Changemaker Award for his role on “Queer Eye,” Jacinto, honored with the Breakout in Television Award for “The Good Place,” and Condor, recipient of the Breakout in Film Award for “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.”
Interspersed amongst the acceptance speeches were a number of rousing performances, among them from dance troupe The Lab, cellist Tina Guo, beatboxing group KRNFX and singer-songwriter Judith Hill.