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Meet Our 2017 ATG Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!


The ATG is proud to announce the 2017 Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners.

Check out the winners.


Kaitlyn Fisher, 11, Parker, Colorado 

Against The Grain means to me, people asking questions regarding me being adopted, about my birth mom, and being Micronesian.  My life is not the same as my friends and I often times have to explain how it’s normal having an adoptive mom and a birth mom, and explain how despite I am Micronesian by ethic background, I was born in the United States. So many people think I am “from” somewhere else.

I am explain and teach people about my ethnic background and how I am really American because I was born in the United States, and how it’s okay to have both an adoptive mom and a birth mom.  I can love them both.  Attending Heritage Camp has taught me that I am not the only person adopted and have white parents.  I really am not different because there are many others just like me.


Madison Fisher, 11, Parker, Colorado 

Going Against The Grain means to me, doing things that other don’t expect me to do.

As a Micronesian American, I do a lot of sports and things that I don’t see other kids of my background participating in.  I have been swimming on a swim team since I was six years old and surprise people how well and how fast I swim.  Also, this year at school I tried out for Wendy in Peter Pan.  Despite I didn’t get the role, I didn’t let it stop me from trying.


Christian Nguyen Ebel, 11, Sulphur Bluff, Texas 

“Against The Grain” means to me, pushing it to the limit and going to the top of the mountain where there is a pot of gold, or falling to the bottom, where there is lava. It means trying your best and not giving up. It is also how you try. You have to put in a lot of effort, otherwise, it doesn’t work. If you fall in the lava, you FAIL, but in failing you learn succeeding. You learn to rethink it, to try again and to do it right. It’s like when you are progressing in life, you are becoming rich, not only in money, but rich in love and connecting with people. When you are not progressing, you are feeling depressed and sad. But you have to try, to keep going, keep moving forward. It’s like try, fail, try, fail, SUCCEED! Don’t be like everyone else, being you is right.

I went “Against The Grain” by taking an educational trip to India last year. I wanted to help the kids in the slums by raising money for them. It took a lot of trying – 3 whole months to make the campaign video. I fixed my mind on it and raised $6,000 for the trip and donated money to Manav Sadhna at the Gandhi Ashram. They serve underprivileged kids in Ahmedabad. I changed India by a small portion. I just wrote a book about my experience in India and will donate proceeds from my book to my friends’ film to stop human trafficking.


Maeve Doubleday-Bush, 11, Glenwood Springs, Colorado 

Going Against The Grain means to me, that you don’t always have to fit in. You can be different from the others and you don’t have to listen to the mean things that other people are saying about you or your friends. This is not easy, but you need to trust and follow your instincts even if it is tough. You can work it out. Find a way to have fun even if others don’t want to hang out with you. You know you are doing the right thing. It really is their issue not yours.

Do the right thing and follow my instincts even when it is truly difficult. I don’t break the rules. I like to follow the rules. If the rules make no sense or seem overly strict, then rather than break the rules I will figure out a way to get them changed or make them work. Sometimes my friends and the other kids will break the rules, it doesn’t mean that I will, even if my friends are upset with me. I won’t bend to peer pressure. I don’t let my friends talk me into doing something I know is not right. Sometimes it means I have to be alone or go play with different people but I know I am doing the right thing.


Ian Gahagan, 10, Wales, Wisconsin

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To me, against the grain means people should not care what heritage other people are from. It’s what’s inside that counts. If you see someone being racist, ignore them. They don’t know who you really are like the famous saying you can’t judge a book by its cover. That means you don’t know someone ’til you know them as a person, in person.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? How I go against the grain, is if I see someone being racist, I would say “How would you feel if someone did that to you and are you really making the right choice?” If it gets physical, use the self-defense we learned at Culture Camp. In all, go against the grain, don’t go with the crowd, but stand up for what is right.


Aran Balzer, 11, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? It means being different than other people.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can live my life according to what I think and know is right instead of worrying about what others think of me.


Maekhala Balzer, 9, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To make a difference in the world.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can be myself.


Tassanee Balzer, 9, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To be different in a good way

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can make a difference in the world by helping people.


Keira Gahagan, 7, Wales, Wisconsin 

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? If people are doing something that’s not right, don’t do it and tell them they are making the wrong choice and why. If they don’t listen, I would get the adult that’s in charge and tell them that those kids are making the wrong choice.

If kids are doing something unsafe, I would tell them they should stop doing that because they could hurt themselves or trip and fall. If they don’t stop after I ask them twice, I would report it to a teacher because it was the wrong choice and it was unsafe.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? If someone is making fun of someone I would say “Hey, I think you’re hurting that person’s feelings. I think you should stop.” One day at school, my friend L. was having trouble pronouncing the words thirty-five. Six people were making fun of her pronouncing those words. I said “I think you are hurting her feelings. I think you should stop. I don’t think she likes it”. They didn’t stop. They kept making fun of how she was pronouncing it. My friend acted like she didn’t care and kept working. I told the teacher a few minutes later that I told them to stop, but they did not. Whenever I was around my friend L., and other kids were around her, I never heard or saw kids make fun of her for the rest of the year.


Female Groundbreakers Unite at Crow Collection to Share Stories of Inspiration and Motivation


DALLAS, TX – Building on the overwhelming response from the last two years,  non-profit Against The Grain Productions once again partners with The Crow Collection of Asian Art to host the 3rd Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Movers and Shakers – a diverse panel of remarkable Asian American industry leaders brought together to share their inspiring personal stories and paths to success. This year features an all-female panel for the first time speaking under the theme, “Female Groundbreakers: Playing to Win.” The family-friendly event takes place from 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm on Sunday, March 2nd at The Crow Collection of Asian Art in Dallas. At 1:00 pm, guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of Asian art, a reception of wine, coffee and dessert preceding the event, then listen as the speakers share their insightful stories, engage in a panel of heavy hitting issues affecting the Asian American community and chat with the panelists in one-on-one round table conversation. Tickets range from $15-$25 and are now on sale at

Introducing the 2014 Groundbreakers Speak Panelists:

kim-phan-sqKim Phan – Kim is a passionate gamer, producer and community figure in the video game industry. She is currently Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard Entertainment and is known for her love, passion and dedication in the competitive and professional gaming scene. She was born and raised in Texas, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas. Before joining Blizzard, she worked as a software engineer for six years at companies such as Alcatel USA and Garrett Electronics. What started out as a hobby later turned into a professional career for Kim when she accepted a job at Blizzard Entertainment in 2006.

All of the community work for video games opened a new door for Kim, when Blizzard Entertainment invited her to shoutcast their Warcraft III tournament at BlizzCon in 2005. The following year, she was offered a production job at Blizzard to work on their Online Technologies team, and she continued to moonlight as a Warcraft III shoutcaster at BlizzCon and Blizzard Worldwide Invitational events. She has also taken on roles as a host, interviewer and reporter for DIRECTV at BlizzCon events. Kim’s positions at Blizzard included production leader and manager of a security development team, and today, she leads the Blizzard eSports team. She followed her passion, devoted her time doing what she loved and landed the job of her dreams.

“I am very grateful and honored to be a guest panelist at the Groundbreakers Speak and even more geeked out that I get to represent the gaming community! I hope to inspire others with my story and have the audience walk away learning and knowing more about eSports.”

grace-moss-sqGrace Borrero Moss – Grace currently serves as the Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives for NBC. In this role, she helps oversee multiple programs that focus on discovering, cultivating and showcasing talented writers, directors and actors of diverse backgrounds, with the objective of getting them staffed on NBC’s scripted programs. Before coming to NBC, Grace was the Manager of Development & New Series at the Style Network, where she oversaw new series in production, from initial pitch to delivery. She was instrumental in developing hit shows such as Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, Ruby, Giuliana & Bill and Jerseylicious.  Grace was also part of the internal Diversity Council and worked with other cable nets to promote initiatives and track diverse talent in front of and behind the camera.  Prior to her stint at the Style Network, Grace worked as a Producer and Director on a plethora of unscripted shows on a variety of networks, including MTV, VH1, TLC and NBC.

Grace has been actively involved with numerous organizations, including Asian Pacific Americans@NBCUniversal, where she served as a Chapter Leader and Professional Development Co-Chair, and Filipinos in Hollywood, where she acts as the Co-Chair. She participated in the Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) 2012 Rising Leaders Program and the National Association of Multiethnicities in Communications (NAMIC) 2011 Leadership Seminar. She also won Comcast’s Ingenuity Award in 2008 for her contributions to the Style Network.  Grace is also a member of the Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) and Visual Communications, where she has contributed as a panelist in their annual C3 Conference.

Grace graduated from UCLA with a BA in English and Minor in Asian American Studies. She also was the founder of the Pilipino Organization of English majors (POEM) and recipient of the Royal Morales Prize in Pilipino Studies.  Grace currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband.

“By being invited to participate, it means that I’m making an impact and blazing a trail for other Asian American women in the entertainment industry.  I hope my story inspires people to pursue their dreams, even if the cards have historically been stacked against them.  TV is a very competitive business, so it’s vital that we support each other and push for programs that grant us equal access and fair opportunities.

doualy-xaykaothao-sqDoualy Xaykaothao – Doualy is Senior Reporter at NPR affiliate KERA in Dallas. She covers breaking news in North Texas and produces cultural features for the station. Before she joined KERA, she was a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio in Asia, based in Seoul, South Korea. There, she covered news out of both Pyongyang and Seoul, including the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and the suicide of former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. She started out at NPR in Washington, D.C. back in 1999, working as producer, editor, director and reporter for NPR’s award-winning programs. Xaykaothao is Hmong American, born in communist Laos, but raised in France and the U.S. Her name, Doualy, means “Shadow of the Moon.”

“I think people need to remember that there are Groundbreakers all around us, people who are living and doing things different from what was imagined by our parents, grandparents or those in our community. I’m behind a mic because I like the challenge of writing a story, fast and producing a sound-rich piece with only two and half minutes. If that sounds crazy, wanting to live with that kind of pressure, and deadlines every day, then maybe that’s what makes me a ground-breaker!  Figure out what you want at this moment in your life. I’m not talking about life goals. I’m talking about the present, the now, what’s around the corner? If you stay focused on that, by the end of the year, you’ll have accomplished more this way, than trying to figure out what you want in five years. And make sure you’ve got cheerleaders, a circle of men and women who will stand by you, during your worst and best moments.”

thear-suzuki-sqThear Sy Suzuki – Thear is Managing Partner of Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services business for the Southwest Region.  She provides advisory services to Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, including Energy, Health, Retail/Consumer Products and Telecommunications/Media/Technology. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Thear led Accenture’s US Advanced Systems Delivery Practice, an organization of over 500 technologists focused on delivery of technology solutions.

Within EY, Thear serves on the Americas Advisory Women’s Leadership Steering Committee, a task force focused on the retention and advancement of women to the Executive Director and Partner/Principal level.  She also serves on the Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council, a collective think tank and action tank that drives action and progress within the business.  Thear is an Executive Sponsor for the Dallas Pan-Asian Professional Network. In the community, Thear serves on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Women’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes that when you invest in a woman, there is a ripple effect that benefits her family, her community and her world.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Back On My Feet Dallas Chapter, a national for-purpose 501(c)3 organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living. Thear is a Senior Advisor for the Dallas Chapter of the National Association of Asian-American Professionals, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders.  A Biomedical Engineering graduate of SMU, Thear gives back to her alma mater through the SMU James E. Caswell Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program Steering Committee.

Thear has been recognized in, Working Mother’s Magazine, The Little PINK Book, Diversity Inc., and featured in a book by Anne Doyle called Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders.  Thear is a NAAAP 100 award recipient, a prestigious award that recognizes leaders who exemplify NAAAP’s vision and mission. She is also a winner of Consulting Magazine’s 2013 “Women Leaders in Consulting Future Leader” award.

Thear’s humble beginnings as one of five siblings of war refugee parents moving between refugee camps during the Cambodian genocide, until she and her family were sponsored by the Catholic church in Dallas and brought them to the US when she was eight.  These were formative experiences directly responsible for the self-reliance, resilience and persistence that have made her a successful business advisor today. Thear lives in Plano, Texas with her husband Eric and their four sons Zachary (11), Ryden (10), Mason (7), and Alex (3).

“I’m very excited to be in the company of other Asian American leaders and I hope that collectively we can ignite passion in the audience and spur them into action. ”

leuyen-pham-sqLeUyen Pham – LeUyen is an award-winning author/illustrator of nearly sixty children’s books.  Her books include “God’s Dream,” written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the New York TimesBestselling series “Freckleface Strawberry,” written by Julianne Moore, “Grace for President” by Kelly DiPucchio, the Alvin Ho Series by Lenore Look and “The Boy Who Loved Math” by Deborah Heiligman, to name a few.  She also co-illustrated (with her husband Alex Puvilland) the New York Times Bestseller “Templar,” a 450-page graphic novel written by “Prince of Persia” creator Jordan Mechner.  Her books have garnered numerous awards, including the Society of Illustrators Bronze Medal, the Junior Library Guild recipient, Parent’s Magazine, the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio award, among others.  Prior to illustrating books, LeUyen began her career at Dreamworks Feature Animation as a layout artist.  LeUyen lives in San Francisco with her husband and her two adorable young boys, Leo and Adrien.

“It is an amazing time right now to be an Asian American woman, particularly in the artistic and literary landscape.  I think there’s a real hunger to hear all our stories, of our successes as well as our hardships.  I hope the audience will take away the sense that our stories have real value, and need to be shared with the world”

cynthia-yung-sqCynthia Yung –  Cynthia currently serves as Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, a resource for social change. In this role, she is responsible for identifying and recommending grants for nonprofit organizations that focus on supporting programs which advance equity for women and girls, improve quality of life for children and promote environmental stewardship.

Cynthia also serves on advisory boards for The Real Estate Council Community Fund and Texas Women Ventures and steering committees for the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative and Commit! Early Childhood Council. More than a decade of volunteer work on international mission trips and serving on nonprofit boards have paved the way for Ms. Yung’s transition from the corporate world to the nonprofit world.

A Telecom industry veteran, her previous corporate career includes roles in sales, strategic marketing, manufacturing operations and finance for Nortel Networks. Ms. Yung earned a Chartered Professional Accountant designation at Ernst & Young and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Canada.

“I am excited to be with female Asian leaders who continue to forge into new territory and own what it means to lead with heart and mind.  Each of our journeys are unpredictable, no matter how much we may want to plan, and that can be a source of delight.” 

lesley-varghese-sqLesley Varghese – Lesley is Executive Director and General Counsel of the Asian American Resource Center, Inc. (AARC Inc.), a community-­based 501(c)3 organization formed in 2006 to support the construction and operation of the Asian American Resource Center facility. She is also a Lecturer at the University of Texas in Asian American Studies and law.

Lesley is a proud UT Longhorn and a law graduate of American University, where she was a Dean’s Fellow in Law & Government, a member of the Moot Court Honor Board and president of the South Asian Law Student Association. She began her legal career at McGinnis, Lochridge & Kilgore in Austin, Texas. During that time she participated on the Citizen’s Review Panel for the Office of the Police Monitor, provided pro bono representation to area non-­profits through Texas C-­BAR, and served as Chair Elect of the State Bar of Texas Asian Pacific Interest Section. Lesley subsequently practiced at the international law firm of Nixon Peabody, LLP, where she co-­‐founded the Firm’s South Asia practice and co-­chaired the Law & Policy Committee for the Boston Bar Association Bankruptcy Section. During her tenure as co-chair, the Law & Policy committee, in partnership with others, successfully lobbied the Massachusetts legislature to amend the state’s historic homestead and personal property exemptions, to better stabilize low-­income families in bankruptcy.

Lesley is the immediate past President of the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) Foundation, which funds and develops nationwide legal initiatives in the areas of domestic violence, civil rights/hate crime, immigrants’ rights and community access to justice. She has been recognized for her community legal work by the Pro Bono College of Texas and with a Peabody Award for outstanding pro bono legal service. Lesley currently serves as Chair of the UT Center for Asian American Studies Advisory Committee, on the Board of Directors of the Boston Higashi School, and the Board of Trustees for the Long Center for Performing Arts. In 2013, she was a YWCA Women of the Year Nominee, a recipient of the Capital Area Progressive Democrats “Kick Ass Award”, an AARC Asian Image Awardee, and the recipient of a teaching award from the UT Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. She is a recent recipient of the IACT Trailblazer Award and the Capitol Area Asian American Democrats Advocate of the Year Award.

“Women make up more than half the talent and human capital available to any society. We need to be at the decision-making table, whether we’re talking about equal pay and opportunity, public education, technology or healthcare. Asian American women – in particular-  are an untapped legal, economic and political force. I am thrilled to join a terrific group of women to discuss our possibilities and to share my experiences advocating for the AAPI community nationally and in Texas. Many thanks to ATG Productions for making this year’s unique panel a reality.”

kim-phan-sqSylvia Komatsu (Welcome Remarks)- Sylvia is Executive Vice president and Chief Content Officer for North Texas Public Broadcasting, a not-for-profit public media organization that serves the people of North Texas through programming on KERA TV, KERA WORLD, KERA FM, KXT 91.7, Art&Seek and online and mobile resources.  She began her career as a reporter for a nightly news analysis program.  Over the next several years, she produced and executive produced documentaries and specials on a wide range of social, political and cultural issues.  She now oversees a content division that includes radio, television, digital media and educational services.

“I hope the audience leaves inspired and energized after hearing the stories of these remarkable women.”

tammy-nguyen-leeTammy Nguyen Lee – Tammy Nguyen Lee is a passionate producer, filmmaker and actor who founded ATG with her family as a result of her own experience as an American actor and filmmaker, fueled by the determination to give other Asian Americans a creative outlet, while raising awareness for Asian American issues and aid for worthy causes. Nguyen Lee graduated with a B.A. in Cinema from Southern Methodist University and earned a M.F.A. from the elite UCLA Producer’s Program. She produced/directed her first feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, an independent passion project that took nearly 5 years to produce and won the Audience Choice Award at the 2009 Vietnamese International Film Festival and Philadelphia Asian Film Festival. She has worked extensively in film/television production and has overseen the development and marketing of a heavy slate of non-fiction television series and documentary programs for major cable networks. In 2010, she was honored with SMU’s prestigious Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award. Now, Tammy’s focus is on her family, growing ATG and continuing to work as an actor, film/television producer and development consultant. She is married and has two beautiful daughters, Gabriella and Austen.

“Being a groundbreaker requires passion, courage, commitment, innovation, faith and knowledge. You have to take the time to learn and understand the rules of the game, and then break them…or make up an entirely new game. The ability to be a groundbreaker is in all of us, and I hope this event inspires more Asian Americans to believe in themselves and educates them with the tools they need to take action.”  

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American student artists and leaders. ATG produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit or

WHAT: ATG Against The Grain Productions hosts 3rd Annual “2014 Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation of Movers and Shakers” panel
WHO: Kim Phan – Senior Manager of eSports at Blizzard,  Grace Borrero Moss – Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives at NBC, Doualy Xaykaothao – Senior Reporter for KERA, Thear Sy Suzuki – Managing Partner at Ernst  & Young, LeUyen Pham – Award-winning Children’s Book Author/Illustrator, Cynthia Yung – Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, Lesley Varghese – Attorney/Activist, Executive Director  and General Counsel at Asian American Resource Center, Inc., Welcome remarks by Sylvia Komatsu – Executive VP/Chief Content Officer at KERA, Moderated by Tammy Nguyen Lee – ATG President/Founder, Film/TV Producer, Actor and Philanthropist
WHERE: Crow Collection of Asian Art, 2010 Flora St. Dallas, TX 75201
WHEN: Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 from 2:o0 PM – 4:30 PM
2014 Groundbreakers Speak Flyer

Asia World Media: The Fusion of Fashions for a Honorable Cause

When Fashion, Art and Music are merged together, what do you get?

FFAP5 from Asia World Media

Fashion for a Passion : a show entering it’s 5th year as a supportive venue for young Asian-American artists, musicians and fashion designers.  Hosted by Against the Grain Productions, the show features a diverse group of artists  of Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Japanese descent.  On October 12thin the Dallas Contemporary in the Dallas Design District,  a carefully selected group of fashion designers, artists, and musicians showed off their work, including local vocalist Kassy Levels and fashion designer Nikki Duong Koenig (Cykochik). Though musicians such as  Mijee Park, and Kendyl performed  for the audience, fashion design lead the show.


The idea of creative fusion sparked younger Asian American who participated in the show. Designers featured were Vera Wang (Viviona), Kim Pham, Becky Hollands, Danh Ta, Jerry Matthews (Nine Muses), Cac Lam (Cac Demode) and Hanh Dang (Lucy Dang). Among the designs were a line of beautiful, sexy and edgy skirts  by Nine Muses, which focuses on sophistication for women’s clothing. Some Fashion for Passion attendees were lucky enough to take home designer dresses by the FFAP designers.  One woman took home a wild, leopard print dress by Ann Hoang.

But Fashion for a Passion is not just about promoting artists. The profits made from the show go toward Asian orphanages , non-profit organizations and scholarships


Through past funds, Fashion for a Passion was able to award five artistic scholarships to students who pursued the fields of fashion, music, and Contemporary Art Saturday night. Among the recipients was Catherine ‘Kit’ Zauhar , a film and television production major from New York University.

”I’m really excited to be going to Fashion for a Passion, because I am obsessed with all things fashion, and this will be my first time getting to go to such an event,” Said Zauhar.


Other recipients were Kendyl Ito (Sacramento, CA), Catherine “Kit” Zauhar (Philadelphia, PA), Grace Kwon (Tigard, OR), Dih Jiun “DJ” Wang (Virginia Beach, VA), and Xiaoye Jiang (Minneapolis, MN).

Overall, the 2013 Fashion For A Passion  show raised awareness and money for orphanages in Asia and provided a safe haven for the young and upcoming generations of Asian American artists to express themselves.


“Each year, Fashion for a Passion is painstakingly planned down to the finest details in an effort to create a quality platform that promotes a new generation of young and exciting Asian American artists and to bring the community together.” said Tammy Nguyen Lee, the  President and Founder of ATG.

For more information about Against the Grain Productions, visit











Photo Courtesy of Luwan Hy (Cam Cam)







DFW Style Daily: Against The Grain’s ‘Fashion For A Passion’ Marks Fifth Successful Year

Against The Grain Productions’ annual Fashion For A Passion show is truly one of my favorite Dallas events. And it’s not just because of the clothes.
From left: ATG Vice President Nikki Duong Koenig, Vera Wang of Viviona, ATG President and Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee, and a FFAP guest.
Last Saturday, October 12th, marked the fifth year for this popular charity show, held once again at the Dallas ContemporaryAgainst The Grain (ATG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to educational and outreach programs within the Asian American community, as well as raising funds for orphanages in Asia. Fashion For A Passion is its most popular event, bringing together designers, musicians, food, and artists for a memorable evening. Click here for my coverage of Fashion For A Passion 2012.

This year, ATG rounded up an impressive roster of eight local Asian American designers. They included Hanh Dang of Lucy DangTexas Next Top Designer 2013 and winner of Belk’s Southern Designer Showcase, as well as Jerry Matthews of DFW Style Daily favorite, Nine Muses. In addition to showcasing looks from their lines on the runway, each designer donated at least two garments to be auctioned live during the show.

Leather and lace dress by Lucy Dang

Khanh Nguyen of Nhã Khanh watches as her donations are auctioned for the cause.

True, the clothes were simply incredible. But the aspect of this community event that is even more important to remember is that ATG is 100% non-profit. The nearly $100,000 they have raised to date through this effort has been utilized in its entirety to further its cause. No one, from the production team to the models to ATG’s board members, is paid. Each donates his or her time and talents, and the result is one hell of a production.

Viviona Swimwear, accessorized with Cykochik Custom Handbags
A three-piece fall ensemble by Kim Pham

Designer Becky Hollands (left) poses with an auction winner.
Bustier, jacket and skirt by Danh Ta

Two looks by Cac Demode Designs
Four distinctly stunning dresses by Nine Muses

Over the years, I’ve come to know most everyone involved in Fashion For A Passion. Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG President and Founder, is one of the kindest, most hardworking individuals you could ever hope to meet. Beautiful actress and model LeeAnne Locken has emceed the event for past four years, bringing her signature brand of excitement and fun. The designers, again donating their time and beloved creations, continue to impress and inspire. These are my friends, and I’m proud of them. I love this event because of what it stands for. It isn’t about segregating our community, but about bringing us together so that we can be proud of our neighbors and share in their successes.


All photos, credit Heather Lettieri for DFW Style Daily.

Emerging Asian American Fashion Designers to Present Latest Collections at Upcoming 5th Annual Fashion for a Passion Charity Event

FFAP FB Event Cover

DALLAS, TX – From swimwear to handbags and high-end women’s apparel, eight Asian American designers will present an array of unique collections at the 5th Annual Against The Grain Productions Fashion for Passion charity event. The calendar will say it’s fall, but the designers have each used inspiration and imagination to create wondrous collections for the event, which takes place from 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm on Saturday October 12, 2013 at the Dallas Contemporary in the Dallas Design District. The event features a runway show, musical entertainment, an art exhibit, live/silent auction and tasty bites and sips — all to benefit ATG’s supported orphanages, outreach programs and scholarship fund.

President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee is thrilled to host yet another show. “Each year, so much hard work and dedication goes into the meticulous planning of this event. Our team of volunteers is committed to creating a great evening that brings the community together to showcase incredible Asian American talent and gives them a platform to share their unique vision and voice. It’ll be an unforgettable night for Dallas and for the arts!”

Whether it’s from a veteran or a newbie presenting designer, there is a lot more to expect from this year’s line-up. All based in Texas, each designer shows true passion and spirit when they were asked what they are planning to present at Fashion for a Passion No. 5.

Nikki Duong Koenig | Cykochik Custom Handbags

2013 started out wonderfully for two-time Fashion for a Passion veteran (and ATG’s Vice President) Nikki Duong Koenig. She shared her overall goal at the beginning the year…to be able to fully launch Cykochik full-time and her dream has come true. After successfully raising a $10,000 goal via Kickstarter, she said, “I’m thrilled to celebrate Cykochik’s 10 Year Anniversary at ATG’s 5th Fashion for a Passion! I believe that everything in life has a cycle, and I’ve come full circle since presenting in 2010,” Nikki said.  “My hope for us is to achieve another milestone in fundraising,  so that we’re able to contribute more to our causes.”

Vera Wang | Viviona

This is Vera Wang’s first year as a part of Fashion for a Passion, and she’s also the show’s first ever presenting swimwear designer. Both she and ATG are anxious as to what the audience response will be to her collaboration with an architecture firm. Said Vera, “I strongly believe it will be a very positive experience showing with all the talented designers and hopefully, we will be able to follow the footsteps of the presenters in the past seasons.”

Kim Pham

From having a youthful curiosity to a mature mentality, Kim Pham returns to Fashion for a Passion now as a woman who feels her aesthetic has evolved since she presented at FFAP at the tender age of 17 when she was a senior at North Garland High School. Now 21 and a decorated graduate of UNT’s school of fashion and design, Kim said, “I’ve grown up, and I’ve thought more about the business side of fashion and thinking about how it’s marketable. I’m gearing more toward ready-to-wear, unique but more marketable pieces.” Her collection will show an Aztec influence, using gold jewelry, as well as maroon, dark brown and black colors. Additionally, fur and alligator are among the varying textures she will incorporate into her clothes.

Becky Hollands

One source of inspiration for Becky Hollands’ work right now is the theme “Diamond in the Rough.” She hopes to “really take texture and the colors and facets of rough diamonds to my collection.” With a Cantonese mother and European father, Hollands said her biracial background has really affected her perspective on everything, and in some cases, extreme perspectives. Becky described her current work as “Overall, really just playing with movement and space with the composition of my pieces.”

Danh Ta

“What will be different this year is the anticipation,” Danh Ta said. Presenting for another year in a row, Danh will unveil his Spring/Summer 2014 collection.  Danh said, “My work is [inspired by] Elizabeth Taylor’s movie, Cleopatra.  [I have] taken her iconic role as an Egyptian queen to embody strength and beauty into my next collection.”

Jerry Matthews | Nine Muses

“Last season, fall was the seductress,” Jerry Matthew said. “This season for spring, she is flirtatious,” he explained when discussing how he will showcase both seasons at the event. He returns to FFAP for a second time, although now with the new label Nine Muses, created with co-designer Francesca Viamonte. The label name is a nod to the story about the Goddess of Clarity and how she gave birth to nine muses. Each season, the designers have nine sources of inspiration; Fall 2013 includes strong women of film and pop culture, while Spring 2014 was heavily influenced by supermodels.

Cac Lam | Cac DeMode

Fashion for a Passion always seems to include a graduate from the illustrious The Art Institute of Dallas, and this year we give you Cac DeMode Designs. Based in New York, but living in Texas, Cac’s designs are like her – inspired by the fashion forward, romanticism, femininity, individuality, Eastern and Western designs. There’s no other way to describe it (or her) — eclectic and eccentric.

Hanh Dang | Lucy Dang

They say third time’s a charm, and for Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang, the third time is just as memorable as the others. From watching Hanh Dang grow from a fledgeling designer to being named Texas’ Next Top Designer to winning a $10 million contract with Belk, audience members can truly see what she is made of when she follows her heart. “The first time that I showed, we were emerging, and the second year, we were emerging, but this time around, I feel like we’ve emerged…It feels great to be a veteran,” Hanh said.

Tickets to Fashion for a Passion range from $50 to $100 and go on sale exclusively online starting Thursday, September 12th at the FFAP Event Page. 

For more press/media information on the event, please contact Elizabeth Dinh or Annie Tran at

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to giving out annual scholarships to exemplary Asian American student leaders and those pursuing a degree in the arts, they also produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit or


Congratulations to the 2013 Artistic Scholarship Winners

You impressed us. You inspired us. You are the reason why ATG exists. Congratulations to our five 2013 Artistic Scholarship Winners. We are thrilled to present…


Kit Zauhar

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.04; Ethnicity: Chinese-Caucasian; Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, Tisch School of the Arts, majoring in TV and film production

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you? For me, to go Against The Grain is to embrace all the passions one has in life, regardless of stereotypes and cultural expectations. It means to embrace all the wonderful aspects of one’s Asian heritage and from it craft stories that holistically recreate the Asian American experience for everyone. For me, this phrase means to not succumb to stereotypes, to not strive to fit the mold of a test taking, subservient and silent student just because it is what society expects of someone. Instead, it means to be a unique individual who gives new meaning to their culture, to show the world the much too often overlooked creativity, innovation and artistic expressions that exists within the Asian population. To go Against The Grain is to know that your culture will love you no matter what you do, you must only be genuine and true to yourself, and others will embrace and respect you for your bravery, innovation and craft.

How do you go Against The Grain? I go Against The Grain by breaking the stereotypes of a Chinese student and expanding the definition of what it means to be an Asian American adolescent. I believe that I showed my class how multifaceted, artistic and idiosyncratic a bi-racial Chinese student could be. Though I was an extremely diligent student who took her academics very seriously, I was also an avid, outspoken and strong president of my school’s Drama Society, an editor for our arts and literary magazine and a member of the poetry club. I was usually the only person of Asian heritage at these meetings and groups, but they allowed me the valuable experience of letting people know that Asian Americans were indeed a gifted and artistically driven group of individuals, that perhaps some were just afraid to go Against The Grain.

Though I appeared only “White” in most people’s eyes, I prided myself on my Chinese features and heritage because I was so happy to be a part of two different cultures, therefore able to draw from two unique backgrounds to create a holistic, multi-layered and diverse personality. I, unlike many other bi-racial students, wanted to show my school that race should have no limitations; that I could be a good student and a goofy Drama geek, that I could be proud of my race, speak the language with pride, bring my mother’s delicious home-made dumplings to school for lunch and not let these actions define me, but instead show my classmates that I could be everything I wanted to be: a writer, an academic, an actress, a debater, an American and a proud member of the Chinese community. I go Against The Grain because I am proud child of my culture as well as a brave explorer of this ever-changing world, working to break stereotypes. I broaden the definitions of what it means to be Asian American and do not allow myself to be limited by my race. I am working to become a filmmaker so that I can show the world through thought-provoking stories just how diverse, multifaceted and relatable the Asian American experience is for people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.

Essay highlights: “Art has always been my solace. It has appeased my hunger for the incredible, the provoking, the new and the dangerous, and purged me of evil emotions and thoughts through a powerful catharsis. I believe that art can make a difference, not just in an individual’s perceptions but but the sentiments and outlook of a society as a whole. Thought I wan to experiment with many different styles in my films, I know for certain that I want to focus on telling true stories: narratives that develop empathy, expand the range and intensity of human emotion, and bridge gaps of understanding between people of different perspectives and backgrounds.”

Watch Kit Zauhar’s Artistic Portfolio Sample.


DJ Wang

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 3.9; Ethnicity: Taiwanese-Chinese; Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA

Intended college/university and major: Parsons School of Design in New York City, NY, majoring in communication design

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  Going Against The Grain means facing challenges, taking on challenges that test one’s basic morals, traditional standards and even relationships between friends and family. The greatest challenges that we face are also our greatest teachers.

"East Meets West Over One Horizon" by DJ Wang
“East Meets West Over One Horizon” by DJ Wang

How do you go Against The Grain?  Growing up with traditional-minded immigrant parents, the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child is, “I want to be an artist.” However, it is the arts that transformed me into a self-made man. In the beginning, I didn’t have the privilege of absolute support from friends and family as I was set to pursue the arts as a child. I had to prove myself. I had to overcome challenges and negative opposition from all corners, because the art world is not the friendliest of places either. As an artist, you are exposing your vulnerability through your creations, showing your core to the eyes of an audience that may not even understand you, but the magic happens when you find the support and appreciation every artist craves. 2011 marked my first big break through, placing 1st in Wacom’s International Art Contest. In 2012, I was among the Top Ten Young Artists Nationally Published in Celebrating Art. That same year, I debuted my first fashion collection at Virginia Fashion Week, was invited to Teen Vogue Fashion University and also won “Best in Show” at the Neptune Festival Art Show following with a Gold Key presented by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Scholastics. None of these accomplishments would have existed without my insatiable passion within, driving me to exceed all my limits.

Essay highlights: As a distinguished leader within my school and community, I not only strive to push myself to reach my maximum potential, but I also challenge my peers so that we can all grow in support of each other. What truly distinguishes me as an individual is my exceptional level of innovation. I am determined to not only solve problems, but how I can make things better for the future. Through my dedication, innovation, and undeniable passion, I strive to make a name for myself and positively impact the world.”


Grace Kwon

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.0; Ethnicity: Korean; Hometown: Tigard, OR

Intended college/university and major: University of Oregon in Eugene, OR, majoring in visual/fine art

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, going Against The Grain is bravery. It is doing something even when I am aware that I will get stared at, laughed at, yelled at or judged. It is doing this something anyways, because I know it is the right thing for me.

"How We Connect" by Grace Kwon
“How We Connect” by Grace Kwon

How do you go Against The Grain?  In both my life and my dreams, I have been forced to decide between two actions: doing what I want and what I believe is right, or “doing what everyone else is doing.” I Against The Grain to uphold my personal moral standards, even if that means breaking off friendships. When my best friend got into drugs, I made the hard decision of cutting ties with her. Though it was extremely difficult, I did not want to be a part of a lifestyle that messed with your mind and body. Going Against the Grain also applies to my dream of being an artist. Whenever I say I want to be an artist, I am met with raised eyebrows and condescending “oh, that’s interesting” looks. But despite the unconventional path, I have chosen it anyways, because I know it is what I love and what will make my life happy and fulfilled.

Essay highlights: “I believe this catalyst of change is most effectively expressed by the arts. Literature, dance or painting are all forms of self-expression that reflect the ideas most personal to the creator. Yet they have a curious tendency of finding their way into our own thoughts. Art alone reveals the important truths of humanity. I do not think my piece is quite like the rallying, picketing, shouting works of Ai Weiwei, but I hope I have at least spurred the mind of a viewer. To me, a successful art piece is not when a viewer stops for a moment and says: ‘That’s pretty.’ A successful artwork is when she stops, looks and absorbs quietly, and walks away filled with new thoughts in new territories. And maybe, just maybe, she will rev the engine of change.”


Kendyl Ito

Age: 18 yrs old; GPA: 4.17; Ethnicity: Japanese American; Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Intended college/university and major: Pace University in New York City, NY, majoring in musical theatre

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  The literal definition of going Against The Grain means to do something opposite of what is usually expected. To me, going Against The Grain means to do something different than the norm and to make yourself unique and original. It means having confidence in yourself to do what may be unpopular, uncommon, and unexpected. It means taking risks, exploring the unfamiliar, and placing yourself in situations where you may be vulnerable.

Kendyl Ito as Elle Woods in "Legally Blonde"
Kendyl Ito as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”

How do you go Against The Grain?  When I was searching for scholarships and discovered your organization, I immediately connected with the name… Against The Grain. I felt it described me perfectly in the music theater world. It is not uncommon for me to be one of few Asians at a music theater audition.  It is even more rare to be considered for a lead part not originally meant for someone who looks like me – petite and Asian. I have had the privilege of being cast as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” Sandy in “Grease,” Eve in “Children of Eden” and most recently Rosemary in “How To Succeed In Business”.  It has not always been easy. I knew I had to sing, act and dance much better than others considered that already “looked the part” and more importantly convince the audience. Instead of letting this defeat me, it motivated me to work harder for those coveted roles. Nothing has been more rewarding than to hear from a director that they made the right casting decision. Though these roles were unfamiliar and risky for me, I took that as a challenge to go that extra mile to impress audiences with my talents and ignore my looks and appearances.

I have gained a lot of experience wearing a variety of wigs that have helped make me “look the part.”  However, I look forward to the day when I won’t have to wear one and the way I look is just fine. I look forward to being a part of this change when being Asian in the performing arts will no longer go Against The Grain.

Essay highlights: “Though my “petiteness” and heritage pose a challenge in the theatre world, as I create a personal valley among the other actors, it motivates me to work twice as hard so directors can focus on my talent rather than my appearances. I look forward to a day when someone Asian or of color no longer “doesn’t look the part.”  When one doesn’t have to consider not pursuing something they are passionate about because of the way they look, which is what I almost did. I am so grateful to the director who encouraged me to pursue the performing arts where I may have opportunity to make positive changes in people’s attitudes and perceptions. I also know my accomplishments may pave the way for others and it will be a way I can give back to the community that has been so supportive of me. One of the things I like most about theatre is it always tells a story and a perfect place to break barriers.  Musical theatre has had a huge influence in my life and has made me into the woman I am today. It’s more than just a safe haven where I can express myself. Theatre is my passion. Theatre is my life. Theatre is my home. I can hardly wait for the next chapter of my life to begin and to discover what contributions I will make.”


Xiaoye Jiang

Age: 17 yrs old; GPA: 3.8; Ethnicity: Chinese; Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Intended college/university and major: New York University in New York City, NY, double majoring in photography and sociology

What does Going Against The Grain mean to you?  To me, going Against The Grain means deviation from the norm. It is easy to do what everyone else is doing, but it is harder and more worthwhile to follow your passions.

"Darkroom 2" by Xiaoye Jiang
“Darkroom 2” by Xiaoye Jiang

How do you go Against The Grain?  I go Against The Grain with my identity and my drive. Being an adopted Chinese Jew in Minneapolis, Minnesota is definitely not the norm. I let my differences, and the experiences those differences have given me, influence my life and my work. I believe in myself and the work I can do. I got accepted into the program I wanted for this coming fall and have spread my work to screenings and exhibitions all over the country, even reaching as far as China. I hope to continue going Against The Grain and sharing myself with others so that they, too, can go against their own grain.

Essay highlights: “Art provides culture, stimulation, innovation, beauty and calls attention to various topics as a tool for communication. It is a language that enhances cultural appreciation and awareness. We can use it to analyze, question, criticize, promote and explore. Art teaches me humility. Every once in a while, I begin to think that I have somewhat of a “handle” on this world…until I encounter a work of art that leaves me in awe, with the realization that I not only didn’t have the right answers, but not even the right questions. It teaches me that there is so much more to experience. I believe this type of thinking and learning is something everyone can grow from.”

5th Annual Fashion for a Passion Line-up Announced

FFAP_logoDALLAS, TX – Against The Grain Productions recently selected eight emerging designers to join their elite roster of Presenting Designers at their upcoming and wildly popular charity event, Fashion for a Passion.  Now in its fifth year, the evening that brings together a bevy of Asian American artists has become known not only as as a celebration of up and coming talent, but also a springboard for careers.  Past FFAP alum include Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh, who started with the event four years ago and has since gone onto be featured in Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang who recently won the title of Texas Next Top Designer, and Project Runway Season 2 winner Chloe Dao.

Fashion for a Passion will take place on Saturday, October 12th at the Dallas Contemporary, located at 161 Glass Street in the Dallas Design District. This year’s roster includes an eclectic and diverse group that is sure to entertain and inspire. Said Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG President/Founder, “Each year, Fashion for a Passion is painstakingly planned down to the finest details in an effort to create a quality platform that promotes a new generation of young and exciting Asian American artists and to bring the community together. This year promises to deliver yet another memorable evening. We can’t wait to share this talent with the audience and raise money and awareness for ATG’s orphanages, scholarship funds and outreach programs.”

Introducing the 2013 FFAP Presenting Designers:


2013 marks Cykochik’s 10Year Anniversary! Cykochik Custom Handbags was first conceived in the small Southern Methodist University dorm room of Vietnamese American designer Nikki Duong Koenig in 2003. While living in Dallas and working on her BA in Advertising and Art at SMU, Nikki naturally combined her passion for art, fashion, and design to produce an innovative line of custom-made and eco-friendly vegan handbags featuring meticulous reverse appliqué designs proudly handmade in Dallas. Upon graduation in 2005, Nikki jetted off to New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). There, she honed her design and business skills in their CEO program on nights and weekends while working full time as an advertising art director at global advertising agencies.

In 2013, after a decade of growing her business part time, 30 year-old Nikki took the leap to pursue her passion full time. She’d successfully raised more than her $10,000 goal in 30 days to produce Cykochik’s Artist Series 3 :: 10 Year Anniversary Collection, on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. With the tremendous support from Cykochik’s fans, her friends and family, Nikki made the decision to leave the marketing world to grow her vision for Cykochik’s creative community of artists, artisans and art patrons worldwide in creating fun, custom, well-made, socially responsible and eco-friendly handbags and accessories.

Cykochik is a proud member of PETA Business Friends and supports the arts through the MAC – McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Art Love Magic, ArtCon, ATG Against The Grain Productions, and other local nonprofit organizations.

Design Inspiration: Much of  Nikki’s fun, unique, and vibrant aesthetic is drawn from her travels, experiences living in Vietnam, Dallas, and NYC and her love for art, photography and nature.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “It’s a state-of-mind, being able to trust/follow my instincts and not second-guessing myself despite external obstacles or influences.”

“It is an honor to be a returning presenting designer at FFAP, especially for the 5th Anniversary! In showing my 10 Year Anniversary Collection and sharing my story, I hope to inspire other artists/designers to also be bold and pursue their dreams, because it’s never too late. I also hope to raise more awareness for ATG’s cause and funding to help supported orphanages and future Asian American artists and leaders.”

ffap-pr-vera-wangVERA WANG | VIVIONA

Vera Wang is a self proclaimed geek.  Born and raised in China, she graduated with a degree in English Language and Literature. Vera has always been passionate about high technology and how technology can impact day-to-day lives.  So she didn’t hesitate to pick Computer Science as a major when she moved to the United Stated 13 years ago and went to UNT to pursue her Masters.

Vera is passionate about fashion.  She fell in love with it when she laid eyes on Vogue for the very first time when she was a kid.  In 2007, Vera got in touch with a jewelry designer who she helped private label a pair of earring designs. This eventually led to the launch of Viviona in 2007,  an elite private label service company.
Vera currently serves as the CEO of Viviona, providing A to Z services to individuals who want to launch their fashion or beauty line.  Viviona has always been enthusiastic about helping new uprising designers.  Her creativity and her passion for fashion combined with her geeky side lead to the site, a crowdfunding platform that Viviona sponsored aiming to help designers to collect funding through pre-launching some of their featured designs.

Viviona launched its own swimwear label in 2012.

Design inspiration: Classic yet bold, retro yet contemporary, simple yet sophisticated

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Helping build better communities.”

“As a minority myself and Asian in whole as minorities, we need to work together to bring community awareness and voice together as a unity. I am very excited to be chosen as one of the presenters. Fashion for a Passion has becoming one of the few up-scale fashion shows in Dallas.”

ffap-pr-kim-phamKIM PHAM

Kim Pham, 21 years old, graduated from The University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design, a minor in Business Administration in Marketing and Electronic Commerce. She continued to foster her creative passion throughout her academic years, while winning many national and international awards.

Design inspiration: Kim’s design philosophy is to empower women with confidence through enhancing their beautiful curves. Her designs blend together an eclectic style, a mixture of bold and elegance combined with a contemporary sophistication. She strives to create chic and effortless clothing for the modern woman – always on the go and is not afraid to make her presence felt. She takes pride in her meticulous attention to detail; fine craftsmanship is apparent in every garment she creates. She embraces her keen understanding of the business world, creating designs that are both marketable and affordable for all types of women.

Honors/Awards:  Her most recognized achievement is being chosen to represent the United Sates in the International Fur Remix Competition held in Milan, Italy. The competition, sponsored by the International Fur Trade Federation, provided her the opportunity to work with leaders in the fur industry like Dennis Basso and The North American Fur Auction (NAFA). She was later personally invited by NAFA to visit the company’s head quarter in Toronto, Canada, where she met with the executives of NAFA and received hands on training on designing with fur and luxury apparel. Kim later received the Best of Show Grand Prize at the prestigious Fashion Group International’s Competition against students across 44 universities from the US. The prize – an internship in France – allowed her to study Parisian haute couture with the renowned Paris American Academy.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain“’Expect the unexpected, be the unexpected.’” It means to conquer your dreams and be prepared to make the best of what life throws at you, and furthermore, to be the extraordinary and inspiration for change in the world.”

“It is an honor for me to be chosen to return to FFAP as a presenting designer. I am very grateful to have been with ATG since the very first FFAP. It has been a long and memorable journey. Watching FFAP grow and transform into what it is now has been a surreal experience. In the very first FFAP, I was merely seventeen – young and innocent. The experience was a raw expression of my youthful creativity and it has opened my eyes to many possibilities for my career. It allowed me an invaluable experience and opportunities to network with professionals that I still have close bonds with until this day.

Now, as a graduate and professional, my design aesthetics has matured. My time spent studying fashion and business has transformed me into a designer and entrepreneur that I am today. I design for the modern day woman with an eclectic style, a mixture of bold and elegance combined with a contemporary sophistication. I embrace my understanding of the business world, creating designs that are both marketable and affordable for all types of women.

I hope my continued participation with ATG will allow me exposure and support for my budding career. It makes me feel great to be a part of such a great cause and use my talent to benefit the community as a whole.”

ffap-pr-becky-hollands2BECKY HOLLANDS

Though born in the United States, Becky Hollands was brought back to Hong Kong as an infant and grew up in the then British Colony. Her mother of Chinese descent and father of British descent have both been very influential in her life. Becky’s aesthetic focuses on finding balance in extreme detail and free form drapery just like finding balance in her eastern and western bi-cultural upbringing. Becky concentrates on detailed techniques with contemporary elements in the goal of giving her designs a note of “effortlessness.”

Becky and her family moved back to the United States and resided in Houston, TX where she finished her primary and secondary school education. She had always grown up wearing uniforms both in Hong Kong and Houston, and her fascination with fashion grew to styling outfits for “free dress” days, flipping though pages of magazines and borrowing pieces from her mother’s closet.

Becky received her Bachelor of Science degree in Apparel Design and Manufacturing and minors in Art, Portuguese, and Mandarin from Texas Tech University. After being in the Merchandising/Sales world for the past two years, Becky, at age 28, is ready to embark for dream of developing her brand.

Design inspiration: Her inspiration comes from her family, different cultures, architecture and her surroundings. Her designs represent elegance and effortlessness in a contemporary and versatile way. Utilization of form and movement are prevalent in her work.

Honors/Awards: She was greatly involved as Representative in Dean’s Leadership Council, Fashion Group International competitions and received the Glenna Goodacre Scholarship for Creativity.

What does it mean to go Against The Grain:  “Having an indomitable spirit. I have learned having an indomitable spirit in everything I do impels me to take action whether it may be a lifelong dream, my outlook on things, or the perseverance I endure through my everyday challenges. Increasing this indomitable spirit that that has compelled me to trust my instincts, believe in myself, do the best I can in anything I pursue and continue in the path and passions I have chosen.”

“I am so honored ATG has extended this opportunity for me to present at FFAP.  I hope to represent my community, inspire others through my work, and support the arts and raise awareness while representing ATG.”

ffap-pr-danh-taDANH TA

Danh Ta is a 29 year-old Vietnamese designer born in Thailand to a tailor & painter. His family immigrated to the United States & settled in Oklahoma. Being raised by parents compelled to use their artistic talents to make ends meet, the importance of creativity in life wash instilled in him at an early age.

Upon graduating high school, Danh enrolled in the fashion program at the Art Institute of Dallas in 2003. During his studies, his existing love for art & fashion flourished. He cultivated his talent for re-conceptualizing the dress and debuted his first collection for Fall/Winter 2008.

Throughout his fashion journey, from local fashion shows & now with his debut of his Spring/Summer 2014 RTW collection at San Diego Fashion Week this Fall, his designs have become recognized for their bold contemporary detailing. The Danh Ta collection has become the epitome of sensuous & chic designs, which are elegantly constructed for the modern day woman that can take her from day to night.

Design inspiration: Sensuous, chic aesthetics, custom sewn by hand, attention to detail inspired by minimalism/simplicity

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “It means everything; it’s the ability and will to do anything.”

“To be chosen again for this year’s FFAP makes me a veteran.  I’m honored to showcase my latest Spring/Summer 2014 RTW collection, inspired by Elizabeth Taylor’s movie Cleopatra.  I hope to spread my brand vision in Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Diego and Los Angeles.”

ffap-pr-cac-lamCAC LAM | CAC DEMODE

Cac Lam is the 26  year-old Vietnamese designer and seamstress behind Cac Demode Designs. She is a graduate of The Art Institute of Dallas and interned in Milan, Italy. Cac’s inspiration draws from the mix of Eastern and Western designs. Her design aesthetic combines romanticism, fashion forward, and ultimately expresses feminity, individuality and choice. Cac Lam is based in New York City.

Design inspiration: Fashion forward, romanticism, femininity, individuality, Eastern and Western designs

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Believing in your ideas, creations and defending them to the end; even if they are contrary to society’s expectations. I believe going against the norm introduces hardships that need to be overcome. One could gain from the experiences and challenging the standard way for creating new paths. It motivates others to really think about the situations and what they believe in, not just take sides based on the popularity of opinions or ideas; making our world more colorful and full of modern inventions.”

“I am very honored to be chosen to showcase once again this year in Fashion For Passion. I had an amazing time in these past years at the event. I am very excited to have another opportunity to help raise money for the Vietnamese orphanage. This year I am hoping to raise more than what we had achieved last year.”

ffap-pr-hanh-dangHANH DANG | LUCY DANG

Hanh Dang, the a 30 year-old Vietnamese designer behind label Lucy Dang, is based in Dallas has received much esteem since launching in 2011. Her passion and skills were cultivated at the University of North Texas’ College of Visual Arts and Design, where she earned a BFA in Fashion Design. During her time in New York City, she worked with renowned brands such as Nicole Miller, Rebecca Taylor, Kai Kuhne and Dillard’s Inc. Lucy was particularly inspired by Rebecca Taylor and her business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay because of their success in fashion. She and her own business partner, Blanca Renteria, aspires to be like them.

Design inspiration: Lucy Dang’s designs are inspired by growing up in the South, and the idea of reverie to another era. Her girly, wistful and elegant designs reflect her own lifestyle.

Honors/Awards: Winner of 2013 Texas Next Top Designer and Southern Living Magazine’s “New Southern Icon”

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Stepping back from what is easy.  Success is not easy. Giving to others and sacrificing your time, energy and money is not easy. All the good that was ever achieved in this world was won, by going against the grain.”

“This year will be my third time showing at Fashion for a Passion and I am hoping that we break all fundraising records again.  Personally I am beyond thrilled and deeply honored that I can be a part of this amazing charity that does so much good.”

ffap-pr-jerry-matthewsJERRY MATTHEWS | NINE MUSES

Jerry Matthews is a 22 yr old (23 in August) Filipino/Caucasian(Polish) creative director/ designer of a Dallas-based women’s luxury label Nine Muses. Jerry attended the Art Institute of Dallas. His clean and sophisticated aesthetic draws from his inspiration in music and in strong women in history and even in fiction.

Design inspiration: Clean, simple, sophisticated, tailored, women’s luxury clothing that’s progressive and edgy. Each season, the collection is inspired by nine muses. For the Nine Muses Fall 2013 collection, the muses included Lana Del Rey, Brigitte Bardot, Earth Kitt, Bonnie Parker, Jessica Rabbit, Catwoman, etc. “My inspiration in life is constantly changing. I am a combined effort of everybody/everything I’ve ever known.”

Honors/Awards: First Place in the 2008 Art Institute of Dallas’ “National Fashion Design Scholarship Competition” and “Outstanding Graduate in Fashion Design” in March of 2012

What does it mean to go Against The Grain: “Pursuing something that you truly feel passionate about despite it being out of the ordinary or what’s expected of you. I think that the title is perfect for this charity because everyone involved is so passionate about this cause, and it’s awesome to see that and to be apart of it.”

“It really means a lot to be chosen. I remember attending one of the first FFAP events as a student, and I really wanted to one day be apart of it, and now I am. It is my second year now, and it is by far my favorite event in Dallas, because everyone is so passionate and lovely. The event is always so spectacular and everyone is so supportive. I can’t wait to see how ATG makes it even bigger and better this year. Also, it’s so great to do something I love, while giving back to an amazing cause.”

This year’s show will be emceed by two of Dallas’ most talented and beautiful public figures — LeeAnne Locken, an actress/spokesperson and regular fashionista on the social scene. She will be joined by Elizabeth Dinh, a reporter for KTVT CBS 11, former Miss Asian American Texas and a Board member of Against The Grain Productions.

LeeAnne Locken
LeeAnne Locken
Elizabeth Dinh
Elizabeth Dinh

Event tickets range from $50 for General Admission, $75-$100 for VIP/Reserved and will go on sale in September. Visit for more information.  Sponsorship opportunities are available by emailing

Watch the 2012 Fashion for a Passion Highlight video:

ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards an annual scholarship to exemplary Asian American student artists and leaders. ATG produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at over a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit or


Dallas Morning News: Asian pioneers’ stories worth sharing

l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.
l to r, Dat Nguyen, Karin Oen, Kent Takano, Ha Mai, Lily Jang, Richard Jung and Tanya Pintoat the Groundbreakers Speak event at the Crow Collection.



Deborah Fleck

Published: 15 May 2013 11:12 PM

Updated: 16 May 2013 11:25 AM


Dat Nguyen was often told he was too small to play football. Yet he was the first Vietnamese-American in the NFL. He was drafted by the Cowboys and said he couldn’t believe he was playing with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming big,” said the ESPN sportscaster. “But you have to put time and effort in order to gain an edge. It’s all about attitude.”

Nguyen was one of seven panelists who shared their journeys at Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation With Asian American Movers and Shakers. Saturday’s event was sponsored by Against The Grain Productions and held at the Crow Collection in Dallas. Tammy Nguyen Lee, founder of ATG, moderated the discussion.

Kent Takano, a vice president for HGTV and DIY Network, said he never expected to watch television for a living. In an acting class, he met someone in television who helped him land an internship. Takano’s been in television ever since.

Karin Oen, director of education at the Crow Collection, is passionate about building community through art institutions. UT Arlington graduate Ha Mai carved a path from design studio work to Fur Face Boy, his independent apparel line. Lily Jang said she loves what she does as a television journalist in Houston. Lawyer, advocate and politician Richard Jung joked that he wanted to be Nguyen, but admitted he found his calling in immigration law and helping others.

Tanya Pinto left a large advertising agency to start Baal Dan Charities, a nonprofit helping children around the world. She also runs her own firm, Shakti Consulting.

Nguyen Lee said each of the panelists “put fear aside to follow their passion.” This is her second Groundbreakers event, which she holds in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit