DALLAS, TX – Dallas non-profit Against The Grain Productions proudly announces the Exhibiting Artists for its much-anticipated 2014 6th Annual Fashion for a Passion charity event on Saturday, November 1st at Three Three Three First Avenue in Downtown Dallas. Event guests will enjoy each artist’s work in an exciting display of varying media, including film, digital prints, paintings and drawings, and can even take home their favorite pieces during the silent auction portion of the evening. Proceeds from the auction will go to Against The Grain’s supported orphanages in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship fund and community outreach programs. This year’s artist line-up includes emerging and established Asian American artists, as well as four 2014 Against The Grain Artistic Scholarship Winners.
DALLAS, TX – Seven game-changing female Asian American leaders gathered to share personal stories about their paths to success at Against The Grain Productions’ 3rd Annual Groundbreakers Speak event on Saturday March 2, 2014, hosted at The Crow Collection of Asian Art. Despite the blustery weather conditions, guests packed into the museum’s main gallery to enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine, coffee and art before settling in to listen to each speaker’s TED-inspired personal presentation around this year’s theme: “Game Changers: Playing to Win.” After sharing their diverse perspectives, speakers joined together as a panel to answer questions and cover hard-hitting issues about identity, cultural barriers, motivation and solutions to nurture leadership in the community. Imparting their insight, there were moments both humorous and poignant. The event concluded with a unique half hour where guests got to interact with speakers one-on-one.
The goal of the afternoon was to give people of all ages a chance to hear and meet influential leaders. It was also about providing mentorship and inspiration, empowering individuals to realize their potential. President/Founder and event moderator Tammy Nguyen Lee said, “Groundbreakers Speak was created to fulfill a need and is unlike most any other event that ATG does. It’s meant to be more intimate and engage with people on a personal level, to create meaningful conversation, provoke deep thought and spark serious leadership. We’re trying to give people a glimpse into who they can be and what we are capable of becoming as a community.”
It was a rewarding and memorable day for our speakers as well. Here’s what they are saying, as they continue to motivate and inspire others to go “Against The Grain”:
Manager of eSports at Blizzard, Kim Phan: “DO what makes you passionate instead of thinking about what makes you passionate. The rest will follow. And remember the words of George Eliot, ‘It is never too late to be what we might have been.’”
Manager of Entertainment Diversity Initiatives for NBC, Grace Borrero Moss: “I am so honored to be included in such an incredible group of strong and successful women. Listening to everyone’s stories and engaging with other young Asian Americans who are, themselves, making waves in their respective fields is really empowering. I now feel even more motivated and energized to make an even stronger impact in my field. Events like these and organizations like ATG are at the forefront of making breakthroughs within the Asian American community.”
Senior Reporter at KERA, Doualy Xaykaothao: “We must remember to continue building bridges across diverse communities, whether via social media or right in your own neighborhoods. A morsel of new information can have great impact in our lives, in our universe. And don’t forget, service to the public is possibly one of the greatest gifts you can give.”
Managing Partner of Ernst & Young, Thear Sy Suzuki: “I left the event inspired and energized! The connections made were priceless. Thank you panelists, guests, ATG and The Crow Collection of Asian Art for your authenticity and willingness to share your stories.”
Award-winning Children’s Book Author/Illustrator, LeUyen Pham: “If this amazing panel of women were anything to judge by, I think I came away with one conclusion that I feel certain of: To succeed as each of these women have, it takes not just brains and passion, but immense courage. I was honored to be among them, and hope that my story of how I achieved my own dreams will affect someone else, no matter to what small degree. All change starts with something small.”
Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, Cynthia Yung: “It was great to hear from strong Asian women who are changing the stereotypes of model minorities. Being quiet and obedient may make you invisible but not immune to unfair treatment.”
Lawyer, Advocate, Executive Director and General Counsel of The Asian Resource Group, Inc., Lesley Varghese: “No shortage of inspiration at Against the Grain Productions and the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Grateful to Tammy Nguyen for a unique opportunity to meet a few of the most dynamic Asian American women in the country, surrounded by mind-blowing art like “China Porsche!”
Video clips of each speaker will be available on ATG’s YouTube Page.
Read the Asia World Media Coverage.
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 www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.
Words of Praise
“A surprise Dallas snowfall on the afternoon of Sunday, March 2nd, set the tone for an equally unpredictable and fascinating afternoon at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. I found myself hanging on every word from each expert speaker, and their surprising stories echoed through my mind long after I returned home. The obstacles they had overcome! The talents they possessed! The goals they had marked, achieved, and surpassed! Not only were the panelists’ experiences in life and careers remarkable from a groundbreaking Asian American perspective, but they sparked a drive within me to maximize my potential as a modern working woman. Kudos to ATG Productions, and I look forward to the next Groundbreakers event.” – Lisa Petty, Editor, DFW Style Daily
“My first experience at Groundbreakers Speak last year helped to forge a new relationship between ATG, NAAAP and Dallas Women’s Foundation. This year the experience confirmed exactly why it is imperative for all women to embrace their individual stories for the collective good of women everywhere. The dynamic women who shared their stories not only inspired me to embrace my personal journey but they reminded me why female ‘gamechangers’ are valuable and relevant. Women and girls should strive to take on careers and opportunities that challenge the status quo. ATG Against the Grain Productions’ Groundbreakers Speak definitely embodies that message.” – Akilah Wallace, Dallas Women’s Foundation
“ATG’s Groundbreakers Speak this year was so wonderful with strong inspiring women paving the way to success through leadership. We are so grateful to be a part of this annual event!” – Dii Kim, Founder/Owner, Pho is for Lovers
“Thanks to Tammy and the entire ATG team! It was a tremendous honor and thrill to get to know each of you.” – Sylvia Komatsu, EVP | Chief Content Officer, KERA/KXT
“So BLESSED to be in this audience and experience this panel! Each offered such insights and knowledge of what it takes to be a FEMALE game changer.” – LeeAnne Locken, TV Host/Actress/Author
“So honored that I had the opportunity of attending an Against the Grain event hosted by the remarkable Tammy Nguyen. The wealth of talent in the room was unmeasurable. Every single guest can contest to walking away from the flawless event being inspired, motivated, and driven to DREAM BIG.” – Yasmeen Tadia, CEO & Founder, Fluffpop
“So inspired to be surrounded by brilliant, powerful Asian American women leaders who are passionate about their careers and fostering the dreams of women around them.” – Karen Liu Pang, Director of Business Administration and Process Effectiveness, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas
“Congratulat[ions on] a successful event. The panelists were impressive, informative and a lot of fun. I am glad that we could be a partner and host.” – Jill VanGordon, Director of Education, Crow Collection of Asian Art
LeUyen Pham 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 Times Bestselling 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.
born Vũng Tàu, Vietnam
What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”
I have the perfect drawing that answers that question better than I could with words.
What made you decide to pursue a career in the book industry?
I don’t know that I decided to pursue it as much as it pursued me. I’ve loved children’s books and illustrating all my life, but I have to admit as a kid I’d never been encouraged by my parents to be an artist. They were more inclined towards a more traditional field for me. In my family, I have an older sister, two older brothers and a younger brother. We were expected to become (in that order): a doctor, a businessman, a dentist, a lawyer and an engineer. I was told that to become artist would mean confining myself to a life of poverty. Of course, this is understandable that my parents, having come from a war torn country, would want their children to pursue the safest of careers. (Also, let’s admit it, with an arsenal of children like that; my parents would never have to pay for professional services ever again! All I’d have to do would be to marry a mechanic, and they’d be covered for life!) Most of my siblings did pursue those jobs, but somehow, when it came to me, I just didn’t go that way. I went as far as attending UCLA for two years as a political science major, before jumping ship and entering art school. Even there, I was told that one could never make a living as a children’s book illustrator, that it was a side job at best. Somehow, for whatever reason, I didn’t listen. I think I’ve got some sort of internal compass in me that always points me in the way my heart needs me to go. Cornball, I know, to say that, but it’s absolutely true. So here I am, having not listened to anybody, and doing exactly what I thought i could never do. Wait a second, holy cow! I think I just accidentally answered the “going against the grain” question.
What have been some of the challenges you faced/lessons you learned as an Asian American in this field?
Seriously? The BIGGEST challenge is that NOBODY CAN PRONOUNCE MY NAME. I’m not even joking about that! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard my name slaughtered before a presentation. Even some of my closest friends, even editors I’ve known for years, hesitate slightly before introducing me. I think it’s funny, though. And I usually start out any talk to elementary schools or at signings with a proper pronunciation of my name. I even renamed my website to “howdoyoupronounceuyen.com.” I figure, the day any kid can walk into a book store or library and ask for a book by me, and be able to pronounce my name correctly, is the day that I can count myself a success in this field.
Also, publishers who don’t know me who call me are always surprised to hear my voice on the phone. I think they think I’m a man. Which I like to take as close to a compliment, suggesting that my art doesn’t seem more feminine than masculine. But still, if I see another letter addressed to “Mr. LeUyen Pham”, I don’t know what I’ll do…
Other than that, though, I’d have to say that as an Asian American, the publishing field is an extremely welcoming field. I think stories that are not main stream, with culturally diverse characters, are really sought after. So I can’t say I’ve have any complaints!
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment, and why?
I don’t think I’ve had any really big accomplishments. I think I’ve had a large number of little accomplishments that have led me to where I am. I can’t say with any certainty that any single event changed my life so much that it propelled me to where i am now. I just kept doing what I was doing, kept moving slowly towards my goals, and lo and behold, I look up and find myself having published over 50 books, happily living the life of an artist and feeling very fulfilled.
Wait a second! Holy cow, I forgot my kids. Do my kids count? They’re pretty big accomplishments! Well, actually, they’re still pretty young, maybe I should wait until they’ve moved out of the house before I can say that.
What’s up next?
Oh, brother. What’s NOT up next? I’m one extremely busy illustrator. This year alone I’ve illustrated already 6 books, and I’m not even done yet. Let’s see… I’ve just finished illustrating a book called “Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover,” written by Anne Marie Pace. The book is about a Vampire girl who has a sleepover, but is embarrassed to show her friends her home, as she’s, well, a vampire, and her house is appropriately ghoulish. But the little Vampire girl is really me, a little Vietnamese girl, who was also embarrassed to bring over her best friend. When I was ten, my friend came over to my house and wondered at all the “Vietnamese” stuff around — the shrine to my grandparents, the fact we had to take off our shoes — she even saw chicken feet frying in my mom’s pan! I remember being so embarrassed, but now I look back and wish I’d embraced my culture more. So “Vampirina Ballerina” is a way for me to revisit that part of my life, and in the book, this little vampire girl starts out feeling embarrassed, but with the support of her family, and in realizing herself that it’s pretty cool to be different, she gets her friends to embrace her life too. Other projects? Let’s see, I have a couple board books coming out called “Pat-a-Cake” and “All Fall Down” with Candlewick Books, a huge picture book on “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” where all the different characters (maids a milkin’, lords a leapin’, etc) are represented by different ethnicities around the world (and yes, I have a Vietnamese maid a milkin’, in an ao dai, a Thai drummer, a Japanese lady dancing and all manner of all other races — see the accompanying illustration) coming out next year, a book called “The Princess in Black” written by Shannon Hale, about a very pink girly princess by day, monster-fighting super hero girl by night, and then another young reader book written by Lenore Look called “Alvin Ho”, about a young chinese boy living in Massachusetts who is absolutely afraid of everything, but in a very funny way… I also did a New York TImes Bestselling 450 graphic novel with my husband Alex Puvilland (illustrator extraordinaire and the one critic I trust the most) called “Templar,” written by Jordon Mechner. And then on top of all that, I’ve got a bunch of my own stories coming out. “No Such Thing As Little” (the illustration previously shown is one for this book), “Friends” (a story based on my youngest son), another as yet untitled project… the list kind of goes on, I’m exhausted just thinking of it! Here are some sample pieces of some of my projects.
Quote to live by:
I have MANY quotes, hard to choose one. So I’ll offer up two:
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.” — Mark Twain
“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” — Milton Berle
Funny that my biggest heroes are funny old white guys (that’s not a quote, that’s just me commenting on my quote choices).
Sign (Eastern Animal Sign & Western Zodiac):
Year of the Ox (go Ox Girl!) and Leo (roar lion!)
Everything. Seriously. I have boundless energy for all things that I’m even a little interested in. When I grow old, I won’t die, I’ll just burn out at last.
My mom makes the most awesome cơm gà (chicken rice) in the world. Like, I dream about it sometimes. She never makes it for me any more, just for my kids. Oh, and then sushi.
Can’t live without:
My husband and kids of course! Then my ten minutes of alone time in the morning with my coffee and the internet. And, well, so sad to admit this, but : my iPad, NPR, Netflix, Kindle. Before you judge, remember that I draw and paint in a studio pretty much by myself most of the time and require some sort of intelligent life form emanating from some source, be it virtual or otherwise.