Photo | Thao Nguyen for NAAAP
DALLAS (Aug. 30, 2016) – Dallas-based nonprofit Against The Grain Productions once again joined the National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) at their national conference, this time in Las Vegas, to present their 5th Annual Groundbreakers Speak: A Conversation with Asian American Movers and Shakers on Aug. 13. Taking place at Caesars Palace, the event featured Asian American leaders speaking on their motivating personal stories to success. Each panelist gave a TED-inspired presentation, answered a lightning round of questions by ATG President and Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee and joined audience members for one-on-one intimate group conversations. NAAAP President Fabian De Rozario opened, remarking, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas…but not in this case. Take the inspiration and learning here outside of Vegas and share it with your family and friends.”
“In keeping with the theme of NAAAP’s conference this year, our panelists truly demonstrated how they each ‘went all in’ to follow their specific career paths,” said Nguyen Lee. “It was exciting for our team to bring Groundbreakers to a national stage and, no less, to Las Vegas. We are so grateful to partner with NAAAP once again and to bring a unique flavor to their conference.”
Among the many highlights of the event:
- Joey Guila, comedian, TV host, actor and emcee, kicked off the panel. Demonstrating the true meaning of perseverance by sharing how his story of surviving cancer three times inspired him to use comedy to heal others, Guila treated the audience to a one-part comedy routine, one-part motivational talk from beginning to end, to everyone’s delight.
“At the recent NAAAP conference, I attended the Groundbreakers Speak Panel, led by Tammy Nguyen Lee, president of the Against the Grain Productions, Inc. Tammy conducted an inspirational conversation with a group of successful Asian American trail braziers by sharing their personal aspiration and unique career insights. Those role models and their success stories gave a boost to the morale among the audience and set a great example for the upcoming API generation and professionals. That immersive learning attests that though we all are facing various challenges in our professional and career life, we have choices to set the bar high, take well-informed risk, and dedicate our focused hard work to achieve our ambition.” – Donald Fan, Senior Director, Global Office of Culture, Diversity & Inclusion; Wal-Mart
- Founder and CEO of award-winning, worldwide platform Mogul Tiffany Pham impressed guests with her career path, bred from the very start by generations of media leaders in their own right, to carry forth the legacy of her late grandmother’s work to bring information to the masses in a meaningful way. This Forbes’ “30 Under 30” winner landed multiple jobs in the media industry, even performing three jobs at once, to work towards her goal. Not knowing how her dream would come to fruition, she received thousands of letters from women and girls inspired by her business prowess and media savvy. In just two weeks, Pham created Mogul, now reaching more than 18 million women and girls in 96 countries, to bring not only jobs, motivating articles and trending conversations on the minds of females today but also reinvesting profits from partnerships to further educate women around the world through free courses, mentorship and more.
“It was such an impactful event and a wonderful honor to be able to share the story of Mogul with other Asian Americans, strengthening our overall community.” – Tiffany Pham
- Las Vegas-based Khai Vu found it difficult to express his passion for his work as an award-winning chef of acclaimed District One restaurant, but, once prompted by encouraging cheers from the audience and Nguyen Lee, who had the opportunity to feast on just one-third of the delicious fare of District One the previous night with other ATG board members, his drive was clear. Having moved to Nevada at a young age with his family in 1998, he paid close attention to his parents’ thriving Asian restaurant in Las Vegas’ Chinatown district. Inspired by the joy on patrons’ faces and the camaraderie that good food brings among families, friends and even strangers, Vu embarked on his own journey to build a trendy yet home-cooked experience to distinguish his restaurant among others in Chinatown with his best friend and a cousin. With the success of his first restaurant, Vu relayed that the team behind District One inspires him even more each day and is truly behind the team’s success.
- Miki Yamashita, who shared her operatic talent at both the Presidential Town Hall and gala at the NAAAP National Conference just the day before, brought her energy and spark to the panel as she shared her career path as an entertainer. Introduced as a “pint-sized powerhouse” by Nguyen Lee, the classically-trained, multi-faceted lyric soprano, comedian and actress knew from a young age that her destiny was the stage. Among her many proud accomplishments, she is grateful to be a part of a movement in entertainment today that appreciates Asian American talent, playing roles in major productions such as “The Fantastics” that are normally given to Caucasian actresses. Clearly in her element when performing for any-sized crowd, Yamashita provided myths that she proved wrong to herself through her career and desire to help other actors of color shine in the face of industry, saying, “You don’t have to wait to help others – it’s what ‘making it’ is.”“I thought the event was fantastic. It was so inspiring to see other motivated Asian Americans who wanted to actively support each other in their endeavors. I was delighted to be able to share my unique journey, and I hope I was able to encourage others to push on in their career pursuits despite the many obstacles they may face.” – Miki Yamashita
- Feature filmmaker Quentin Lee entertained the audience with his fast-paced but rousing story-telling talents. Another account of perseverance, Lee applied to UCLA three times before finally being waitlisted to attend their film school. Not one to give up, he pursued his undergraduate education at the University of California – Berkeley, received his Master’s in English from Yale University and later attended the University of Southern California, producing feature films with friends that would go on to show at several international film festivals, until he finally received the news he had been waiting for – acceptance into UCLA. With a number of other feature films thereafter under his belt starring some of Hollywood’s most well-known names, he looks forward to completing production on his six-part YouTube mini-series “Gay Hollywood Dad,” featuring life with his new son Casper.
“I had a wonderful time speaking at the Groundbreakers Speak panel and connecting with other ground speakers to share my struggle as an Asian American artist. It’s great to hear that “going all in” seems to be the common attitude that we need to have in order to be fulfilled as an artist and individual.” – Quentin Lee
- The panel presentations ended on a proud note as U.S. Navy Lieutenant with the Medical Service Corps LT Diana Tran-Yu shared her unconventional path toward a late career in the military. Beginning life as a refugee with her mother, father and brother, she escaped communist Vietnam in 1975, leaving a privileged life behind, to first Thailand, then Germany and finally the U.S. After keeping her promise to enter a beauty pageant in exchange for a free haircut and winning, LT Tran-Yu shined soon after as a runway model and TV personality. She attended pharmacy school and began a medical career, moving up in the ranks to become a corporate CEO. With philanthropy and fundraising for several causes, one of which helped raise more than $255,000 for a Vietnam Memorial in Houston, she decided to serve the very country that gave her and her family the freedom that she and her fellow Americans enjoy today, becoming a military leader in the Medical Service Corps.
“I felt so humbly honored to be amongst outstanding and elite talents in myriad industries. It was one of those moments that I will never, ever forget! I shared a bond with new friends whom I now consider to be lifetime friends, lifetime mentors and, perhaps, future shipmates! Lol 🙂 It was also so inspiring to hear other panelists and speakers at the Gala sharing their success stories from their hearts! So genuinely passionate in what they do to make a difference!” – LT Diana Tran-Yu
“On behalf of NAAAP, thank you to ATG, and Tammy Nguyen Lee, for being an integral part of the NAAAP National Convention in Las Vegas. Our common purpose of celebrating Groudbreakers, inspiring talent, and encouraging courageous leadership gives us great reason to collaborate. Our convention delegates enjoy the opportunity to listen and learn from your panelists. I’m a big believer is making connections. The NAAAP and ATG connection is synergistic – creating greater value together.” – Fabian De Rozario
Video clips of each speaker will be available on ATG’s YouTube Page.