Skip to main content

Search the Special Collections and Archives Portal

Emmy Kasten oral history interview: transcript


Download OH_03744_book_a.pdf (application/pdf; 948.93 KB)





Oral history interview with Emmy Kasten conducted by Kristel Peralta, Ayrton Yamaguchi, and Stefani Evans on March 17, 2021 for Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American and Pacific Islander Oral History Project. Emmy Kasten discusses her Filipino heritage, her family, and her previous employment working in various industries including acting and broadcasting, marketing, philanthropy, writing, and event production. Emmy shares how she and her husband and children moved to Las Vegas in 2016 after her parents moved to the city a decade earlier, and she discusses her current professional pursuits as a board member of the Miss Asian North America Organization (MANAO) and the Las Vegas Fashion Council. Subjects discussed include: University of California, Irvine (UCI); KTLA Morning News; Red Bull Music Academy; Rock Star Gaming; Filipino foods; Vegas Magazine; and anti-Asian discrimination.

Digital ID


Physical Identifier



Emmy Kasten oral history interview, 2021 March 17. OH-03744. [Transcript.] Oral History Research Center, Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


This material is made available to facilitate private study, scholarship, or research. Copyright is owned by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Please see the UNLV Libraries Special Collections policies on reproduction and use ( or contact us at

Standardized Rights Statement

Digital Provenance

Original archival records created digitally







An Oral History Conducted by Kristel Peralta, Ayrton Yamaguchi, and Stefani Evans 

Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American and Pacific Islander 

Oral History Project 

Oral History Research Center at UNLV 

University Libraries 

University of Nevada Las Vegas 


©Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American and Pacific Islander 

Oral History Project, 2020 

Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries 

Director: Claytee D. White 

Editors: Kristel Peralta 

Transcriber: Kristin Hicks 

Interviewers: Kristel Peralta, Ayrton Yamaguchi, and Stefani Evans 

Project Manager: Stefani Evans 


The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of the UNLV University Libraries. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank the university for the support given that allowed an idea and the opportunity to flourish. 

The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases, photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. 

The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the Building Las Vegas Oral History Project. 

Claytee D. White 

Director, Oral History Research Center 

University Libraries 

University Nevada, Las Vegas 



“I love telling these stories because there are so many of them in our community.” 

As a second-generation Asian American born in Chicago, Emmy Kasten grew up in the Bay Area when her parents decided to move away from the frosty weather. She grew up with traditional Filipino immigrant parents and a younger brother, while becoming accustomed to weekends in Lake Tahoe. As a student, the public high school introduced her to the fast-paced western way of life and the many social stereotypes that come attached to those youthful settings. Despite majoring in drama at UC Irvine, her vibrant personality and willingness to adapt has led her to work at many renown roles such as launching Red Bull energy drink, rising to editor-in-chief for multiple magazine companies, and even establishing her own non-profit charity event called, “Little Black Dress.” 

In this interview, Emmy Kasten shares her stories of success with magazine companies, the glamor that comes with meeting famous personalities, and the experience of lingering in the grey area of being a second generation Asian American. Additionally, she speaks about the rise of discrimination during COVID-19, the interesting aspects of Filipino cuisine, and her insight on the increased diversity that is happening today. 


Interview with Emmy Kasten 

March 17th, 2021 

in Las Vegas, Nevada 

Conducted by Kristel Peralta 


Kasten talks about her early life, her parents migrating to the United States, growing up in the Bay Area, and the schooling she attended. She shares how growing up with immigrant parents and the fun of going to Filipino parties has impacted her life. The topic of gambling and going to the arcade are memories that she was accustomed to while growing up. Kasten shares the struggles and joys of being at a public school as an excelling student and the popularity problems of college life. Additionally, she discusses the numerous jobs and companies she's worked for such as Red Bull, and her nonprofit charity event called "Little Black Dress." Traveling the world, involvement in the fashion industry, reaching out to the community, and many other extraordinary feats are what consists of Kasten’s colorful career…………………………………….........................................…………….…....1-15 

Kasten talks about her reasons for moving to Las Vegas. Topics such as parental influence, the Strip, and job opportunities are mentioned. She compares the pace of life and growth of the city to other places she has lived such as L.A., New York, and San Francisco. Culture and racial discrimination are also key points brought up by Kasten. The idea of rearing biracial children is an important point she touches on. She talks about her fears of being discriminated against due to COVID-19 stigmas. Furthermore, she connects culture through food with her daughter and expresses the significance of food in Filipino culture………………………………………………………………………………...16-24 

Community involvement is an interesting conversation Kasten puts forward. She talks about being a part of the Miss Asian North American Organization and its impact on her life. Next, she shares why storytelling is important for future generations and her relation to an oral history with being a magazine editor. Finally, Ayrton Yamaguchi and Stefani Evans prepare follow-up questions…………………………………………………...24-30 

More follow-up questions are asked that talk about Kasten's magazine career, various topics she has disclosed in her career, and Asian American representation in the media. Kasten expresses her joy of reporting on various stories that enrich her life. Additionally, she is asked about cultural Filipino foods such as lumpia, lechon, and the importance of rice as a staple food…………………………………………………………………...30-35 


Good afternoon. It is March 17th, 2021. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. 

I am Stefani Evans, and I’m here with Kristel Peralta and Ayrton Yamaguchi, and we’re here to interview Emmy Kasten. 

Emmy, may I ask you to spell your first and last names, please, for the recording? 

Sure. It’s Emmy. E-M-M-Y. The last name is Kasten. K-A-S-T-E-N. 

Thank you. Kristel, I’ll turn it over to you. 

KP: Could you please tell us about your family and your childhood; your parents, siblings, schooling, and anything related to that? 

Wow. That’s a lot. All right. Let’s see. I was born in Chicago, Illinois. Both my parents came here from the Philippines. They did not know each other at the time. They actually met in Chicago. My dad was an engineer, and my mom was a nursing student. They met, got married, had me, and then moved to California—Northern California where my brother was born—in San Francisco. We grew up in the Bay Area and spent all our childhood days there. I went to school at Clayton Valley High School and was always a really good student. I went to a private school before that. It was a private Christian school called Tabernacle Baptist. Then, I went to a public school for high school. Then later, I went to the University of California, Irvine for college. 

What more? Let’s see. Schooling… What more did you need, Kristel? 

Could you tell us more about your siblings? 

Sure. My brother was born in San Francisco. My parents came from big families, but I only had one sibling. He’s two and a half years younger than me. We got along great, as 

much as siblings normally do. We lived in a very suburban neighborhood in the Bay Area where we were one of the only Asian American families around, so growing up, though I knew I was Asian, I spent a lot of my childhood just trying to assimilate. My parents also in raising us never taught us their native language because they wanted us to assimilate fluidly. They didn’t want us to be subjected to ridicule that they were subjected to when they first moved from the Philippines. They were often teased for their choice of words or their accents, and they didn’t want me or my brother to experience that, so we were never taught the Tagalog language. But in hanging out with my parents and their friends—they used to stay up all night gambling and playing Mahjong. As a kid, I didn’t really like to sleep, so I used to stay up at these parties and sit and watch them play. In the course of sitting up and watching, I not only learned how to play Mahjong, but also learned the language. I can understand it fluently, but I can’t speak it. I speak back and reply in English. My brother doesn’t pick it up at all. It wasn’t until his later years, now, that he’s paid attention to the language and has started to try to communicate that way. 

Thank you. You mentioned that you would often go to those family parties. Could you tell us more about that? 

Yes. My dad is super social. He is the guy that everybody knows in the room. His name is Alfonso Cortes, but everybody knows him as Al. He’s the life of the party. He’s the guy that isn’t afraid of anything and is constantly cracking jokes. As we were growing up, he was the guy that always called his friends and checked in with them. Everybody knew him. My parents loved to gamble, and they would go to Lake Tahoe, so we’d be in South Lake Tahoe almost every weekend. All the pit bosses and all the dealers knew my dad. It was like, “Oh, Al’s here.” He was always joking. 

He was a nuclear engineer when we were really, young and he commuted on BART, the train, into the city every day. Then the world turned on nuclear energy; people didn’t want that any longer. He worked for a big company called Bechtel and he lost his job. It was the first time that we saw my dad being vulnerable. (This was a turning point for our family, and suddenly we started going to church every Sunday.) He was the unbeatable, strong Leo, alpha male, and then suddenly, he lost his job, and we saw that it was a huge blow on him and his ego. He started freelancing and doing other kinds of engineering and eventually ended up with electrical engineering though he was doing piping design and layout for a long time. 

We remember him getting our first computer—it was huge—that we would set up downstairs in the den. We were like, “What’s that?” This high-tech thing. He was an early adopter of any technology, so we were the first people on the block to have a VCR. He had the camera that you had to carry the whole machine on your shoulder. We were just always like, “Oh my gosh, will you please put that away?” Now we’re so happy that we have those videos from way, way back in the day. 

Anyway, to get back to my question, my dad was very social. My mom was the opposite. She was very, very quiet, reserved, and constantly embarrassed. My dad would be the first one to jump on the karaoke machine and sing. He would sing like Elvis. In fact, every night to relax, he would go downstairs to the den—to the office where he had his computer set up—he also had his karaoke set up. He would turn the machine on and serenade the whole neighborhood with his Elvis Presley songs. My mom was embarrassed. but you could tell it also made her really happy. He was definitely the social 

one. She was the mellow one. She just kind of came along for his ride, and we, as the kids, came along with them. 

There was always lots of family and lots of food. Again, I’m Filipino, so lots of pancit, lumpia, and, of course, leche flan; you name it. All the staples were there and then some. The parties lasted all night. It was not unusual for us to be driving home at six o’clock in the morning. 

Circling back to when you moved to the Bay Area, what was the reason you moved there? 

When I was really young, less than two years old, I got pneumonia and my parents blamed the super cold weather and harsh conditions in Chicago. They were like, “We just can’t… We don’t like this weather. We don’t want our baby to suffer like this and we don’t want this to ever happen again.” They decided to move to the West Coast. At that point, my dad got the job at Bechtel, and we moved to the Bay. 

California is still part of my soul. I love it there. My brother and I had a happy childhood growing up. I was born in ‘71; my brother was born in ‘73. During our young years as ten- and eleven-year-olds, we were latchkey kids. We would come home from school and my parents would still be at work. We were pretty much self-sufficient at that point. That’s when we got our alone time to just chill and watch TV. I watched a lot of The Brady Bunch and The Monkeys—whatever specials were on after school. We would make our own snacks and be self-sufficient until my parents got home around six o’clock, and then we’d all have dinner together. It was a simple life. 

Like I said, on the weekends, we’d head to Tahoe. For a long time, my parents would just leave us at the arcade—the video game arcade—and give us twenty bucks to 

just keep ourselves busy until they could come back and check in. I got smart. After I mastered every video game that was in the arcade, I decided to start saving my money. (I was a bookworm, so I would read all the game guide books to learn all the secrets to winning.) When I saw my parents were down on their luck when they’d come back to check on us, I would loan my money back to them so that they could go play it on the tables. If they won, then I wanted my money back plus a cut of the winnings. 

The casino was always a part of my upbringing as well. Gambling was always a very common theme growing up, so it was only a matter of time that we eventually ended up in Las Vegas. My parents were the first ones to come here in 2006 or 2007. I went to college in Orange County. My brother went to college in San Diego. We graduated from high school, went off to different colleges, and ended up in different cities and states. But my parents, after we left the house that we grew up in, decided that they would buy an escape pad in Las Vegas with a bunch of their friends. Four other Filipino couples all bought [houses] along the same street thinking that one day they could all just walk to each other’s houses and play Mahjong all night and not have to drive and be able to have dinner and hang out and keep each other company in their older years. About thirteen years ago, after my mom retired, they moved out to Vegas full-time. They had their property still in Northern California but decided that they wanted to spend most of their time in Vegas. They were the first ones to come out here. 

To bring it back to me, I went from living in Southern California, loving it there, then building a big career in marketing and media. I launched Red Bull Energy Drink in the United States. At this time in the late ‘90s, energy drinks did not exist; people didn’t know what that was. The company was based in Austria. I spent a lot of time traveling 

around the world, a lot of time in Europe, and built that brand from the ground up. Then I left after 9/11 hit New York in 2001. I was like, “What am I doing? I’m in three time zones a week and spending all my time building this brand for this company that’s not even my own. What is this all coming to?” It sounds kind of cliche, but it’s the truth, and I just knew that I needed to move on. 

The following July after 9/11, I quit my job. I didn’t have a real plan for what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to do something that gave back to the community. Again, I was still living in L.A. at the time. I remember being at a party at an art gallery opening and somebody complimented me on what I was wearing. I was just wearing a black dress. When in doubt, wear a black dress because it always works no matter what. We started talking about fashion in Los Angeles and why L.A.-based fashion designers aren’t as popular as New York-based designers or designers from Europe. Then I had a lightbulb moment where I thought, “I know what I’m going to do.” I was like, “What if I throw a big charity event where I ask L.A.-based fashion designers to design their version of the perfect little black dress? Instead of doing a runway show, I want to display dresses on mannequins like an art show, like what we’re at right now. You’d be able to study the detail and come up close. I want to auction these dresses off and give 100 percent of the money to charity.” My friends were like, “Okay, how much have you had to drink? That sounds good. Good for you.” And I was like, “No, no. I’m going to do it.” 

I went home. I wrote up a little one-sheet, and I drove to downtown L.A., which is where the Fashion District is. I literally went into the marts and went door to door with my little one-sheet. I was like, “I have this idea. What do you think? Who should I be talking to?” People were like, “Are you a student? Why are you doing this?” And I said, 

“I just want to do this. I have the skills to be able to put on this event, and I don’t really know anything about fashion, but I know this is something the community needs, so I think it would be really fun.” And people were like, “Okay.” I even enrolled myself at FIDM [Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles] to take design classes to understand more about the industry. 

One thing led to another, and I did the event. There were a lot of celebrities there. It was a huge success. I was like, “Yay, I did it. Now it’s time to finish the job.” Did I meet people? I was hoping that doing something like this would lead to a job in that field, but it didn’t. People were like, “When are you going to do the next one? This is so great.” I was like, “The next one? This is supposed to be a one-off and I need to make some money now.” 

I thought about my Red Bull Energy Drink experience, and there was one event that we used to do every year in a different city around the world called the Red Bull Music Academy. With the Red Bull Music Academy, we would bring in students and aspiring DJs from around the world and teach them music business, music skills, and just some music history. We would do that by putting them together with some of the industry’s greatest DJs, producers, managers, and agents. 

It’s like, you know what? I’m going to adapt that model because it worked for us at Red Bull. I’m going to do one more of these Little Black Dress events, and I’ll do it in the U.S. just to see… If it’s a sophomore event and I fall flat on my face and fail, then whatever; it was fine. It was a good ride, and I can close the chapter on it. But if I succeed, I want to do what we did at Red Bull—I want to bring it to a different city around the world every year, and I want to do it in an aspiring fashion capital, not just 

your usual New York, Milan, Paris. I want to do it in alternative fashion capitals where there are designers that want attention, but people just aren’t paying attention to them because they’re not located in the hubs. 

I did a second one. It was a big success. I was doing everything. I was producing the vent, getting all the sponsorships, picking the food—from the finest little detail to the biggest detail. I was contacting all the designers. I was doing my own PR and I was on one of the local television stations in Los Angeles talking to people about what they could expect at the next Little Black Dress event. I did a little, mini fashion show with models to give people a little sneak peek, and talked about the designers that were participating, the venue, and dropping all the names of the sponsors. 

I came off the set and the producer of the television program was like, “You’re such a natural. Would you consider coming back and doing more fashion segments for us?” I was like, “Yeah, this is easy.” Because for me, being in front of the camera and people was something that came naturally. I was always good with that. Public speaking was like a thing I did a lot of in my early years. I won lots of awards. I did all the speech and debate. With Red Bull, I was dealing a lot with media, talking about why Red Bull and vodka weren’t dangerous or going to kill you, and how moderation and the Red Bull ingredients compared to other harder-hitting stuff. For me to talk about fashion was super lightweight, so I was like, “Sure.” 

I called my boyfriend at the time. I was like, “Oh my gosh, they want me to come back on and do more fashion segments. Isn’t that crazy?” And he’s like, “Are you going to do it?” And I said, “I guess. Like, why not?” 

I started to be a fashion expert on the KTLA Morning News. It’s the number one news program in Los Angeles. I became a public personality like that—this was before the world of influencers and social media. Facebook was starting to come on the scene, but I was like, who has time for that? Like, Myspace; all these different things. I was like, whatever… I cannot. 

I was in Palm Springs for this event for Jaguar, the car company. I met a guy who owns a magazine. He’s like “Emmy, I’m looking for somebody to be the editor-in-chief of my magazine. We cover Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Scottsdale. Do you know anyone?” I was like, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it for you. I’ll give it some thought and see who might be looking or who might be interested.” 

After a couple of weeks and staying in touch with this guy, he was like, “Okay. Well, I’m just going to come right out and ask you. Would you be my editor-in-chief?” And I was like, “Me as editor-in-chief? That’s crazy. But, okay.” People work their whole lives to aspire, to climb to that level, and suddenly I just had it handed to me on a silver platter. I was like, “I guess I’ll just figure it out.” That’s what I did. 

That magazine gig led to another magazine gig. I was head of another magazine called 944, also based in Scottsdale. I oversaw all the different magazines nationally in twelve different cities that we had magazines. Then that magazine led me to yet another one. 

All the while that I was the editor-in-chief of these magazines, I was also still producing Little Black Dress on the side as my hobby, so I didn’t sleep very much. I knew that after the second Little Black Dress that I was going to go global with it. I knew strategically that I wanted to go to an English-speaking country. I just wanted to remove 


one more barrier of difficulty. I also knew that it needed to be an alternative fashion capital, so I was looking at Australia, Glasgow, Scotland, and Manchester, England. Australia was really far, so I knocked that one off the list and I concentrated on the UK. At the time of their tourism board, Glasgow had a whole campaign that was “Glasgow is the new black.” I was like, “Little Black Dress; Glasgow is the new black; that sounds awesome.” And then Manchester—just with the edginess and the music scene, kind of like punk rock history—it was just like music and fashion go hand in hand. That’s a great connection too. 

I flew out there and I had tons of meetings with both cities and walked around and randomly met people. I talked to them and checked out what was going on in the fashion scene. It was like the Olympics; these two cities wanted me to bring over my big, fabulous, glamorous American event to their city. It was at my 2nd event in L.A. that Fern Mallis from IMG (producer of NYFW) met Dean Factor (son of cosmetics giant, Max Factor, and owner of Smashbox). Their meeting resulted in the production of L.A.’s first legitimate Fashion Week. 

After Little Black Dress number two, and knowing that I wanted to do the UK, I knew that America perceived overseas as New York. If you go to Europe, all of America is New York to them. I also wanted to prove that I could do the concept in an already established fashion capital and that I’m intentionally choosing to go with an alternative fashion capital, so I did the event in New York. It was probably the easiest event that I ever did because the city is built for it. All the designers completely understand why it’s valuable to participate. The New York Post did six pages on the event. I held it at Diane von Furstenberg’s home in the Meatpacking District before Meatpacking became what it 


is today. It was all very simple, easy, and primed to do the “jump across the pond,” as they say. I did that up until I got married and got pregnant with my first child. At the time I was doing the event in Bangkok, Thailand. I was like, “I cannot keep this up with my baby and my job and everything.” I had to let it go. I stopped doing Little Black Dress in 2006 since my daughter was born in 2007. 

I wanted to circle back to your earlier education. Could you tell us more about what it was like growing up and going to school in the Bay Area, and going to school at UC Irvine? 

Yes. Growing up in the Bay Area as one of the very few Asian faces in the whole community, I was kind of that stereotypical Asian. I was a super straight-A student; I was valedictorian of my middle school, and then when I went to high school—taking that leap from a small classroom and private school environment to a public-school environment—I was so naive. I was like, I don’t know anybody here. All these people had gone to school together. But they say you should get involved and you should join clubs and run for office. I was like, “Okay,” not understanding at all that it was a pure popularity contest. I had no idea. I was like, “This is what they say you should do, and so this is what I’ll do. I’m good at organizing and I’m good at this stuff. I’ll just do it.” As a freshman, not knowing anybody at the school—I almost cringe; it’s cringy to talk about—I ran for office, like the student council. I did a big speech in front of everybody at the gym. I was like, it will be cute; I’m going to ride a little Big Wheel in there and this is my grand entrance. I’m only four-foot-eleven, so I ran on that platform that I’m good at this, I’m good at that, and best of all, the reason you should vote for me is that I’m under five feet tall! And people loved it. They laughed. But I didn’t win. 


That was my introduction to public school and high school. Then I learned. I started seeing cliques and who was popular and what they did to be popular—the jocks and the more musical, long-haired guys and all the different things. How do I fit into this? There was no Asian crowd. I didn’t feel like I was so Asian because my parents made me so White. I just didn’t know where to fit into anything. 

But I eventually forged my own path and was a homecoming princess and was president of every club and became the valedictorian. I won one of the school’s highest honors called the Leadership Altair. I was the teacher’s pet. I had so many credits that I could finish school early. One of the things that I did as an interest or a hobby in high school was, I was in a lot of plays. I did a lot of drama stuff. One of my proudest things is that because I was able to graduate school early, I became the youngest company member of the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival—now known as Cal Shakes. I received a scholarship to UC Irvine to major in drama. I was primed to have a very successful acting career. I spoke at my high school commencement. I went from “nobody girl” on the Big Wheel to speaking at commencement and knowing everybody and just building myself up. My commencement took place at what is the equivalent of T-Mobile [Arena]. It was huge. It’s called the Concord Pavilion. I spoke on that stage. It was awesome. To this day, I’m in my high school hall of fame and all this cool stuff. That didn’t happen until ten years later. 

But, yes, that was my growing up. My parents are Asian; they’re very, very, very traditional. The thought of me going to college and majoring in drama, even if I had a scholarship, all these awards, all these accolades, and I had a 4.13 GPA—it was crazy, I checked all these boxes—but my parents didn’t understand how fricking amazing that is. 


None of that equated to any of their experience. They did not understand at all the importance of what school you went to for the next step, for college. Even though I had some awesome teacher mentors, nobody was pressing on me that the next school, my choice for college, was going to be something very important. 

I applied to UC Berkeley. I applied to Stanford. I applied to UCLA, USC—and just because, not for any reason because I didn’t want to go to those schools so badly. I didn’t know anything about those schools. I just knew their names. I got into every school that I applied to. I was kind of expected to. It was like how I grew up and the way my parents raised me, of course, you were going to college. It was not even a question that my brother and I wouldn’t. All my teachers were so proud that I got into all these schools. But then I had this long-term boyfriend in high school that didn’t get into any of those schools. In fact, the only school he got into was UC Irvine. I was like, “Oh no, you didn’t get into any of these? We’re not going to go to UCLA or UC Berkeley or whatever together?” And Berkeley was so close to home that I was like, ugh, man, I do not want to go; I want to be far away. The last thing I wanted to do was stick around and live at home and go to Berkeley because it was like a second home to me from being at Berkeley Shakespeare Festival at John Hinkel Park in Berkeley. I was like, eh, that’s just Berkeley; that’s like home. Now I’m like, what the… Berkeley, I should have gone to Berkeley. What? Stanford. I should have gone to Stanford. Like what? 

But anyway, I was like, “Okay. Well maybe if I write to UC Irvine, they’ll take me.” Everybody else took me, so why wouldn’t Irvine take me? That’s what I did. I did a late, late application to UC Irvine so I could be with my boyfriend, and they accepted me. That’s how I ended up going to UC Irvine, a total culture shock. I had no idea what to 


expect. I had never seen the campus. I hadn’t seen any of the campuses except for UC Berkeley. In my head, I thought all campuses were like UC Berkeley. Then I moved to UC Irvine, and I was like, what is this sterile place? What did I do? 

For the first time in my life, I saw so many more Asian people. I was like, what is this? Come to find out that everybody was either an ICS (Information and Computer Science) or biology major. It was like, whoa, all these people are going to become engineers or programmers or doctors? Did my parents know? What is happening here? 

I finished off my college career at UC Irvine, miserable for the first part of it because it was just such a cold, master-planned, super clean, barely lived in, Orange County feels. It was so different from Berkeley. I had considered transferring to UCLA, but rather than uproot my whole world and wonder what I was going to do with my boyfriend, I just stuck with it. 

During that time, my boyfriend and I eventually broke up, surprise, surprise. But I did end up meeting the guy who became my first husband in college through the Greek System. Though I had not become a doctor, he did. I figured with my parents it was like, I didn’t become a doctor, but I married one. Are you happy now? 

Yes, Orange County. Even though I found my way and I rushed a sorority and became the vice president of Panhellenic, communications of sorts… I did all my stuff. I have this pattern where I come into a place, I don’t know anything, and then I figure it out after three years. That’s a lot like my Vegas story. 

I moved here four years ago. It's been about four and a half years now. I didn’t know a soul outside of my parents. I was working a job in the Bay Area. After college, I lived in L.A. for a long time. I then moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where I was editor-in-


chief of the luxury publication there. Then I moved back to L.A. and then moved to New York where I was the head of PR for a video game company called Rockstar Games. At the time I launched a game called Grand Theft Auto V, so GTA V. Then I moved back to the Bay Area. I hopped around, moved around a lot. Vegas was never on the radar of places to be. I lived in all these fabulous places. I was like, Vegas? My parents were there, but what am I going to do there? It was kind of random. 

But my husband, who works for Live Nation/Ticketmaster, so he’s in charge of all the nightclubs and independent music promoters—he does all the ticketing for them. We were in San Francisco when his company said, “We’re exploding in Vegas. Vegas is booking a lot more entertainment. It’s happening in Vegas. Would you consider moving there?” 

Ironically, we had bought a house out here in 2015 as an investment property. We were coming out to visit my parents and were like, “Wouldn’t it be nice to just stay in our own house instead of staying in their house or a hotel?” Anyway, we bought this house that we were never meant to live in full-time. We ended up moving into it after my husband’s job said, “Hey, would you consider Vegas?” And so, here we are. 

After about six months, I decided to quit my job in the Bay Area because I was not able to really connect with the community. My kids were going to school, and that’s one thing; that’s one way to meet people. And I was going to the gym. But aside from that, to really get to know and feel the pulse of the city in a way I was used to feeling it, I knew I would have to work here. Again, my pattern where I just leave with just knowing that something will eventually happen or hoping that something would, I got a call out of the blue from my old company, Modern Luxury Media. They were like, “Emmy, would 


you consider being the editor-in-chief of Vegas Magazine? Our editor is moving and we’d love to have you back.” I was like, “Sure, done.” I very, very quickly got ingrained in the community that way. 

What were some of your first initial memories of Las Vegas when you arrived? 

When I was a child or when I moved here? 

Both. Could you also explain the change that happened? You had visited, right? Comparing how it was coming back here as a child versus now and seeing the city grow. 

As a child, Vegas was larger than life. I remember driving down the Strip and looking out the window and my parents going, “Look at all the lights; look at all the lights,” and me being like, “Wow, that’s really cool; that’s really pretty.” But outside of that I just thought of Las Vegas as a bigger Lake Tahoe. I was like, okay, so where’s the arcade that I’m going to spend all my time in? What video games am I going to learn how to play? That was my initial impression of Vegas as a kid. 

Then when my parents moved here, I started to see a different side of Vegas because where they lived was nothing like the Strip, and they lived just outside of Summerlin off Cheyenne and the 215, so the Lone Mountain area. I was like, wow, it’s really quiet and chill and people live here; they seem like they live normal lives. But it was still, in my head, very sleepy—almost like a retirement community because, again, it was just my parents and all their friends up and down this one street. It was like, my tita Norma, my tita Eden… all these people that I grew up with. It was a late night, so you had all these houses. I’m like, okay, The Strip felt far away. Just in my head, it felt far away from where they bought their house. 


When we decided to move to Vegas, I remember feeling like, ah man, is this going to be the end of me in terms of all my cool jet-set lifestyle? What is this place? Is it super cheesy? Even people I knew here from the very first magazine that I was editing, people here kept telling me it’s really bad fashion and it was cheesy with imitations of the real thing. I thought, ah man, this is going to suck. But you know what? My life has changed. We have two kids. Maybe I’ll find something somebody hasn’t found yet. I don’t know. We just figured we had moved around so much that we were probably going to move again anyway, so not a big deal. I could grin and bear it for however long. But we loved our house. We spent about a year renovating it before we moved into it. 

I remember when we first moved here, once a year, I would go to different meetings with people from around the world, and it’s like a very elite group of thought leaders—they nicknamed it the Billionaire Cruise, but it was called the Summit at Sea. It’s all sorts of walks of life. I remember being with some of these people, most were from fabulous name-brand cities, so L.A., New York, Paris, Milan, all of them, and then turning to me and asking where I was living. I was like, “Vegas, but I just moved there. I used to live in L.A, New York, San Francisco. Yes, so Vegas for now.” I was embarrassed about the whole thing. They were like, “Oh, Vegas, hmm, interesting.” 

But after being here for even two years, I would say a year and a half into my job, maybe even a year into my job as the editor-in-chief of Vegas Magazine, I was like, Vegas—and this is where I am today—Vegas is the best place ever. I am so happy to be living here and to have access to all the things we have access to—to live a lifestyle with the amount of income. The no-income-tax thing is huge. It’s a really big deal. There are companies paying attention to Vegas now. The chefs, the shopping, all the people from—


now, after the pandemic—all the people from California are coming here and realizing that Vegas has a lot to offer, and now feel like a pioneer, right? I’m like, yes! I was here before you all; I was already on this, so good luck trying to find a greater place to live because we’ve already swooped them up. Of course, they’re building a lot here, so I’m like, hmm. But, yes, now I am the biggest cheerleader for the City of Las Vegas and cannot stop talking about it when people ask me about whether or not they should move here. 

Now I want to move on to the topic of culture. Growing up, how did your family incorporate a cultural environment, if they did, and presently, how do you promote culture in your family and to your kids? 

Culture… Because they wanted us to assimilate so much, there wasn’t a lot of culture infused into me and my brother. The most culture we got was when we would go to parties with all the other Filipino people. My dad loves to cook, so our culture was infused through the food choices, for sure. Every now and then, when we would get into a fight growing up, they would be like, “In the Philippines, this would never happen.” they would kind of bring that stuff up, and we’d be like, what are you talking about? We’re in America now. That doesn’t even matter. 

Growing up, we had a couple of family members come to live with us temporarily, just as they came into the country, to get their feet wet, get established, and then move on to find their own places. Unbeknownst to me and my brother, that was exposure to culture. They didn’t have jobs and they were getting sponsored by companies—all that didn’t make any sense to us kids. But now I’m like, oh wow, we 


helped them; we helped them come in and establish a life, and now my cousins and other people live here. 

I didn’t know my grandparents, any of them. They stayed in the Philippines. Even though we went to go visit them, we were so young at the time that I didn't have any memories of my grandparents at all. My dad was the youngest of nine kids. He was a twin and his twin sister died when she was really young. He is the last remaining sibling now. He’s the sole survivor of all his siblings. I’ve known maybe a couple of my aunts and uncles on that side. I don’t have a connection to family the way other people do. On my mom’s side, I knew one of her sisters. She was the youngest of seven. 

I didn’t see a lot of customs. We just had our own little clan in the Bay Area and that was it, again, with just the occasional visits to the Philippines, but it’s all such a blur. 

Now, as I’ve come into adulthood and been exposed, the culture, I feel, has become so much more of a topic for today’s kids and growing up. I never paid attention to it as much as I have now, and it’s interesting because my kids are mixed. My husband is Caucasian and I’m me [Filipino]. Obviously, they’re half and half, but they identify with the Asian side more. They visited the Philippines in 2018 and they are dying to go back. I just think it’s because it’s part of what’s happening in today’s world—which is a positive change. They’re embracing their ethnicity; the presence of color versus the absence of color when you’re Caucasian. My daughter who is now thirteen loves to cook and gravitates towards Asian flavors and restaurants compared to more Caucasian staples—like pizza and chicken fingers just don’t cut it for this girl. It’s cool. I think it’s a cool thing that kids now want to find what makes them different. When I was growing up, we tried not to be different, blend in, and assimilate as much as possible. Now, it’s 


about standing out in a crowd and showing off what’s different. My daughter does not care; when she was going to school—she’s homeschooling now—but when she was going to school, she would bring leftover food from the night before, open it up and be like, ah, garlic. Her friends were like, “Eh, what is that smell?” And she’d be like, “What?” Back in the day, if that happened to me at school, I would have thought I’m never bringing that again. But she’s just like, “What? You don’t know what this is?” It’s a totally different scene. 

Because they’re so close to their grandparents, my dad was making chicken adobo the other day, and he’s just like, “Let me show you how to do this.” And my daughter said, “Okay.” She’s eating it up; she loves it. Then he was making a lemon chicken and said to her, “Yes, you put a little of this, and you taste it, and…” I told my daughter, “Growing up, this was one of my favorite dishes.” We didn’t eat it. He was just showing her how to make it, and she’s been obsessing about it ever since. She’ll ask, “And that lemon chicken, when are we going to do that with Grandma and Grandpa?” 

Language… Now I’m bummed because I don’t understand Tagalog as much as I used to, though I can hear it in a crowd, for sure. I could pick it out in a crowded room and know what they’re saying, but it’s not as fluid when I was younger. Now, I wish I would’ve tried to make the sounds with my mouth instead of only recognizing them with my ears. I didn’t know that language was going to be as important as I know now. 

I’m glad that you think the environment around race is becoming more accepting. Touching on that topic, have you experienced any racial discrimination against yourself or witnessed it among the Asian American Pacific Islanders, growing up or just in general? 


Yes, and it’s a shock to me every single time with the recent events that went down in Atlanta yesterday. Every time I am horrified and shocked. Growing up, I was definitely subjected to some teasing because to a lot of Caucasian people in the area, Asian is Asian; all Asians are Chinese. There’s a comedian named Jo Koy. I don’t know if you know him. There’s a line he says in one of his bits, “rice is rice.” That’s the mentality that I grew up around; all Asian people are the same. 

Then when I moved from college to Irvine, I was like, wait a second, that’s not right. I knew that it wasn’t right anyway, but it didn’t matter. The teasing about my eye shape and even being short, I just kind of blew it off. I swallowed it up. I would make up for it in other ways by being smart, really popular, and being better than everybody else in all these other ways that I could control. I tried to overcompensate or try to equalize that, at least for my own confidence level. In moving to Irvine, I saw that there were cliques; different people were hanging out with different people, different Asian cultures that were proud to be who they were, and they only hung out with themselves. I was like, well, that’s not cool either. All they do is hang out with each other and they’re not mixing in. 

I stayed more on that White path—as a sorority girl; that’s how I knew how to be, but now and then I would encounter different little things… I almost put it out of my memory, but I remember being on a public bus, and this woman started yelling at me for being Asian. It was scary, like, is this really happening? My internal dialogue went, “Wow, this is crazy. This person is racist, and they’re going after me, who is probably the Whitest Asian person alive. My outer shell is the only thing this person sees, and they hate me for it. That sucks.” 


Even walking down the streets of L.A. on a lunch break… I was working on a magazine called Angelo Magazine. I was on the Wilshire Boulevard, not far from the La Brea Tar Pits. This woman physically attacked me on the street. I was just walking down the street and I got attacked, and it was because of my race. “What is happening here?” I thought, “Was that an accident? No, it wasn’t an accident.” You just try to rationalize all these things because you think they couldn’t possibly be attacking me because of how I look, right? Aren’t we past that as a society? 

I’ve been out with my husband before, and we’ll be standing right next to each other, and we’ll meet somebody new. I remember this man talking to my husband. I’m sitting right there. The guy looks at my husband and he goes, “Where is she from?” As if I couldn’t answer that question on my own. This stuff happens and it’s always so surprising to me. 

Of course, now with events in the recent couple of years, especially during the pandemic, my awareness, through these tiny, little incidents in my life, have been built up—realizing these were little reminders of my outer shell that I’ve never even thought about. With the pandemic, I remember when we were still in quarantine lockdown, and my daughter and I went to 99 Ranch in Chinatown on Spring Mountain. We’re shopping. We’re getting some things. She said, “I’m going to get something on the next aisle. I’ll meet you back here.” I was like, “Okay.” Then I stopped and thought, oh my gosh, no, no, I need to go follow her because what if a shooter comes into the store and she’s not with me? The most random—and I’ve never had thoughts like that before—but that’s how crazy things got. I was just like, okay, that’s crazy talk and that’s so awful. But it’s 


not crazy talk. That’s actually real. So, Emmy, go find your daughter because we’re not safe right now. 

Connecting this to the Black Lives Matter movement, how may that affect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and what is your take on it? 

Let me see how I can be careful about this. Sometimes Asian people find themselves to be very different from Black people, and I mean that in a way that things happen to that normally don’t happen to us. Even though we know that it does, I think skin color is a big factor, and because our skin is not so far off, it’s more about the shape of our eyes or things like that. It’s not as blatant as the discrimination—the discrimination that we normally face is more subtle. It’s not police officers treating you differently when you get pulled over. I didn’t grow up with that fear of whether it’s because I’m a woman or Asian or anything else. I don’t feel extra scared of anything, whereas, from what I understand of the Black American experience, young Black American men who are pulled over have a very real threat in front of them. That’s not the same experience for the Asian Americans, in my experience, and that could be totally different across the lines. 

But I do feel like Asian Americans have taken a cue from the Black Americans and said, “You know what? We need to mobilize. We need to speak up. We need to say more about what’s happening to us because we’ve been really quiet.” That’s partly a cultural thing. We’re not out there rallying. It’s just not in our culture to be loud and proud. It’s more about being subtle and, “We’ll get you; we’ll get you in a different way.” But we don’t feel we need to rally and make noise about it as a culture. But I think we’re starting to see that there are some virtues along those lines. There was a talk last night on a social media platform that I’m starting to be more active on right now. It’s 


called Clubhouse. On Clubhouse, there’s a lot of noise about what went down yesterday in Atlanta. I saw on Instagram this morning, one of my girlfriends put on her stories, “Remember who was there for us Asian Americans. It was our fellow Black Americans. They were standing up and they’re joining forces. Know your allies. They’re joining forces with us and trying to help us see the ways, help us make a statement, and stand our ground.” Because oftentimes we just don't. Not enough. I think that’s changing. 

Thank you for that. I wanted to return to your community involvement. I saw from the biography questionnaire that you’re a member of the Miss Asian North American Organization. Could you tell us more about that experience, and also what you do in general in the Las Vegas area with community activities? 

Sure, MANAO, just like we call it, is really about empowering young women to be confident and to be involved in the community. It helps give a platform for Asian American women, in general, to be seen and heard. The way I became involved with them is a couple of years ago they threw their first fundraising gala and they honored me. They honored five different women, Asian American women in the community, and I was one of them. That’s how it came on my radar in the first place, as an honoree. Then the next year they did the gala, I was the keynote speaker. and that’s when they asked me to join the board. Then we all went into lockdown, so I haven’t gotten to dig in and get that involved with the organization itself. But they do really, really good work. It’s beyond producing beauty queens. It’s about empowering women, giving them confidence, giving them the tools, and giving them access to mentors to help them along their paths on a professional level. 


In general, because I had such a high-profile job with Vegas Magazine, my contribution to the community was by shining the spotlight on them through stories. Having their picture and story told in the magazine was my biggest contribution, for sure, and something that I loved to do. I love telling these stories because there are so many of them in our community. I’m no longer with Vegas Magazine as a result of the pandemic, but I am freelancing quite a bit for not only them, but for lots of different outlets, so I still get to tell those stories. I’m just not in control all the time. I am subject to a freelance schedule, which is good and challenging at the same time. 

Touching on what you said about your love to tell stories, why is it valuable for the university to collect interviews such as yours? 

It’s so valuable and I’m so happy to hear that you’re doing this. Dana Lee, I can’t thank her enough for introducing me to you, Stefani, and putting us together. We are as much a part of the community as any other ethnic group. I feel that there are a lot of Asian Americans in our community who have contributed so much, with Dana and Greg being one big prime example and so many more. It’s awesome to be able to see that this information is being collected for future people to study and learn. 

Thank you for that. Now I’d like to open it up to Stefani and Ayrton. Did you have questions for Emmy? 

AY: Yes. I was wondering if you could elaborate more upon how you got to Red Bull because Red Bull is a very foreign thing, especially with energy drinks in the ‘90s; that wasn’t a common occurrence in the U.S. How did you get to work with Red Bull, and how did you approach integrating Red Bull into the U.S.? 


Great Question. Red Bull entered the U.S. in 1997 via Tahoe—kind of the ski and snowboard crowd. One of my good friends in L.A. had a snowboarding and windsurfing shop. At the time, I was working for the L.A. Weekly as a sales rep, and he was one of my accounts. He was like, “Hey, do you want to go snowboarding this weekend?” I replied, “Sure, I’m going to bring my girlfriend.” He said, “Great.” It’s like two girls and a guy. He’s like, “Bring it; I love it.” 

We went up to Mammoth. We got there and as we were putting on all our gear, he’s just like, “So, one of my favorite drinks in the whole is just now coming into the U.S. and I’ve got some in the back of my truck. I promise you that if we drink some, we are going to have the best riding day of our lives.” I was just like, “Bring it on. Okay.” He pulls out these Red Bulls. We guzzle them down. Sure enough, we had this incredible, amazing day. 

About a week later, Red Bull was involved with him—like, maybe sponsoring some of his upcoming events. He was like, “They’re looking for people to work with them. Would you be interested?” I said, “Uh, I don’t know. I’m really happy with L.A. Weekly, so I don’t know, maybe later.” 

But my friend An, the girl that I had brought snowboarding with us, was at Sony. She was a controller, so a financial controller for Sony. She’s like, “I’d be interested in talking to them.” Well, sure enough, Red Bull needed somebody in finance. This is when they were establishing their office in Santa Monica on the Third Street Promenade. Long story short, she gets hired and loves it. 

She was just like, “Emmy, you should take a look.” I was like, “Eh, okay.” I went through this big, long interview. I swear, it was a four-hour interview process. I met all 


these people. These people were from Australia. They just needed somebody who knew the media. I was in media, but not really. I was doing advertising sales, right? Before that, I was in the concert industry. I was marketing, marketing concerts, and then I started selling advertising. I was very cavalier throughout the whole interview, like, I’ll just answer these European’s Questions; they don’t know anything. 

Sure enough, they offered me an incredible position to start the Red Bull communications team in the U.S. yes, it was a stroke of luck. It was because I knew the brand. I was at the right place at the right time. There were ten of us in the whole country at the very beginning. My friend, An, eventually became the CFO [Chief Financial Officer] of Red Bull and took over the Americas and Australia, then, later, became the CFO of Beats by Dre headphones. It’s crazy, all these people just went flying. I built the Red Bull communications strategy, and a lot of their policy and procedures that are in place today are things that I made up one day. [Laughing] 

Going further into your career, you joined Rockstar Games and released Grand Theft Auto’s most flagship model, GTA V. How did you find similarities in energy drinks and concert venues, and how did you apply that to gaming? 

It was easy because—not an easy job, but an easy connection. The guys at Rockstar… Let me rewind a little bit. I eventually married the guy that I hired to produce the Red Bull Music Academy in New York. He is now my husband and the father of my children. But that didn’t happen until later. We met because I hired him to be a producer of this event. Then 9/11 happened and dismantled the whole event. We had thirty young people from around the world trapped in New York when the towers fell, and we had to work together to get them home because all they wanted to do was be at home. My then 


vendor, I should say, and friend and I worked diligently to piece together what was left of the academy that year and formed a very strong bond and friendship. It wasn’t until years later that his company, as many companies did after 9/11, kind of fell apart. People were depressed. He went on tour as a tour manager for different brands. He was working with a punk rock band called Alkaline Trio. He was coming through L.A. and they had three dates to play in Southern California, and that’s when we started the romance. But before that, it was all business. 

One of his friends, a guy that he was doing some gigs for with his previous company, was working with Rockstar Games. I had met him several times and we just hung out a bit. Out of the blue, just as the economy was still flailing—the stock market crash happened in 2008—the magazine was doing… Advertising dollars were tough to come by. I was still the editor-in-chief of the Hawaii magazine, but at this point, I had moved back to L.A. and I was commuting between L.A. and Honolulu. It was tough, especially on the islands. People were not traveling to Hawaii the way they would in normal times. I remember the Four Seasons Maui coming to me, like, “How can we get people to come here?” I’m like, “Okay.” 

I flew to New York. Again, I didn’t know much about video games. I grew up in an arcade, practically. I play them, but I’m not an in-depth, deep player. I can’t name titles and labels. It’s just not second nature to me. I was more about mainstream media and glamour and luxury. But it turns out that that’s exactly what they wanted. They wanted somebody to take gaming out of the realm of just nerds and bring it to mainstream media. It’s entertainment. The level of budgets that it takes to make one video game, particularly an open-world game like Grand Theft Auto, dwarfs any major 


motion picture. It’s probably ten times the budget to make a video game at the level that it is to make a feature film, and people don’t realize that. I didn’t realize that. They wanted somebody to get their stories in bigger publications that were not Kotaku. They wanted the non-niche people to pay attention, and they knew they would pay attention to me, so I got the job. 

Going off that… You’ve been all over the world, and you’ve been through the Little Black Dress event, just your jobs have taken you everywhere. What makes a successful community that you’ve observed, and how do these successful communities grow? 

I think what makes a successful community is the willingness of the community members to connect and the eagerness to be able to move forward. I think that’s what is so appealing to me about Las Vegas—I got here just in time for One October—I saw this community come together. I saw how people cared about one another. Then I saw the Golden Knights come on the scene and fuse the community in a way beyond what we’ve had before. With that, the growth and boom of the culinary scene; we have all marquee names that all bring their talents and name brands to the Strip. What has happened is that the spirit of the chefs who worked underneath these great masters have opened up their own smaller restaurants in downtown or on Spring Mountain Chinatown. They have an entrepreneurial spirit, together with the excitement of the community with more sports teams and great shopping. The entertainment is beyond. It reached new heights. Anybody who is anybody was having a residency here in Las Vegas. Every artist that I’ve spoken to from Gwen Stefani to Usher to Kelly Clarkson or some of the mini-Queen residency stuff—every single one of those guys I talked to—they all see the light. There is a big 


virtue in being able to just plant your roots here in Vegas for a little while, whether it be a year, two years, even six months, and get to live, connect with the people, not have to go on tour, but make boatloads of money. You don’t have to hit the road and live that road lifestyle. It’s a tough lifestyle even if you’re doing it first class. I know from my husband’s experience as a tour manager. That is a rough, rough, life. People are waking up and they’re like, whoa, people will come to Vegas; people will just come to me; I don’t have to leave my family and hit the road. I can have a theater built to my specs ala Lady Gaga and do exactly the show I want and not have to stress about it. I can tackle all sorts of other projects while I do three nights a week and do whatever else I want and not have to put the wear and tear on my body and soul. 

A few months ago, you released an article about how the Culinary Union in Nevada helped deliver Joe Biden in the presidential election, and I was wondering if your freelance work has allowed you to cover these more in-depth topics that would go unnoticedpersonally, not being from Nevada. I didn’t know the Culinary Union had such an impact until I read your article. Did freelance help release you to be able to cover those more in-depth topics rather than bigger, general topics? 

Absolutely, and that’s a great example. In my former job, the focus was luxury. If there wasn’t a luxury angle to the story, then it wasn’t a story we could pursue, but there is a bigger world out there, for sure. And that Culinary Union example, I had no idea how they put boots on the ground, knocked on doors, and basically got Biden elected when it came to our community. They were so instrumental in the whole big picture. 

Even now, I’m working on a story on micro bakeries. There was a story in The New York Times a few weeks ago about how micro bakeries are popping up all over New 


York, and people are baking bread from their house. People are coming and buying bread from these bakers, from their house once a week, and the same thing is happening in Las Vegas. We have many chefs who are out of work and have found a way to survive by offering what they do—their art—out of their house. That is a story I would have never focused on. Except for one of the chefs who used to work at the Joel Robuchon, and she’s trained at such a high level… Maybe I would have covered it, but it would have been small versus an Eater article that has room to breathe. 

You’ve also covered some amazing personalities and different chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay. You even got to dine at Shaquille O’Neal’s restaurant while he was there. How did those experiences come about, and how is thatwhen you look back at these events and when you’re in the event, do you look back and retrospectively think how crazy it is that a girl from Chicago who grew up in San Francisco because her parents didn’t like the weather because she had pneumoniaended up in Vegas meeting some of the most world-renown athletes and personalities that are identifiable everywhere? 

Ayrton, you’re such a good listener, it’s crazy. Yes, I do. I have those pinch-me moments all the time. I am so grateful for every single opportunity that I’ve been given. I feel like that every time I meet a celebrity or every time I sat down to have an amazing meal that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or spend money on. To sit down at a five-hundred-dollar head prix fixe menu at Guy Savoy; that’s like a privilege; that’s crazy money beyond… to sit down with my daughter, with Bobby Flay. Who gets to do that, right? My parents—I think it’s because they come from very humble backgrounds—lived a simple life. I grew up simple with a straightforward childhood that they cannot identify with. 


Sometimes I can’t either, when I think about it—I just got off the phone with Kelly Clarkson. Kelly used to work for us at Red Bull. She used to drive around in our little cars. She was one of our sampling girls back in the day. 

` I remember when we were sending out group emails and saying, “Everybody, watch this show called American Idol. Our very own Kelly Clarkson is in the finals. Everybody should vote for her and think about her.” This is like, it’s freaking Kelly Clarkson. When I was on the phone with her, she was like, “No way. Nobody’s ever said that to me before.” 

Even talking with Gwen Stefani or… you just name it. I have to have my husband remind me about all the people I’ve met and talked to because there are so many that I am beyond blessed to have been able to encounter in my life. One day, maybe one day, I’ll write a book about it. We don’t know. 

How do you feel about Asians being portrayed in the media in the last five years or so, with "Crazy Rich Asians" coming out or "Fresh Off the Boat" being a multi-season sitcom on a notable network? How have you seen that and how nice is it to see someone who looks like you on the screen, as when you were growing up, most likely not having a model? 

Yes, none, none at all. I mentioned that I was an actress. I was majoring in drama and whatnot. When I was in Southern California, I had an Orange County, San Diego, and L.A. agent. I would get auditions all the time. At that time, there were few roles for Asian people, and if there were roles for Asian people, they wanted you to be Asian-Asian—like fresh-off-the-boat Asian with an accent and the whole thing. My type was not being cast very often. Now I look at today’s world and I’m like, oh my gosh, if I was an actress 


now, I would have killed it. People want me now; back then they didn’t, for sure. I love me some Bling Empire; I love watching that stuff. I am so happy to be able to turn on the TV and see these very—some of them are overblown, but I’m still happy to see these characters being brought to life and shown to a much larger audience. There’s more of that to come, I think. 

As I was saying before, because this younger generation, in my experience through my kid’s eyes, they are looking for interesting people—people who have more depth and richness. If you’re just plain White, you kind of lose; it’s not that interesting unless you can find some special talent or something that makes you different, and a lot of times that just starts with culture. 

Thank you so much. I’ll pass it to Stefani if she has any further questions. 

SE: You mentioned food and you went through a big, long list. Could talk about some of these traditional foods that your parents and friends had at these partiescould talk about these foods and any traditions about the food that may be passed down in your family? 

Party foods are different from what you’re going to eat every day. My daughter has recently started loving nilaga and sinigang; they’re more like stews or soups. You wouldn’t serve that at a party because it’s… hard, like in a bowl, or the soupiness of everything is not party friendly. Lumpia would be an easy party staple. I dare you to find one Filipino party without some lumpia because it’s an easy, grab-and-go type of thing. You can put it on a plate and grab some rice, and you’re set, so you definitely would see a lot of lumpia, and then some pancit. And then if it was a fancy party, you would have a roast pig [lechon]. That would be a really important occasion. If it’s a big party, you’d 


have a pig. Adobo chicken; that’s something I wouldn’t see much at a party; I fix that at home. 

Traditions… I don’t know any of the traditions that go with the food. I would have to think deeply about that. Even when it comes to—the biggest tradition would be the roast pig at something important and grand. Otherwise, you’ve got your staples that would show up at every party, and certainly, you’ve got to have the rice. Rice is the way of life. 

What are some of the sides that would go with that roast pig, and how would the pig be served? 

At least in my experience, there’s not a lot of sides. There’s not a lot of vegetables going on—more like meat and rice. The master side dish to them all is always rice, and even then, you don’t consider it a side dish; it just is. You must have it. 

This is a niche sort of question. I wanted to get back to that street that your parents and their friends bought houses on. In cities, there are neighborhoods where people congregate, for example, Chinatown. Here, they built Chinatown and then the rest of Spring Mountain became Chinatown as well. When your parents and their friends bought houses on this street, were there other Asian families that moved into that neighborhood as well or were they the only ones in there? 

They were pretty much the only ones in there. Everybody else is White on the other side of the street. They weren’t pioneers or ringleaders; more didn’t come because they were there, which is surprising. I think they had hoped that maybe they would start a trend, but it’s pretty much a classic neighborhood and they are the little anomaly on that street. 

Even with your dad’s big personality, nobody followed him? 


No. It’s just crazy. It’s because they spend so much time in the casinos even though this day. They still go at it. I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that my dad doesn’t hit the tables. 

What games do they play? 

My dad’s a big blackjack player., So that’s his staple right there, and my mom as well. He’ll dabble in other things, and of course, they’ll occasionally play slots, but blackjack is their main staple. 

Do they go every day? 

They go every day. My dad for sure; my mom maybe not as often. They hit the local casinos. They’ll hit Rampart or Red Rock; those are their two main ones. My dad’s been spending a lot more time at Red Rock these days. 

We did want to say thank you. This is a great interview. Thank you for being so honest about racism, about your career, and everything. It was a great interview and we appreciate your time. 

Thank you. Thank you guys, so much. I hope I didn’t talk your ear off too much. It’s like, oh my gosh, I have lived for a long time. What’s happening? [Laughing] 

Thank you very much. 

Thank you, guys. 

[End of recorded interview]