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Fashion at the Gold Gala: ‘It’s the one place where you can really represent’


By Stephy Chung, CNN and Leif Coorlim, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) — Move over Met Gala. On Saturday, stars gathered on the steps of The Music Center in Los Angeles for the Gold Gala — a celebration of Asian Pacific influential talent across entertainment, fashion, technology and more, hosted by the non-profit Gold House.

And they were dressed to represent — many proudly embracing Asian designers and cultural heritage through their red carpet looks.

Actor Karrueche Tran stunned in a striking red ao dai with a sheer overlay and headpiece by Vietnamese American fashion designer Thai Nguyen. “I knew I had to represent my culture, half of who I am, in a major way,” she wrote on Instagram. Tran has a Vietnamese mother and African American father.

Taiwanese drag queen Nymphia Wind, who recently won “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” told CNN that her ensemble by Singaporean designer Sheng Cheong — a dress and cape featuring a bold print of neon yellow and white “laser cut clouds” — was intended to “reimagine what club kids would look like in the Forbidden City.”

Elsewhere, Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar wore an ornately embroidered suit jacket by Rimple and Harpeet — an Indian fashion brand that specializes in handcrafted pieces inspired by ancient crafts and vintage textiles — and Indonesian singer Agnez Mo accessorized with golden hair pins and an elegant hand fan.

“Anything goes here and that’s what is so celebratory,” TV personality Jeannie Mai told CNN of the event, which is sometimes described as the “Asian Pacific Met Gala.” “It’s the one place where you can really represent and be invited to do so.”

The glitzy affair honors the Gold House’s annual A100 list — one hundred Asian Pacific leaders who have made a significant impact on culture and society. Author and TV host Padma Lakshmi, actor Lucy Liu and the cast and creator of Netflix’s Emmy-award winning series “Beef” were among honorees.

For actor and comedian Joel Kim Booster, the significance of a gala feting so many people in the AAPI community, was not lost.

“Events like this are so exciting to me because when I was coming up, I think there was a lot of energy like, there’s only going to be one of us in the room,” he said.

“It’s so rewarding to be in a space like this where we’re all coming together and supporting each other. It’s not something that I grew up imagining I’d have for myself.”

There have been barriers across industries; in Hollywood, Asians have historically been underrepresented or stereotyped. But that has changed in recent years.

A joint study by Gold House and the USC Annenberg found the percentage of speaking Asian characters in top box-office films in the US rose from 3.4% in 2007 to 15.9% in 2022. The roles themselves are more complex.

The age of streaming has also ushered in more opportunities for diverse and daring storytelling — on and off screen.

FX’s Shogun, for example, became an instant hit when it premiered in February. Not only does it feature a predominantly Asian cast who speak mostly in Japanese — behind the scenes, Japanese experts in everything from samurai dramas to a “master of gesture,” were brought in to ensure authenticity.

“I think what the industry has realized is that Asian creativity and Asian talent is a) different and b) lucrative. So that’s been wonderful to see people take chances, and how we’ve knocked it out of the park,” Lakshmi told CNN.

Many acknowledge there’s more work to be done all around.

“It’s an exciting time to see the Asian diaspora coming together to really tell our own stories, in our time, in our space,” said fashion designer and the gala’s creative director Prabal Gurung.

“It’s great to see that visibility. There’s a long way to go still, obviously we feel that way. But progress is being made.”

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