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Mixed Media : To Be Young, Hip and Asian

October 04, 1994

For too long, they say, their voices have been ignored, their faces overlooked and their stories stereotyped.

The creators of several new, Los Angeles-based quarterly ethnic magazines are hoping to change all that, targeting markets they say are largely untapped.

Charles Squires, director of the New York-based Ethnic Magazine Coalition, notes that most new magazines fail because they are either underfinanced or poorly distributed. "To give voice to an ethnic group is . . . empowering," he says. "To not have the money or the know-how is not."

But these local entrepreneurs have accepted the long odds, launching Image, a magazine for men of color; Que Linda! an English-language beauty and fitness magazine for Latinas, and YOLK, a popular-culture periodical targeting young Asian Americans. Times staff writer Michael Quintanilla tells their stories.

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YOLK is a magazine for The New GenerAsian--young, aware, English-speaking Asian Americans like ourselves." --YOLK Editor Philip W. Chung, writing in his column, Editor's Slant

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Philip W. Chung, the 24-year-old editor of YOLK, is talking 'bout his "GenerAsian": twentysomething Asian Americans with college degrees, flip phones and Wednesday nights reserved for Margaret Cho.

"Mainstream American magazines really don't know about our community except within those stereotypical notions of what Asians are supposed to be like, typically passive, going into medical and business professions," says the South Korean-born Chung, a former staff writer at the Korea Times English edition.

"On the one hand a lot of Asians have bought into that stereotype. I know a lot of Asians in medical schools and they are miserable. They would rather be artists, writers, musicians. But tradition has held them back."

It is popular culture issues like these that YOLK will not be afraid to feature, says chief operations manager Tommy Tam, a 25-year-old Chinese American who co-founded the quarterly magazine with Tin Yen, 29, who was born in Taiwan.

Tam hopes to fill what he believes is a void in the young adult, English-speaking Asian American market. He got the idea three years ago while a student at USC.

"There are other Asian magazines out there, but they deal with the older, established, successful Asian Americans, not the younger generation who is trying to find themselves. Hopefully, YOLK will give them an identity through our popular culture focus," Tam says.

Backed by one major investor and smaller contributions from others, Tam put together a staff and hired a distribution company to circulate 25,000 copies of the premiere issue, which made its debut in major U.S. cities last week at $3.95 per issue and features comedian and sitcom star Margaret Cho on its cover.

Inside, a photo essay takes a look at Hollywood's top Asian American actors. Stories explore the cultural taboos faced by Asian Americans with AIDS, race relations between Koreans and Latinos in Los Angeles, the latest in street fashion and readers are asked to take the YOLK pop quiz that asks questions about Wayne Wang, UCLA, Hiroshima, Amy Tan and Yo-Yo Ma.

"Our look and our approach to stories will be young, bold, experimental and irreverent," says Yen, the graphic designer responsible for YOLK's hip look.

Amy Tu, 22, also Taiwanese American, is YOLK's chief financial officer as well as the youngest member of the administrative staff and its only woman. "My hope with YOLK is for all Asian Americans, especially women, to realize that they don't have to be humble, modest, quiet, subservient rice-lovers. They can be whoever they want to be."

Larry Tazuma, a 29-year-old Japanese American and YOLK's managing editor, came up with the name. "YOLK draws a strong reaction. But it simply stands for the color of our skin," he says. "It's what connects all Asians."

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