Steven Yeun Randall Park Constance Wu
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The 14th annual Unforgettable Awards, presented by Audrey Magazine and KoreAm Journal, recognized Asian talent in media at the Beverly Hilton on Saturday. The black-tie event, sponsored by Royal Salute, spotlighted “Fresh Off the Boat” actors Randall Park and Constance Wu, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” star Chloe Bennet, “The Walking Dead” vet Steven Yeun, CNN’s Lisa Ling and web sensation Eugene Lee Yang.

The general consensus on the red carpet was that the television landscape is finally moving in the right direction with two network shows with primarily Asian-American casts — ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” and “Dr. Ken.” “Fresh” introduced an Asian Santa Claus in its holiday episode, which Park believes was a hilarious and meaningful conversation.

“When our show first was coming out there was a lot of trepidation from the community,” recalled Park. “I think that the community was so used to being mistreated — especially by comedy — but the show has been really embraced.”

The actor also noted that recent strides aren’t enough during a time where there are more than 400 television shows and only a handful of them feature Asian-Americans. Many also pointed that the lack of Asian entertainment execs, lead actors and romantic interests in Hollywood.

“As a community, that’s why events like these are important because we get to come together and push each other more and lift each other up,” said Yeun, who received major kudos throughout the evening for playing a multi-dimensional character on AMC’s hit post-apocalyptic drama. Yeun’s beloved character, Glenn, spent much of the first half of this season feared dead, which led to an outpouring of fan uproar.

“When I first got out here, I was told that I wasn’t white enough to be the lead and not Asian enough to be the best friend,” stated Bennet. “Six years later, I’m three seasons deep in a major network show and that in itself is progress.”

“The Walking Dead’s” Steven Yeun was named Actor of the Year.
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“The Real” host Jeannie Mai, who served as MC for the event, described the black-tie affair as a family gathering where everyone in the room knew one another.

“I’m going to start asking people to borrow money and stuff. That’s when you know you’re really family,” Mai quipped.

Mai later did just that after pledging $5,000 towards putting an end to sex-trafficking of Vietnamese girls. Ken Jeong was given a shout-out for making a hefty donation for the fund, which provides counseling for the women sold into sex slavery and tattoo removal services for those that have been branded in the process.

The issue was especially present during the evening since K-Pop group Oh My Girl was unable to perform after they were turned away at LAX. The band’s agency claimed that the eight singers were mistaken for sex workers, while an official with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol insisted that the group was detained for 15 hours then sent back to South Korea for lying about why they entered the U.S.

Even so, the awards show went on and there was much to celebrate. “Seeing this night would have been unfathomable to me as a young person because there have been so few Asians in media,” said Ling. “Things are changing and I hope that our awards system starts to reflect the incredible diversity that exists in this country and in the media.”

Lisa Ling
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“Fresh Off the Boat’s” Constance Wu
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“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD’s” Chloe Bennet and Austin Nichols
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Ken Jeong with Matthew McLean and Eugene Lee Yang
Rob Latour/Variety/Rex Shutterstock

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