In a banner year for Asian American representation in Hollywood, Randall Park, Constance Wu and the cast of “Fresh Off the Boat” were among the honorees at the 18th Annual Unforgettable Gala, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Saturday evening.
Host Simu Liu, who flew in from Sydney where he is prepping to star in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” kicked off the evening celebrating Asian Americans in entertainment with a zinger-filled eight-minute monologue, which included a jab at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. The voting body of the Golden Globe Awards nominated Awkwafina for best actress in a motion picture musical or comedy for her performance in “The Farewell” and the film itself for best foreign language film.
“Awkwafina is also having a really good year. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in ‘The Farewell,’ or as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association calls it, ‘That movie with all the foreign people that speak Asian,'” Liu cracked, echoing a criticism that the film — while mostly in Mandarin Chinese — is a distinctly Asian American story.
The cast and crew of the Lulu Wang-directed drama was honored with the Vanguard Award, while Awkwafina was honored for actor/actress in film and Wang for director.
Part way through the evening, Liu, “Blues Clues” host Joshua Dela Cruz, “Grey’s Anatomy” star Alex Landi and online personality Eugene Lee Yang all took the stage for a veritable “thirst off,” highlighting mostly shirtless pictures of themselves from social media paired with inspirational quotes.
Guests were also treated to musical performances by “America’s Got Talent” season 14 winner Kodi Lee, Amber Liu, MILCK and MIYAVI.
“The Mandalorian” star Ming-Na Wen and “The Masked Singer” judge Ken Jeong presented the final honor of the evening, the Lexus Legacy award to the cast of ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat.” The show will end its six-season run next February. Jeong paid special tribute to the sitcom’s producer Melvin Mar and star Randall Park for encouraging the network to pick up “Dr. Ken,” Jeong’s since-canceled show that ran for two seasons.
“Your love is your legacy,” said Jeong.
The evening closed out with a surprise performance of “I Punched Keanu Reeves” by Hudson Yang as a tribute to Park (Yang plays Park’s eldest son on the show). Park wrote the cheeky tune for his Netflix rom-com “Always Be My Maybe.”
Other honorees at the Unforgettable Gala included Maya Erskine (“PEN15”) for breakout actor/actress on TV, Charles Melton (“The Sun is Also a Star”) for breakout actor/actress on film, Nico Santos (“Superstore”) for actor/actress in TV and Ali Wong (“Always Be My Maybe”) for comic performance. Daniel Dae Kim was the keynote speaker of the evening.