Mochi’s 25 Game-Changers Under 25
Asian Americans are taking every field by storm, and these young game-changers are proof of just that. From 12-year-old Lily Born, whose invention will improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s, to 19-year-old Ryan Potter, who’s relishing in Big Hero 6‘s Oscar win, Mochi‘s list has all corners covered. These trailblazers are at the forefront of their respective fields, whether it be entrepreneurship and technology or sports or arts and entertainment. We hope they inspire you as much as they’ve inspired us.
Written by Michelle Cheng, Jennifer Chin, Sora Hwang, Yi-Jin Yu, Tiffany Hu, Catherine Zaw, Tiffany Yu & Kimberly Tran
Anna Akana, 25
Anna Akana wears many hats: the actress on The Fosters and MTV's Awkward is also a YouTube star and filmmaker. "Time management is definitely one of my strengths," she says. After her sister's suicide in 2007, Akana created the short film Riley Rewind, which brought major attention to the issue of suicide. Nowadays, she brings laughs to her million-plus YouTube subscribers with comedic videos that she calls therapeutic. The shorts are often inspired by problems that arise in her daily life, which she faces with a healthy dose of humor and spunk. -M.C.
Image courtesy of William Akana
Chloe Bennet, 22
Chloe Bennet, born Chloe Wang, stars on ABC's action-packed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a role she nabbed after six auditions. The Chicago-born actress moved to China at 15 for a career in music. She debuted in Beijing with her single "Uh Oh" sung in both Mandarin and English, but later moved back to the States to try her hand in Hollywood. The Los Angeles based actress still keeps up with her fans from around the world, giving them a look into her everyday life through social media. -C.Y.
Image courtesy of ABC/Florian Schneider
Katie Chang, 20
Katie Chang first stepped into the spotlight two years ago with a breakout performance in The Bling Ring, starring alongside Emma Watson. And though she's currently a student at Columbia University, her next film, The Outskirts, will debut this year. The film follows a young girl struggling with her sexual identity, and Chang says she was drawn to the "creative and powerful" script. "Being perceived as Asian American allows me to play unique characters and thus sculpts my identity as an actress," says Chang. "My Asian heritage has required me to fight a little bit harder to show what I am made of in each audition. I strive to get the directors to see past my ethnicity and focus on the caliber of my acting." - J.C.
Image courtesy of Mai Truong
Yin Chang, 25
Yin Chang has come a long way since she played Blair Waldorf's rival, Nelly Yuki, in Gossip Girl. Since her days playing out the on-TV dramas of Manhattan's prep school elites, the actress has shifted gears to focus on issues affecting young people everywhere. "Directing a short film specifically made for a young audience inspired me to work with kids and teens," says Chang of her anti-bullying film, Strain. In addition, Chang has recently started leading audition workshops and coaching sessions "to create a safe and nurturing space [in which] to cultivate positive self-image. I'm teaching audition techniques that leave powerful impressions," she says. This spring, Chang will also launch a podcast series, "88 Cups of Tea," sharing conversations with movie industry leaders. -S.H.
Image courtesy of Micky Shiloah
With five out of six members under 25, this Filipino American a capella group first stunned America on NBC's The Sing-Off. From there, they went on to share the stage with Grammy-winning groups Pentatonix and Black Eyed Peas. The six-man ensemble, which is made up of VJ Rosales, Joe Caigoy, Trace Gaynor, Barry Fortgang, Jules Cruz, and Niko Del Rey, will release an album this spring and, fittingly, make their big-screen debut as performers in Pitch Perfect 2. "I want us to be remembered as artists who never hid from our culture and roots," says Cruz. "Our background as Filipino musicians is something that we're really proud of and we'll always represent it wherever we go." -S.H.
Image courtesy of Ben Miller
Mree Hsiao, 21
For a huge YouTube sensation and an amazing live performer, Mree Hsiao is surprisingly shy and soft-spoken in person. Hsiao used the far reach of YouTube to showcase her talent and indie style through covers of artists ranging from Ingrid Michaelson to Elvis Presley. In three years, she's gone from debuting her album at #18 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts to being recognized with the Best Producer award for her second album "Winterwell" at 2014's Independent Music Awards.-K.T.
Image courtesy of Ivanho Harlim and Shysilia Novita
Malese Jow, 24
Best known for her roles in The Vampire Diaries and The Social Network, Malese Jow has been acting and singing since she was a child. Now 24, Jow, who is Chinese American and part Cherokee, plays Linda Park in CW's The Flash. "What I love about acting is transforming a character that was first only on paper into a living, breathing person that ends up captivating the audience," she says. "I love hearing how my performance made someone feel. That's the most special thing to me." Will she return to her singing career some day? "Music is constantly running through my veins," she says. "I would love to do it all. I can be kind of an overachiever, and when I set my mind on something, you better believe that I'll make it happen!" - Y.J.Y.
Image courtesy of Adam Hendershott
Amber Liu, 22
California native Amber Liu, 22, is a member of the five-girl Korean pop group f(x), known for their catchy dance tunes and strong visual concepts. The group has received considerable attention in the U.S., performing at SXSW and collaborating with Anna Kendrick on a hilarious video for Funny or Die. Liu has also achieved great success individually. Liu, a Taiwanese American singer and rapper, was discovered at a global audition for S.M. Entertainment and didn't speak Korean until she joined the company. Last month, she released a solo album, titled “Beautiful.” Read our interview with Amber here. -T.H.
Ryan Potter, 19
Best known as the voice of Hiro Hamada in Disney's Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter was one of 2014's most memorable stars. "The cookie-cutter mold is being broken," Potter says of the entertainment industry. "There are a lot more Asian Americans playing roles that aren't the typecast roles we've been stuck in for a while." Next, Potter will play Eric Barrett, the leader of a group of kids entering a karate tournament, in this year's Underdog Kids. The way he describes the film, "it's kind of like mixing Bad News Bears and Karate Kid." In the long term, Potter admits he could end up anywhere. "I change my mind and my interests every day," he says, listing photography, baseball, and videography among other possible paths. "I could quit it all and become a fireman, you know? The only thing I would like to say in five years is that I've bought a house and traveled a lot." -S.H.
Image courtesy of Piccolo PR
Hailee Steinfeld, 18
Hailee Steinfeld made first caught our eye in 2010 when, as a 13-year-old, she was nominated for an Oscar, a SAG award, and a BAFTA for her role as Mattie Ross in True Grit. Since that pivotal role, Steinfeld has gone on to portray beloved characters including Juliet Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Petra Arkanian in the film adaptation of Ender's Game. Of Filipino, English, German, and Jewish descent, Steinfeld has quickly become one of the most influential actresses in young Hollywood. (Her Miu Miu campaign doesn't hurt, either!) This year, she joins the cast of Pitch Perfect 2 and stars in action flick Barely Lethal and thriller Term Life. - S.H.
Image Courtesy of Nathan Blaney
Hudson Yang, 11
Has there been a bigger breakout star this year than Hudson Yang? Yang plays Eddie Huang in ABC's Fresh Off the Boat, the first sitcom to shine the spotlight on an Asian American family since Margaret Cho's All American Girl in 1994. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Yang developed an interest in acting after a classmate told him about her experiences being in a commercial. Yang has received much attention for his role in the show, but at heart he's still a kid. "Acting is really fun," he says. "But the best part is hanging out with the crew and cast." -C.Z.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP & TECHNOLOGY
Lily Born, 12
Lily Born is the creator of Kangaroo Cup, a plastic cup with three legs that's nearly impossible to knock over. The invention grew out of Born's desire to create a safe drinking cup for her grandfather, who has Parkinson's disease. Although balancing school and homework might seem like plenty for a pre-teen, Born has managed to add running a business and designing prototypes to her burgeoning resume. "My advice for other kids is to take it one step at a time. Don't look at the whole project and get overwhelmed," she says. "Look at my project and ask if you could do that. Then, look at the first ceramic cup I made by hand and ask if you could do that. Then, ask yourself if you could post a YouTube video to talk about it. When you take it step by step like that, it doesn't seem as scary." Thanks to Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns, the Kangaroo Cup is now in production in China, Born's homeland. She hopes to expand the product line to include glass versions of the cup - "so my grandpa can use a glass like the rest of us on special occasions." - Y.J.Y.
Image courtesy of Katie Ozamiz
Jeremy Cabalona, 25
If your parents have ever complained that you're wasting your time on social media, point them toward Jeremy Cabalona. He was named Vine's first community manager in 2013, and handles the short video service's social media strategy. How'd he get there? By launching a Vine account for Mashable that accumulated more than 70k followers, making Mashable the top Vine account for any media company. Cabalona, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011, says what he most loves about his job is "getting to spend the day working with the creative and vibrant Vine community." -M.C.
Image courtesy of Forbes
Kat Chow, 24
Katelin (Kat) Chow is a reporter at NPR, covering race, ethnicity, and culture - meaning she writes about everything from Asian characters on TV shows (like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Dong) and the double standards surrounding eyelid surgery. The Connecticut-native has honed her skills all over the country from Boston, when she was a production assistant at WGBH, to Seattle, as an intern for the Seattle Times, and even internationally, as a reporting fellow at The Cambodian Daily. When it comes to her work, Chow says, "I’m allowed and encouraged to let my curiosities guide me, and I get to learn from incredibly smart and thoughtful people. It’s a pretty humbling experience." Whether you're looking to tell your own story or pursue a career in media, Chow says, "Be relentless and let your obsessions guide you. You probably will never regret pursuing what you love." -Y.J.Y.
Image courtesy of Lucas Anderson
Andy Fang and Stanley Tang, both 22
Stanford computer science graduates Stanley Tang and Andy Fang are making serious waves in Silicon Valley's crowded tech startup scene with their company DoorDash, started in 2013. In tech talk, it's a logistics company driven by technology, but here's why it matters: the service is a hyperlocal Seamless, making food deliveries within 45 minutes in cities like San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The two founders amassed over $17 million in their most recent round of funding. Despite the overwhelming success, the recent graduates say it all comes back to their families who have believed in them and supported them from the start. And still they say, "This is just the beginning!" -J.C.
Image courtesy of DoorDash
Ernestine Fu, 23
In 2011, then 20-year-old Ernestine Fu landed on the cover of Forbes magazine as an up-and-coming star in finance. The most impressive of her many accomplishments at the time was becoming Silicon Valley's youngest venture capitalist. But she didn't stop there. By 2013, Fu was a published author. Her book, Civic Work, Civic Lessons, co-written with Stanford professor Thomas Ehrlich, encourages people both young and old to go into public service. Nowadays, Fu is still balancing work and school, making deals as a private investor while pursuing her PhD in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. Most recently, she sold her startup HelloWorld, a networking and location sharing app, in a deal reportedly worth seven figures that was negotiated in just two months. -Y.J.Y.
Image courtesy of DBS Bank
Eden Full, 23
Eden Full is an engineer dedicated to solving some of the world's biggest problems. At Princeton, she studied mechanical engineering, computer science, and robotics and intelligent systems. Her knowledge led to the invention of the SunSaluter, a rotating system of solar panels that collects up to 40 percent more electricity than stationary set-ups. This brilliant system is already providing clean water to communities in 16 countries. -S.H.
Lauren Hom, 24
Finding work as a graphic designer is anything but secure, but Lauren Hom has made a career of it, recently leaving a full-time job to run her own studio. "Working for myself allows me the flexibility to travel and relax, but it also makes me 1000 percent accountable for my work," she says. Her clean and punchy graphics have caught the eye of clients like Aeropostale, Starbucks, and YouTube, and in her latest project "Will Letter For Lunch," Hom offers to draw whimsical menu boards in exchange for meals at restaurants throughout New York City. The third generation Asian American, half Chinese and half Japanese, shares a lesson from her dad: "He taught me that being the craziest person in the room is always better than being the quietest person in the room, and to never be afraid to ask for exactly what I want." -Y.J.Y.
Image courtesy of Bridget Badore
Kenneth Shinozuka, 16
As Kenneth Shinozuka watched his grandfather battle Alzheimer's disease and his family struggle as caretakers, the wheels in his head started spinning. Troubled by the nighttime wandering that is a common symptom of the disease, he invented the SafeWander sensor, a film-thin device attached to the bottom of the foot that sends a notification through an app when an increase in pressure is detected, such as when the wearer wakes up in the middle of the night. Shinozuka took his creation all the way to the Google Science Fair last year, where he won the Scientific American Science in Action Award. The concept is simple, but the developmental process was anything but. It was only with his family's support that Shinozuka was able to complete his design. "Throughout my entire life, my family has always supported me for the things that I truly enjoy doing," he says. Shinozuka knew his passion from a young age. At age six, he invented a Smart Bathroom system that would alert caregivers via wristwatch when a patient fell down while using the bathroom. His next invention was a Smart Medicine Box that would remind his grandparents to take the right medicine at the right time. "I would encourage all high schoolers to be observant of the problems in the world around them," he says. "Recognizing a problem is the first step to creating a solution." - T.Y.
Image courtesy of Maria Feng
Jennifer Im, 24
The Korean American vlogger began shooting YouTube videos on her channel, Clothes Encounters, in 2010 as a way of combining her love of video editing with her equal love of fashion. Since then, Im has amassed over 1.2 million subscribers. Her girl-next-door vibe is what resonates most with viewers, who have watched her everyday makeup tutorial, morning routine, and diet tips millions of times. -J.C.
Image courtesy of Jennifer Im
Lauren Riihimaki, 21
Give Lauren Riihimaki a table full of forgotten trinkets and she can show you how to make anything from a bath bomb to your next Halloween costume. A self-dubbed "professional glitter lover," Riihimaki says she's been doing what she loves - DIY projects - for as long as she can remember. And since 2011, she's been sharing those projects with nearly 1.4 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, LaurDIY. She's come a long way from a "hilarious clock craft kit that had pigtails, yikes" to over 61 million views on videos showing viewers how to decorate a room, style the latest trends, and show off their creative side. Riihimaki says her love for crafting comes from being an only child; it was an easy thing to do when she was bored. "The best part of DIY is definitely the whole idea that there aren't any rules," she says. "You can do whatever you want, however you want, and make it 100 percent yours." -S.H.
Image courtesy of Bre Elbourn
Emma Sulkowicz, 22
At first glance, Emma Sulkowicz seems like a regular college student, but the Columbia senior caused a media frenzy when she started carrying her mattress around campus as part of her senior thesis; the project was meant to bring awareness to the fact that no criminal charges were brought against her alleged rapist. A visual arts major, Sulkowicz's stand against sexual assault has elicited mixed responses from the public, but her courage to stand up for what she believes in - and the high visibility that has come with it - has inspired others. Sulkowicz has become a face of the sexual reform movement and, in January, attended President Obama's State of the Union alongside New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a co-sponsor of the Campus Safety and Accountability Act. -K.T.
Image courtesy of Joshua Boggs
Danny Hong, 18
Danny Hong proves that being a star athlete isn't just about performing well on the football field; it's also about excellence in the classroom. Hong led Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman High School to its sixth consecutive Division 1 state title this year, making his team undefeated since 2008. Yet academics remain a priority: this fall, he's headed to Columbia University, where he hopes to start for the Lions and pursue a degree in international business or law. -K.T.
Image courtesy of Greg Cava
Chloe Kim, 15
Snowboarder Chloe Kim has trained everywhere from California to Switzerland. She began her athletic journey at age four and was competing in official tournaments by the time she was six. This year, she captured the world's attention when she medaling gold in Aspen, Colorado, becoming the youngest ever champion of the Winter X Games. -K.T.
Image courtesy of Omywuten
Michelle Wie, 25
Since going pro shortly before her 16th birthday, Michelle Wie has remained one of the biggest names in golf. Her impressive track record made Wie a strong contender long before she became a member of any professional tour. Despite LPGA's age minimums, Wie eventually became the youngest to qualify for a LPGA Tour event in 2005. Last year, Wie won her first major competition, the 2014 U.S. Women's Open. -K.T.
Image courtesy of Keith Allison