With his lacerating wit, pop culture savvy and equal fluency with humor and pathos, the Emmy-nominated screenwriter, playwright and producer Jason Kim is one of the most dynamic young voices in the entertainment world. He has written for Girls and Love and is a producer on HBO’s Barry. He also wrote the book for KPOP, an off-Broadway show that won Outstanding Musical at the 2018 Lucille Lortel awards. Currently, he’s developing a series for Amazon called Neon Machine, starring Korean hip-hop star Tablo. Born in Seoul, Jason immigrated with his family to St. Louis, MO when he was ten. He talks to Catherine and Juliana about fleeing the midwest for NYC immediately after high school, his quarter-life crisis as a young staffer at The New Yorker, his decade-long process of coming out to his parents, his grandmother who encouraged him to be a writer and — last but not least – his devotion to his dermatologist.
Michelle Zauner is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who records dreamy, melancholic indie pop under the name Japanese Breakfast. She’s also a talented writer whose debut book, a memoir titled Crying in H Mart, is being published by Knopf this spring. In it, she recounts her experiences growing up half-Korean in her mostly white town of Eugene, OR, her path to becoming a musician and her struggle to reclaim her Korean heritage after her mother’s early death from cancer. From her home in Brooklyn, Michelle talks to Catherine and Juliana about her idyllic childhood summers in Seoul, her tumultuous relationship with her mom, her channeling of grief into creativity and the importance of Korean role models in her life, from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen Oh to You Tuber Maangchi. Stay tuned to the very end, when she shares her favorite snacks and staples from H Mart! Photo credit: Peter Ash Lee
Edward Lee is the acclaimed chef of several restaurants in Kentucky and the DC area, most notably Louisville’s 610 Magnolia, where he first made his mark on Southern cuisine almost 20 years ago using ingredients such as gochujang and soy sauce aged in whiskey barrels. He won a James Beard award for his 2018 book Buttermilk Graffiti and he was nominated for an Emmy for his work hosting the PBS series Mind of a Chef. Lee is also the co-founder of a remarkable nonprofit called The Lee Initiative, which during the pandemic has been supporting restaurant workers, struggling farms and other communities in need. Catherine and Juliana talk to Edward about how growing up in Carnarsie, Brooklyn—where there were very few Korean Americans—shaped his palate and his identity. He also shares stories about Clay, the hip Korean restaurant he opened in New York in the late ‘90s, his recent guest appearance on Top Chef: Portland, and his newfound mission in life to help others.
Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, On Such a Full Sea, A Gesture Life, Aloft, and The Surrendered, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His latest novel, My Year Abroad, is a dazzling tale about an American college student whose life is upended when he travels to Asia under the wing of a mysterious Chinese American entrepreneur. From his home in San Francisco, where he’s on sabbatical from his position as a professor at Stanford, Chang-rae talks with Catherine and Juliana about overcoming the pressures of being “the first” well-known Korean American novelist, developing his early love of writing as a student at Exeter, and the way his mother’s early death from cancer at age 52 may have influenced his decision to pursue writing as a career. He also shares stories about his parents (we learn his mother was featured in Time magazine in 1956!) and his fond memories of the Korean church summer camp he attended as a kid.
Jim Lee is one of the most influential and revered figures in the world of comic books. The chief creative officer and publisher of DC Comics, Jim was born in Korea and immigrated to the States when he was nearly five. From Superman to Batman to Iron Man to Wonder Woman, Jim has drawn just about every superhero you can think of and holds the record for the best-selling comic book of all time, X-Men, #1. Jim tells Catherine and Juliana about his earliest childhood memories of life in Seoul; his lifelong obsession with drawing; his teenage years as a Korean American prep schooler; and the epic blowout he had with his parents when he announced he wasn’t going to medical school. He also shares his thoughts on the importance of representation in the industry and the possibility of Americans embracing an Asian superhero. Joining our co-hosts for this special episode is K-Pod audio engineer and Jim Lee superfan AJ Valente.
Designer Carol Lim has been at the leading edge of American fashion since 2002, when she and Humberto Leon co-founded the retail shop Opening Ceremony in downtown New York. She and Humberto went on to design their own acclaimed fashion collection, also called Opening Ceremony, and to become co-creative directors of Kenzo, a position they held for eight years. In January 2020, Opening Ceremony announced that it would be coming under new ownership and closing all its retail locations. In a Zoom call, Carol chats with Catherine and Juliana about the major changes at the company. She also shares stories about growing up in Los Angeles, her favorite dress in middle school (Benetton), her SAT scores, her famous friendship with fellow Berkeley classmate Humberto, and her belief in the value of nunchi (눈치).
Margaret Cho needs no introduction. In 1994, the comedian was the first Asian American to have her own sitcom (All-American Girl, loosely based on her experience as a teenager growing up in San Francisco). After the show was cancelled, she returned to standup, where she built a reputation for her confessional, bawdy and subversive material, which targeted racism, homophobia, fat shaming, the entertainment industry, and most mercilessly, herself. From her Los Angeles home where she and her chihuahua, Lucia, have been sheltering during the pandemic, Margaret tells Catherine and Juliana about her minister grandfather, her dad’s deportation, becoming financially independent at age 18, a shaman’s surprising prophecy and her favorite K-dramas (Itaewon Class, Replay 1988, Mystic Pop Up Bar, Prison Playbook, Hospital Playlist, It’s Ok Not To Be Ok, Flower of Evil, Stranger 2).
Ben Baller & Jeanne Yang
Los Angeles-based siblings Jeanne Yang and Ben Yang have both made their mark on the fashion world, but in very different ways. Jeanne Yang is a highly sought-after stylist known for her work with Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Christian Bale.
Diana Son is a television writer and producer whose credits include The West Wing, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Southland, Dirty John, Blue Bloods and Thirteen Reasons Why, where she served as showrunner. She first came to fame as a young playwright in 1998 with the acclaimed play Stop Kiss, which premiered at the Public Theatre and starred an unknown Sandra Oh. In a Zoom interview, Catherine and Juliana learn about Diana’s recent bout with Covid-19, her experience being the only Asian or Asian woman in countless writing rooms and her most recent project, an adaptation of the novel If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha into a series for Apple.
Juliana Sohn has photographed portraits, interiors, food, travel, and documentary for New York Times, T Style Magazine, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair and many others. Her personal work highlights the stories of young people. Check out her website at julianasohn.com.
Catherine Hong has worked as an editor at Vogue, Allure, Harper’s Bazaar, Us Weekly, W magazine, and InStyle. These days she’s a freelance writer focusing on design, food and children’s books. Check out her website at catherine-hong.com.