Michelle Phan, Ryan Higa, And The NY Times

Monday, August 01, 2011

NY Times

Nice to see the headlines still come out on the Asian American YouTube revolution.

ASIAN roles in Hollywood have come a long way since Mickey Rooney played a Japanese neighbor in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But the dearth of Asian lead characters today suggests that there is still a way to go.

It’s an entirely different story, however, on the democratized platform of YouTube, where a young generation of Asian-Americans has found a voice (and millions of eager fans).

Of the 20 most-subscribed-to channels on YouTube, which include series like College Humor Originals and Annoying Orange, three belong to Asian-Americans. Ryan Higa, 21, a Japanese-American comic who lives in Las Vegas, has 4.1 million subscribers to his channel, in which he melds sketch comedy and personal musings. Until recently, he was No. 1 in total subscribers; he is now No. 2.

Michelle Phan, 24, a Vietnamese-American in Los Angeles, has 1.5 million followers, the most-subscribed channel of any woman, Asian or not, on YouTube. Her slickly produced videos offer beauty tips and makeup tutorials. One is inspired by Belle from Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” Another is by the computer-generated, downloadable, neon-blue-haired Japanese pop icon, Hatsune Miku, who has performed onstage as a hologram. Nowhere else in the media, other than the Internet, are there “really strong Asian roles,” Ms. Phan said.