Why are Asian stars only popular in Asia?

asian stars america popular

"Any of these Asian stars would light up Hollywood"

Hey there, I was just wondering to myself, why is that american/british stars are so popular around the world, yet Asian stars are only popular in Asia? How come you never see many Asian stars take tours around America or britain for example. Well actually, there are a few good reasons for this. One is language, English is spoken around the world so international sensations like the Backstreet boys or spice girls or usher are instantly opening themselves up for international fame purely by speaking english predominantly. Asian stars on the otherhand, like Ayumi hamasaki or BoA haven’t made much of an impact in America/Europe because English is so different from asian languages such as Korean or Japanese. Therefore, in order for them to reach success over here, they have to learn a completely different language, and its a whole new transition. Secondly, asian stars are very much preoccupied with staying in Asia, for example SM Entertainment thinks of China as the new US for BoA, and her sales wouldn’t falter at all by making a transition into Mandarin rather than English, so it is just more convenient and less risky for Asian stars to stay within Asia.

That said, Asian stars will inevitably in the future become more international, (Rain for example played a sold out concert in NYC earlier this year and AmiYumi has their own syndicated TV show in USA). Also there are quite a few fans of asian superstars in America already, so who knows?

The future of asian prominence is looking very good. Previously, Asian-americans had a hard time venturing into the entertainment industry because of parental pressure for academic achievement, language and social barriers, etc. But we are gradually breaking the stereotype more and more, and eventually you may see an asian-american on the cover of america’s sexiest. I hope this info has helped you out on this phenomenon. Us Asians will get our spotlight in America very soon it seems. – Gofishus

Check out this article on the “Korean Wave”!

asian stars america popular

"I don't know how or why these 3 Asians became stars in America"

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14 thoughts on “Why are Asian stars only popular in Asia?

  1. One major reason is that a lot of mainstream Asian entertainment is really bad, while the good independent stuff doesn’t get much exposure even at home, let alone abroad.

    A good example is a Taiwanese film that came out a while ago called Yiyi. It was a bit too long, but a great little story, a snapshot of family dysfunction and affection. It was very universal and accessible, but also an interesting portrayal of particular Taiwanese habits and traditions. I know a lot of similar such movies in the Mainland that attract even less attention.

    The problem is that the Asian entertainment media is much more interested in celebrity than talent. Then US film execs are only interested in importing Wuxia and gangster films from Asia, no romantic comedy or drama. Some of the HK gangster films are pretty good, but I’ve yet to see a single Wuxia (martial arts costume play) flick with a plot. Which means not only do Americans not see the best of Asian films, it means they loose the chance to see the best depictions of what modern life is really like in Asia.

    It is getting better. At least more Asian films are being imported, even if not the best ones. When I was young, anime was this obscure cult thing, now it’s quite mainstream. And while Asian-Americans in popular culture remain rare, there are a lot more than there used to be.

  2. Hollywood is only interested making money. And Asian film stars aren’t that bankable in the U.S., but for the exception of the niche martial arts genre.

    But the underlying idea, I think, is that people mainly want to see reflections of themselves in their protagonists. Since white people are the majority here, there’ll be more stories written and made with white people in mind. Respectively, it’s the same in SE Asia and India.

    This means fewer films requiring Asian leads, and fewer chances of sustained Hollywood work and the fame that comes with it.

  3. I’m a little confused about this article….mainly because it seems to focus on the “foreign” born folks who are considered stars in Asia.

    Yet it leaves out the Asian-American actors/musicians/etc who struggle their way through a very white-washed Hollywood/entertainment industry.

    If you were to look at the “mainstream” hollywood music or movie scene, you would think AA don’t exist here. Yet, you have a lot of actors/actresses.

    You have underground musicians trying to make their way up. I have great hope for the band “At Last”, who competed in “America’s Got Talent”.

    They’re young, hip, pretty good looking (at least from my guy perpsective), and good singers. However, I have yet to hear that they are on the verge of getting signed to a major deal. At this point, they are just another fringe group on the national scene.

    The question should really be why can’t we have an AA star in world since English isn’t a problem? Depending on which AA you are talking to, speaking an Asian language shouldn’t be a big deal either.

  4. Keen observation. You’re right, Asians–whether born here or from abroad–are glaringly missing from mainstream music in the US. The only big-named ones I can really think of right now are James Iha and Yo-Yo Ma. I know I must be missing some more…

    But is this due to the stubborn practicality of Asian cultures, in general, discouraging artistic pursuits?

  5. No, I don’t think so, BT. I agree with Gofishus in that it’s the language factor. You HAVE to speak and sing in English to make it over here. Otherwise, it’s not accessible to the masses. If you go to Asia, there are tons of actresses and singers and talent. Just like anywhere. But, they can’t crossover unless they have some English ability. Just like Ricky Martin and Shakira got big over here after they were established in South America. The reason they could crossover was simply because they could do it in English, too.

    There are a few Japanese actors and singers who’ve tried to debut in the states. Utada Hikaru, who speaks great English, tried, but with limited success. I think that Asians will have it harder because they aren’t as sexy as the Hispanics. Ricky and Shakira really played on that Latin sexiness. But, for Asians, it’s hard to compete on that level. No way a little, petite Asian girl is going to sing and dance better than Beyonce. No way. Not to mention, these acts are trying to be R&B acts, and why would you settle for an Asian copycat if you can have the real deal?

    I think it’ll be great once we do have AA stars who embrace AA culture and actually comment on it. James Iha won’t do it. Linkin Park kind of does it, but it’s buried and archaic. Once we’re represented in the media, it will make such a big impact on AAs.

  6. But what of the millions of Asians born in the US? The majority of these probably can’t even speak their parents’ native tongue. For them, english is their native language. Yet there are hardly any mainstream Asian musicians. So I wouldn’t think language is the main factor in this case.

  7. I’ve said this before, here and elsewhere, but I seriously feel like there’s a hollywood conspiracy to make women more accepting of ugly men.

    Whenever I watch US tv shows, I feel like I’m being subjected to propaganda about the presumed attractiveness of white men. The usual leading men make me want to gouge my eyes out.

    Latest case is Lost, which I just discovered on DVD. Great eye candy from Daniel Dae Kim, judgement reserved on how character evolves, and from Naveen Andrews. But I am so pissed off with their casting an Indian to play an Iraqi, it’s like casting an Iraqi to play a Korean. So. Very. Obviously. Different. American racial concepts are so blindsided, as latest Survivor joke reveals.

    I really love both the character and the actor of Lost’s Sayeed, but I feel guilty a bit for it. Feels like accepting responsibility each time a redneck murders a Sikh thinking he’s an Arab.

    The redneck assholes deserve the nastiest torture available at Guantanamo for their hate crime murders, but deserve an extra few rounds thereof for their ignorance and stupidity.

  8. Bicyclethief, above I was talking only about Asian stars from Asia.

    For AA stars, I think there are two major factors. One, American media is controlled by white people, and they’ve kept all the good parts for themselves. Not to mention, Asians aren’t as appealing here as black/white stars. We’ve covered this I think. Secondly, I think it’s because Asian parents push kids into professional paths, and deter them from going into the arts/music. When I told my mom that I wanted to be a music major, she disowned me for 3 months! That’s why I write all those articles telling AAs to go their own path, and don’t follow the cookie cutter image of success your parents preach.

  9. Ref, sorry, I get carried away sometimes. Along with my immense fondness for SAMs, I also have lots of South Asian and Central Asian friends, and am equally indignant at their treatment in US culture.

    As I said in my initial post, I’m thrilled that so many A-A guys are going into creative fields. I really think that a lot of the things we complain about here, in part because we complain about them, and because of sites like thise, are going to change radically.

    A start: let’s all write emails to shows set in SoCal, from Veronica Mars to OC, calling for their casting to represent those towns’ 30-40% Asian-American population. Personally, and from La Jolla, I love the Veronica Mars’ Mr. Wu character, but: sadly, he’s a bit part, and, equally sad, he won’t reappear this year.

    Veronica Mars is my favorite show, but I’m disgusted that it’s set in San Diego without a single permanent Asian-American cast member. A smart girl like Veronica growing up in the real San Diego would have mostly Asian-American friends, and SAM love interests, and their lack is a constance annoyance to me.

  10. Reflective,

    You know, I’m open minded with everyone’s opinions, but this time, I have to say your statements below are very bothersome to me:

    I think that Asians will have it harder because they aren’t as sexy as the Hispanics. Ricky and Shakira really played on that Latin sexiness. But, for Asians, it’s hard to compete on that level. No way a little, petite Asian girl is going to sing and dance better than Beyonce. No way. Not to mention, these acts are trying to be R&B acts, and why would you settle for an Asian copycat if you can have the real deal?

    Asians aren’t as “sexy” as Hispanics? Isn’t sexiness more of a perception of an individual? Hispanics men and women are no more or less sexy than Asians/White/Black/Fill in the blank here. The media can portray Hispanic entertainers as sexy but that doesn’t mean it is in reality? Are Asian girls all dragon ladies or docile little girls as the media used to portray?

    Asians can’t sing or dance better than Beyonce? Are we going back to that stereotype that Asians cannot sing/dance or have no rhythm? Has anyone heard of the “Flower Drum Song” from the 60’s or so?

    Asian R&B acts are copycats? What do you mean? What’s wrong with Asian acts wanting to do R&B (or Hip-Hop/Rap for that matter). Is R&B/Hip-Hop restricted to just Blacks/Hispanics? What about the white guys who rap? They aren’t copycat either?

    As a sports minded guy, this reminds of a book I read about African-American athletes. The book was mainly dealing with the stereotype that African-Americans are “natural born athletes”. Along those lines, the book briefly talked about how some other races have this inferiority complex when competing against African Americans.

    Asians were discussed and the book said that Asians felt that they were at a disadvantage when compared to African American athletes in certain sports (track, basketball).

    But you know what? Yao Ming can play ball. Other Asian guys have played in the NBA and they can play a little bit. China has a 6’2″ track superstar. China, as a country, is realizing it can compete on a national level with other countries.

    Perhaps it’s something with how some of us are raised, but we need to start realizing that talent in music, sports or other things is not restricted to one group or other.

  11. You know – I just had another thought after I ranted above…..and this will answer the question posed in this article:

    The reason why Asians or AA aren’t stars in the world? It’s because we haven’t “seen” many in the past. It’s the perception that Asians cannot sing/dance or be a lead performer in a movie.

    Why are the only Asians we see in lead roles are in kung fu/martial arts films? Because Bruce Lee was the last true American Asian star and that made money. For all the progress we’ve “made”, we still revert back to a guy who’s been dead for years.

    Why are Asian Hip-Hop/R&B artists related to underground acts? Because Asians are not perceived to be Hip-Hop/R&B artists. Americans think of it as a “black thing”. Asians, even if they are talented, will not get support.

    Unfortunately, money talks here and until the day we get an Asian star who can be bankable, Asians will still be relegated to bankground roles or being an underground music act.

  12. “American media is controlled by white people, and they’ve kept all the good parts for themselves.”

    I don’t buy that argument. American media may be owned by white people, but they could give a shit who you are as long as you make them money.

  13. I agree with Miss Shanghai that asian movies and their actors are generally deplorable. There are exceptions in Hong Kong and Korean cinema, and the recognition is there especially from their european counterparts. Americans on the other hand like their asian films with action like Jet Li or Jackie Chan in it, that’s how far that goes, and anything beyond that is late nite snooze matinee. Check out the new movie Fearless, it’s pretty fucking awesome. Yeah I’m american, asian-american, so I like the good ol’ action flick.

    Bike Thief makes a pretty good point (suprisingly) about the money factor. Asian movies and their stars don’t generate the big hollywood dollar. Again, there are exceptions but not the rule. Who knows, the next generation of movie stars may break this mold. Asians do have star power, just not enough content to back it.

    But, that said, I was told Asia and India have the second biggest film industry in the world next to the west. The difference is all to do with cultural disparaties than mass influence.

    People are just used to seeing whites on screen, much like fashion magazines and tv ads, whites have this industry standard down. Which explains the global attraction and influence of white standards in beauty and art. This isn’t changing anytime soon and I’m not losing sleep over it.

  14. Man, miss a day and 27 posts later, so excuse me if I miss something thats already been said…

    First Shanghai Meimi for the show Lost, frankly I think it took balls for the director to put an Iraqi character on the show. And to show hes human like everyone else, in a time when most Americans have very negative thoughts towards middle eastern people.

    Coach41 there are exceptions to Asian Hip Hop artists to be relegated to the underground scene, though most start out there anyways. Ever heard of Jin, part of the Ruff Riders Crew (DMX, Eve,..)- though dunno if hes part of them anymore — had an album made, but they didnt’ push it as much as they could. He also had a part as the kid mechanic in Fast & the Furious 1

    Check out Jin cutting up lame black rapper on BET no less freestyling, check out wyclefs reaction at the end after Jin annihilates his competition.


    These guys are a mix of Asian backgrounds, blending accapella and hip hop beats, most would know them for Americas Got Talent, under extras, then videos you can watch their performances which are awesome. These guys have talent.


    Fight Club, Asian movies are just as normal as U.S movies except a lot of the time the plot is not linear. Which is a plus, cause how many U.S movies do you see when you say, oh yeah shes gonna die, then hes gonna get revenge. As for Indian movies, from what I know they break out in song and dance quite frequently during the movie which could be annonying to anyone not Indian.

    But one difference is that U.S. movies get distributed world wide, whereas Asian movies don’t get as much attention. But smart people in the U.S. like Quentin Tarantino likes to promote many Asian films which is good. Then there are some people that would rather steal the ideas by throwing money at it to buy them — like Scorscese for the movie “The Departed” which was the blockbuster of Asia known as “Infernal Affairs”. Watch it if you can find it, its real amazing work and a intense plot.

    The only problems I can see in Asian Entertainment Industry beside language, is that some of its singers and actors aren’t necessarily good. Meaning if their acting is good, then they also do singing and vice versa. And they can exist cause the fans will buy their stuff even if its bad. I’m refering to Hong Kong, if you’re connected you can be a star with or without talent. Obviously there are some true exceptions.

    Another thing the reasons Asian Stars aren’t popular in U.S is because their little more than a prop to U.S. directors. I mean chow yun fat as bullet proof monk, what shit is that? The man did Killer, Hardboiled, God of Gamblers and whole slew of good movies. Frankly the only reason Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon did well was because it was left in original condition as in language and edit. Can you imagine how dumb it would be if you dubbed CT,HD? Cause without dubbing it you get the actual acting and intent of character, so you can see it the way it was meant to be.

    Also frankly a lot of Americans don’t want to think much, thats why theres stuff like WWE to waste peoples time. Though I liked the old WWF in the 80’s cause there was blood, not now. Back to my point, cause a lot of movies are not so linear the director is asking you to think and follow along, discover with the character.

    Movies like 2046 and Chung King Express done by Wong Kar Wai are very deep movies with very different kinds of editing, but are very interesting. But I think your typical American, not your savy film goers will not like movies like this.

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