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Sahra Vang Nguyen Is A Modern-Day Renaissance Woman

Fashion
Photographed by Gabriela Celeste.

The 30-year-old entrepreneur launched her own restaurant

The following feature appears in the August 2017 issue of NYLON.

“I’m actually quite introverted,” concedes Sahra Vang Nguyen, seated outside of a bustling coffee shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “And I’m still always challenging myself to live a little more loudly.” It’s a seemingly moot objective for the exceedingly accomplished 30-year-old entrepreneur and modern-day Renaissance woman, who has already been widely published on topics like race and identity, directed and produced several documentaries, and launched an award-winning restaurant. But even for a natural-born storyteller, finding one’s voice is a lifetime in the making.

A Boston native and daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Nguyen “learned quickly that [she was] different,” and remembers her family being among the few Asians in the neighborhood. Her parents—her father hailing from Hanoi and her mother from Nha Trang—were part of a movement of “boat people” who fled the Vietnam War in the late 1970s. Throughout Nguyen’s childhood, the rampant racism and classism she experienced in the public education system took its toll. “I didn’t have pride in my culture and family,” she recalls.

Photographed by Gabriela Celeste.

Nguyen eventually discovered an outlet, finding an affinity for the arts at a young age. “I thought I wanted to be a painter when I grew up,” she says. “My mother worked at a laundromat that was a few minutes away from the library, and I would spend a lot of summers there, picking up drawing and art books.” In her teens, Nguyen began to develop a clearer picture of her place in the world, bridging political consciousness with creativity, when she plugged in to two organizations: Artists for Humanity, which introduced her to graffiti and video production, and The Coalition for Asian Pacific American Youth, where she was exposed to spoken-word poetry and programming centered on Asian-American identity and activism. “I started to develop a language around why I was feeling the way I was—feeling so different, and so alienated,” Nguyen explains. “That’s where I began to tap into my voice, and learned what true empowerment felt like.”

Then came Cambodia’s Repatriation Agreement with the United States in 2002, an act that allowed for mass deportations of Cambodians living in the U.S. It’s a political flashpoint that stuck firmly in Nguyen’s memory. “As a teenager, deportation was a huge issue that really hit home for me,” she recalls. At the midpoint of her undergraduate studies at UCLA, Vietnam signed its own Repatriation Agreement. “As this was happening, I really felt a calling to draw connections between Southeast Asian, East Asian, Latinx, and other undocumented communities as a student organizer,” she says.

Photographed by Gabriela Celeste.

After completing an undergraduate degree in Asian-American studies as well as world arts and cultures, with a concentration in creative writing and performance, she spent a few years in Boston and Los Angeles, working at AFH in a mentorship capacity as well as running their Literacy Through the Arts program and directing a writing program at UCLA. Making her way to Bushwick in 2012, Nguyen was heavily involved in the graffiti world, painting with a crew called A Dying Breed NYC before delving deeper into film in 2013. Her first independent series, Maker’s Lane, celebrated creative entrepreneurs in New York City and caught NBC’s attention in 2016, paving the way for Self-Starters, a series that highlighted Asian Pacific Islander business owners in the context of the “American dream.” Nguyen calls her creative brainstorming process “incubation,” and always asks herself a few key questions before delving into a new project: “What’s important?” “How do you want to grow?” “What’s going on in the world right now, and how can I serve the world?” It’s how she keeps her work moving forward.

Nguyen has also made sure her message isn’t limited to the world of media. Teaming up with chef Johnny Huynh and two other business partners in 2014, she launched Bushwick’s Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen (named after his grandmother). “Vietnamese food is really trendy right now, and people want to profit off of it,” Nguyen says. Huynh, who was born and raised in the area, works with Nguyen to foster a family-run vibe and remain involved in the changing picture of his gentrifying neighborhood. “It’s so hard for people of color and people from immigrant backgrounds to have the opportunity to have a say in that process,” Nguyen explains. “At Lucy’s we hire a lot of young folks from the neighborhood with no cooking skills and teach them, because we want to better the lives of people from and around the neighborhood.”

Photographed by Gabriela Celeste.

On the eve of the 2016 presidential election, Nguyen was abroad in Cambodia filming her docuseries Deported, which was picked up by NBC News and spotlights the grassroots anti-deportation activists who don’t receive their due shine. As Nguyen heard of the outcome thousands of miles away, she was initially struck with fear and pause. “I asked, ‘Is creating content even enough? Is creating another film even enough?’” she says. “But then I remembered that despite that moment of darkness, the work we’re doing is so important, and it continues.” She hopes that her series helps Asian-American youth see themselves reflected in social movements. “These activists are the civil rights leaders and change-makers of today,” she says. “We know and remember Malcolm X, Yuri Kochiyama, and Angela Davis because they were documented well. But there were also other people, by the tens of thousands, by their sides fighting these movements. I want to showcase that.”

Nguyen, who feels fortunate to have paved her path at such a young age, is ultimately determined to excite a new generation of trailblazers, hoping to write her own scripted series one day. “I want younger generations of Asian Americans to be inspired, and to see a reflection of themselves,” she concludes. “I want my work to find the people who feel how I did when I was 10 years old.”

Photographed by Gabriela Celeste.

Nguyen's musts:

Eating: Vegan pho with 14-hour smoked brisket at Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen

Drinking: An old-fashioned

Wearing: Three gold chains representing my family. One has my last name, Nguyen, one is my birth stone (sapphire) that my parents gave to me when I was very young, and one is a childhood gold chain with no pendant.

Beautifying: Shiseido Balancing Softener, Shiseido Revital Cream, Nars lipstick 

Listening: Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Lorde, Frank Ocean, Jay Z, The Flavr Blue

Browsing: Vice, NBC Asian America, The New York Times, StillMind.co, Angry Asian Man, National Geographic’s (and affiliated photographers’) Instagrams

Reading: Anything by Zadie Smith, Malcolm Gladwell, Jeff Chang, Beau Sia, Bao Phi, Nayyirah Waheed, Monica Sok

Rejuvenating: With good cocktails, good food, and good vibes with great friends

Visiting: Southern Iceland and Maui, Hawaii

Coveting: A Netflix, HBO, or major network deal for my own original series where I write, produce, and direct

Believing: That if my parents can survive a war, escape Vietnam by boat, live in a refugee camp, immigrate to the United States, and raise three daughters in an unfamiliar country—all within 40 years—then anything is possible in my own lifetime

Special thanks to The Starliner.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube www.youtube.com

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

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Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale youtu.be

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

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Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.

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