UPDATED:  May 2, 2010 4:31 PM
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Local Asian Models Strive to Overcome Stereotypes in Face of Fusion contest
By: Cathy Doheny

Two models of Asian descent are currently leading in a contest on Facebook that may very well prove that Charlotte has an eye for ethnic diversity. Five-year-old Jade Chun’an Doheny and 18-year-old Erica Nkauj Xwb (Gao Su) Yang entered the Face of Fusion contest last month in hopes of winning the grand prize for their age category – a free photo shoot and images from Fusion Photography Studios, professional make-up and hair for the photo shoot by Make Up Your Face and SRG Studio, and a full modeling contract (including website exposure, headshots, resume, composite cards, and training in modeling and acting) from The Keenan Agency. Twenty photo entries for each age group – ages 0-9, 10-17 and 18 plus – were accepted into the contest. Facebook users were then allowed to vote for their favorite photos by becoming a “Fan” of Fusion Photography Studios and then typing the word, “Vote” in the comment box underneath the photo. So far, Yang has 110 votes, the highest number of votes for her category. Likewise, Doheny is also leading for her age group, with 242 votes. The competition, however, is tight and voting will continue until May 21, with winners announced on June 5.

Whereas Asian models used to be present only in their domestic market, they have now been featured as super models in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue U.S., Vogue Paris and Vogue Portugal. Many in the fashion world attribute this increased visibility in western countries to the shift in economic trends, which has brought more focus to China. Designers are also beginning to move past stereotypes of the classic Caucasian model and are now developing a greater appreciation for Asian features, which typically include a small, round face, long neck and proportionate body. As Asian models become more sought after in major markets, it only stands to reason that the trend will follow in smaller cities like Charlotte.

Though just starting out, Yang has already enjoyed some success on the local level. Her acting and modeling career began when she got a walk-on role as a lead zombie in Kevin Richmond’s film, “One Last Sunset.” On the set she met Kim Davis of Davis & Kim Lowe Talent Agency, who then offered her representation. She also later received modeling and acting training at John Casablancas career center. Most recently, she modeled in a fashion show for Peek-a-Boo Couture at Charlotte’s Ballantyne Resort and as a live manikin for Cache at South Park Mall in Charlotte.

Yang, a resident of Connelly Springs, NC, is a fourth generation from China and second generation in the U.S. Though originally from China, her family is not Chinese. Her ethnicity is Hmong, a people who were given the opportunity to be free in America after aiding the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Yang grew up in a strict family with rich traditions, which further fostered a deep appreciation of her culture. She taught herself how to read, write, and speak her own language fluently and has enjoyed spreading the knowledge of her culture through singing and word of mouth.

“I hope to be the face of my people for the younger generations,” says Yang. “My purpose is to educate the younger Hmong and never forget the elders.”

Doheny’s modeling endeavors have included runway work in two Peek-a-Boo Couture fashion shows, as well as in last month’s Bridal Bliss the Bridal Show in Concord, NC. Her photos have been featured in Adoption Today Magazine, the Yiyang City Calendar, University City Magazine, and the Charlotte Observer.

Born in Yiyang city in Hunan Province of China, Doheny was adopted by Cathy and Kevin Doheny of Charlotte when she was two-years-old. She is one of 6,277 Chinese children adopted by North Carolina families from 1998-2009. Diagnosed with a rare form of congenital heart disease, Doheny was part of the China Waiting Child Program for orphans with special medical needs. Currently asymptomatic, her activities are not restricted and she, in fact, enjoys learning ballet at the N.C. Dance Theatre School of Dance. She is also the youngest child training at G&J Speedway Gymnastics in Concord, NC, as a member of their “Girls Pre-Team” for a chance to compete in the fall. With two Chinese coaches, Doheny also participates in a special class for adopted Chinese children, which incorporates gymnastics training and Mandarin language basics.

“I am happy I am Chinese,” says Doheny. “I am the only Chinese girl in my preschool class, but that’s okay because I still have all of my Chinese friends at gymnastics.”

Proud of her Chinese heritage, Doheny performs solo Chinese dance routines at various festivals and events across the state. She will be representing the Pacific Arts Troupe, a non-profit organization that celebrates Asian cultures through the arts, at upcoming festivals and events across the Carolinas. Doheny plans to attend the Carolina International School, where she will receive instruction in Mandarin, when she begins kindergarten in the fall.

Lori Konawalik, co-owner of Fusion Photography Studio in Charlotte is excited about the opportunities her contest will offer to the winners.

“The Face of Fusion contest was created to give aspiring models the opportunity to work within the modeling and acting industry,” says Konawalik. “By garnering as many votes and support as possible from other Facebook members, contestants can earn the chance to work with professional photographers at a personal photo shoot with Fusion Photography Studio. Winners also receive a full year contract with the Keenan [modeling] Agency to further develop and enhance their portfolio and better prepare for career advancement. We are delighted to have created a networking forum for so many young contestants and are excited to announce the winners in June!”

To vote in the Face of Fusion contest, Facebook members can visit the Fusion Photography Studios page and become their “Fans” at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Charlotte-NC/Fusion-Photography-Studios/208693792608

Fans may then vote for their favorite photos in the Face of Fusion contest albums by typing the word, “Vote” in the comment box under each chosen photo.

Erica’s photo can be found at:


Jade’s photo can be found at:


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