ASPIRE TO EXCELLENCE EMERGING LEADER AWARD
Aneesh Chaganty is a 28 year old film director, screenwriter, and actor. His parents, originally from Andhra Pradesh, India, moved to the US in the 1980s. Aneesh grew up in San Jose, California and Chaganty graduated from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2013 with a degree in film and television production. In 2014, Aneesh’s two minute short film called Seeds, became an internet sensation after garnering more than 1 million YouTube views in 24 hours.
Following its success, Chaganty was invited to join the Creative 5 team at Google Creative Lab in New York City, where he spent two years developing, writing and directing Google commercials.
He made his feature film directorial debut with the 2018 thriller Searching, for which he won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Aneesh also wrote Searching with Sev Ohanian. Set entirely on computer screens and smartphones, the film follows a father (John Cho) trying to find his missing 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) with the help of a police detective (Debra Messing). It is the first mainstream Hollywood thriller headlined by and starring an Asian-American cast.
The film was a financial and critical success, grossing over $75 million worldwide against a $1 million budget and receiving praise for its direction, acting, unique visual presentation and unpredictable storyline.
Aneesh’s second film Run, stars Sarah Paulson and will be released on January 24, 2020.
CAROL & EUGENE CHOI
OUTSTANDING PHILANTHROPIC LEADERSHIP
CAROL CHOI: a businesswoman, a philanthropist and an entrepreneur. Carol graduated from UC Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and Psychology from Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences. Carol went onto graduate from USC with a Masters in Business Administration and Public Health (MBA/MPH). In 1993 Carol established United Exchange Corp. (UEC) specializing in the sales, marketing and distribution of Consumer Package Goods (CPG) throughout the U.S., Pacific Asia and Latin American regions.
Through her work, UEC has been recognized as a good corporate citizen and valued community service provider in the diverse cultural neighborhoods of Los Angeles and Orange County. Carol was actively involved with the Irvine Public School Foundation (IPSF) as a board member, she served from 2006–2012. Carol currently serves as an Advisory Council member, helping to raise funds to support the Irvine School District. During Carol’s tenure as a board member with IPSF she started Irvine Korean Parent’s Association (IKPA). Carol served as President where she instituted the Program to Advance Cultural Education (PACE). The PACE program provides opportunities for educators in the Irvine School District to deepen their understanding of the city’s many different cultures.
Carol supported the formation of the ANTrepreneurship Center at UC Irvine, which is designed to help students turn their dreams of starting a business into reality. The ANTrepreneurship Center is also focused on stimulating the economy and promoting education. She feels that “entrepreneurship is a great thing. It creates jobs and gives people a chance to think outside of the box about what they can do.”
EUGENE CHOI: CEO of United Exchange Corp. a businessman, philanthropist and an entrepreneur graduated from UC Irvine earning his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Masters in Business Administration. Eugene continued his education at USC earning Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering. Eugene joined his wife Carol Choi Founder of United Exchange Corp. (UEC) specializing in sales, marketing and distribution of Consumer Package Goods (CPG) throughout the U.S., Pacific Asia and Latin American regions. Through their work, UEC has been recognized as a good corporate citizen and valued community service provider in the diverse cultural neighborhoods of Los Angeles and Orange County.
On a personal note, Eugene’s personal love for music inspired him to start Harmonia Singers, a men's quartet formed to perform choral music to share messages of faith, love, hope, and compassion as a music ambassador to serve the community.
OUTSTANDING PHILANTHROPIC PARTNER
Brian is a globally recognized international marketing leader in the retail tourism industry. Currently, he is the Senior Director of International and Domestic Markets at South Coast Plaza, the highest-grossing planned retail center in the U.S. and the west coast’s largest shopping destination.
Under Brian’s leadership, South Coast Plaza has continued to build its international reputation with increasing qualified annual visitation and revenue. South Coast Plaza has also become the venue of large-scale annual cultural events for the local Asian American community by growing the scale of its
Lunar New Year celebrations and, through Brian’s visionary leadership, by adding celebrations for an annual Autumn Harvest Festival and a county-wide Asian Heritage Month. In 2019, the South Coast Plaza Lunar New Year celebration hosted over 1,000 prominent guests including many dignitaries and local leaders from the business, community and philanthropic industries. Brian has also facilitated the development of flourishing partnerships with local cultural institutions, Asian American chambers of commerce and non-profit organizations.
Prior to his role at South Coast Plaza, Brian successfully led the international sales and marketing for Macy’s Inc. as the Director of Tourism Marketing for 12 years and represented the brand at international trade shows and sales missions. He began his career in the travel industry with Lion Tours USA, and has worked for Marriott, Planet Hollywood and grand opened the Hollywood & Highland complex.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Brian moved to Southern California at the age of 12. His fluency in Mandarin Chinese and cultural roots have helped shape his career path. As a proud Asian American, he has always believed in adapting both cultures, embracing diversity and building bridges across different cultures and is honored to be recognized by the first National Asian American Community Foundation.
DR. TAM NGUYEN
OUTSTANDING PHILANTHROPIC CATALYST
Dr. Tam Nguyen is the President and owner of Advance Beauty College and is an award-winning business leader who has been featured in the Orange County Business Journal, CNN, BBC, NBC, ABC, LA Times, the OC Register and leading Vietnamese publications.
Born in Vietnam, Tam immigrated from Vietnam in 1975 at the Fall of Saigon. His strongest childhood memory is witnessing his hard working parents create their American dream through providing manicures and haircuts.
Being an obedient Asian son, Tam earned his MD for his parents before discovering his own passion for business. As an older but more opinionated son, he persuaded his parents that earning an MBA would be great for his future. For 20 years now, Tam and his sister Linh have led the nationally recognized Advance Beauty College. Their second generation family business has impacted the Vietnamese dominated nails industry by training over 40,000 beauty professionals.
His passion in giving back is evidenced by how active he is in the community. His community leadership experiences range from past Chairman of the Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce, to currently serving on the Cal State Fullerton’s Philanthropic Board of Governors, and the Boards of OC United Way Board of Directors, Garden Grove Community Foundation, and Project Vietnam Foundation.
Tam is also a faculty member for Business Management at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business & Economics and was recognized as the 2018 Mentor of the Year.
Tam is honored to receive the Inaugural ASPIRE Outstanding Philanthropic Catalyst Award and will continue to commit himself in being a connector for fellow community members.
ASPIRE TO EXCELLENCE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Teddy Zee is a Hollywood film & TV producer who has built an active global advisory and consulting practice across media, technology and commerce. The films Zee produced and supervised have amassed over $2.6 billion in revenue. He served as Executive Vice President at Columbia Pictures, Senior Vice President at Paramount Pictures, President of Sony-based Overbrook Films, and President of Fox-based Davis Entertainment. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Oscars), Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Emmys) and Producers Guild of America.
Zee is Advisor and Head of Contents Relations for Watcha, a Korean streaming service that launched Contents Protocol on the blockchain. He also serves as Advisor for Lino Network/DLiveTV, a live streaming platform that empowers creators and rewards users. Other advisory roles include Kooding, an e-commerce platform that connects independent fashion brands with the world’s millennials; SparkLabs Songdo, a 6-month accelerator program for IoT based in Korea; and ParagonOne, a platform that connects foreign students with a network of mentors and advisors in the US. Zee advised Oben, a Softbank-backed start-up that uses deep learning, computer vision and blockchain to deploy personal AI for the masses via ProjectPAI; SmartStudy, the Korean animation and game company with a global footprint driven by the characters PinkFong & Baby Shark; Meitu, the Chinese photo and video app company that went IPO in Hong Kong in December 2016; ThinOptics, a startup that delivers lightweight and durable reading glasses that store on the back of smartphone cases; Starmaker, a tech driven media company focused on music and discovering new stars (acquired August 2016); and Ooyala, a leading online video platform company acquired by Telstra in August 2014. Zee served as Head of Creative, Mobile Technologies Division for Rambus. They acquired Silicon Valley interactive media start-up Mozaik Multimedia, where Zee held the post of Chief Creative Officer.
Zee currently consults for Biola University, School of Cinema & Media Arts in the area of industry relations. With Fusion 3 Media, Zee optioned the Vietnamese format rights to the Warner Bros. reality TV show The Bachelor, which enjoyed a successful first season and is prepping season 2. Zee managed a successful marketing, promotions and licensing collaboration between Chinese fashion retailer Semir and Marvel Studios on Iron Man 2. Zee has guest programmed foreign shows for the Shanghai TV Festival and worked with GSMA to help program entertainment and media related content at Mobile World Congress: Shanghai. He was executive producer/consultant on Quantum Quest, a 3-D, CGI animated film for Taiwan’s Digimax in cooperation with NASA and Jet Propulsion Lab. Zee executive produced Mashbox for Myx TV, which was nominated for the NAMIC Vision Awards 2013 in the category of Digital Media – Long Form.
Zee was Executive Producer of Pursuit of Happyness, featuring Will Smith, which earned $300 million in worldwide ticket sales and Producer of Hitch, a Columbia Pictures release that earned over $365 million in total box office. Zee also produced West 32nd for Korea’s CJ Entertainment. The movie was selected for World Narrative Competition at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. He produced Saving Face starring Joan Chen, an official selection for the Sundance and Toronto Film Festivals. As President of Davis Entertainment, Zee was the Executive Producer of Life or Something Like It, a New Regency release starring Angelina Jolie. Zee was executive producer of the Asian Excellence Awards that was broadcast on E! and AZN-TV to 100 million homes in the US.
As Executive Vice President of Production at Columbia Pictures, Zee oversaw such films as Anaconda, Cable Guy, Devil’s Own, First Knight, Fools Rush In, Hero, Mo Money, My Girl, and Sleepwalkers. Charlie’s Angels grossed $264 million worldwide and spawned a sequel. Zee championed Chow Yun Fat’s Hollywood debut in Replacement Killers. As Senior VP of Productions at Paramount Pictures, he shepherded such films as Cousins, Indecent Proposal, Presidio and Star Trek VI.
Zee earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS from Cornell University, School of Industrial & Labor Relations. As a member of Committee of 100, an organization comprised of Chinese Americans who have achieved prominence in their respective fields, he co-founded the C- 100 Leadership and Mentoring Program. Zee serves Vice President of the Board of Directors for Koreatown Youth + Community Center in Los Angeles and was honored by Center for the Pacific Asian Family for his work with of behalf of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.