We had the good fortune of connecting with Cathlyn Choi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cathlyn, can you tell us about a book that has had a meaningful impact on you?
Living in Southern California gives us all a unique opportunity to explore and discover the many wonderful diasporas and cultures that call our region home. This is especially true for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, which is California’s fastest growing ethnic community, comprising nearly 15% of the population. However, this community has also faced many challenges in having an equitable voice of representation and even understanding mainly due to cultural and language barriers. I’ve always been an advocate for the under-represented, no matter what the circumstances. I feel everyone should have an opportunity to be heard, no matter their socio-status or cultural background. In response as a Korean American, with my husband Eric Michelson’s support, I founded a grassroots, non-profit organization called Asian Culture and Media Alliance or ACMA in 2013, to create a stronger voice of unity, awareness and understanding of our AAPI community through the power of Television, Film and New Media. One of my quests was to provide a platform in media to serve as a voice for all AAPI communities. Launched in 2014, our award-winning program Asian Voices showcases AAPI arts, culture and inspiring individuals, and is the only cable television program produced in English representing this community. Currently in Season Four, it reaches over 7 million households in Southern California through various cable providers, and is available for viewing online. I also saw a lack of support for our next generation of media creators and film makers who often don’t have access to affordable media tools and opportunities to gain in media. That is why we designed and launched a new vocational youth media internship program called Take One to fill this void. Take One is designed to empower our youth in creating their own stories as well as develop technical and leadership skills. This program has been personally rewarding for me as I see our interns blossom into media creators and more importantly gain confidence, pride and a better sense of self identity as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

I’d like to share an amazing personal development and self-improvement book called “Think and Grow Rich” written by Napoleon Hill in 1937. This timeless classic is based on a 25-year research on some of the most economically successful individuals in the US and has not only had a meaningful impact on me but on millions of other people for decades. Known as the “Grandfather of Motivational Literature”, the book teaches the13 principles of Napoleon Hill’s Philosophy of Success and his famous quote, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe it can achieve”. I believe everyone should read this book at least once!

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work?
As a kid, I had a strong curiosity and passion for learning new things in life, one of them of my passions was to be in the entertainment world, and had opportunities to work as a reporter, musician and part time model when I was in high school. Ironically, when I came to the US, my life’s path eventually led me back into the entertainment world after spending 7 years as a corporate executive in the wireless and consumer electronics industry. Having spent twelve years growing up in Brunei and later traveling to many countries, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to experience diverse cultures and learned many languages. Like my dad, my entrepreneurial spirit led me to founding my own successful business at a young age during college, which was very rare in Korean culture for women, who are often pressured to follow a traditional path in life as a homemaker.

It’s been 20 years since I came to the US from Korea. and living in Southern California gave me a unique opportunity to explore and discover the many wonderful diasporas and cultures that call our region home. This is especially true for the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, which is California’s fastest growing ethnic community, comprising nearly 15% of the population. However, this community has also faced many challenges in having an equitable voice of representation and even understanding mainly due to cultural and language barriers. I’ve always been an advocate for the under-represented, no matter what the circumstances. I feel everyone should have an opportunity to be heard, no matter their socio-status or cultural background. In response as a Korean American, with my husband Eric Michelson’s support, I founded a grassroots, non-profit organization called Asian Culture and Media Alliance or ACMA in 2013, to create a stronger voice of unity, awareness and understanding of our AAPI community through the power of Television, Film and New Media. One of my quests was to provide a platform in media to serve as a voice for all AAPI communities.

Launched in 2014, our award-winning program Asian Voices showcases AAPI arts, culture and inspiring individuals, and is the only cable television program produced in English representing this community. Currently in Season Four, it reaches over 7 million households in Southern California through various cable providers, and is available for viewing online. I also saw a lack of support for our next generation of media creators and film makers who often don’t have access to affordable media tools and opportunities to gain in media. That is why we designed and launched a new vocational youth media internship program called Take One to fill this void. Take One is designed to empower our youth in creating their own stories as well as develop technical and leadership skills. This program has been personally rewarding for me as I see our interns blossom into media creators and more importantly gain confidence, pride and a better sense of self identity as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Being a huge foodie and chef myself, a couple of nights exploring the Convoy District of San Diego and sampling the many delicious Asian foods and flavors, especially the Korean BBQ spots is definitely on the menu. A night in Convoy would not be complete without the requisite Karaoke bar experience! Growing up on an island, I love and appreciate the ocean. So, I would take my friends to some of my favorite beach spots in San Diego, including some scuba diving or snorkeling along the La Jolla Cove. Because San Diego has such beautiful weather and a wide diversity of landscapes, my friends and I could spend a couple of days hiking the trails in our local mountains and camping overnight in our deserts under the stars. Last but not least, a round of golf or two at my favorite golf courses and a trip to our local wineries would make an ideal way to end the week!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Unlike most traditional Korean parents, I owe a debt of gratitude to my own amazing parents for being my mentors and always supporting my life’s decisions. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Whenever I faced personal challenges and setbacks in my life, my parents told me to never lose hope and always believe in myself. In Korean culture, we have a saying, that “Once you draw the sword, you have to see it through to the end.” That’s the mindset I’ve been taught since I was a kid, so no matter what, I always finish what I started. As my dad used to ask me, “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. Which one are you?”.

I would also like to dedicate my shoutout to my husband Eric Michelson, who is my best friend, my life and business partner. We have often been labeled the “Dynamic Duo”, which I take as a nice compliment! Even though Eric is not Asian himself, he has always appreciated the diverse AAPI cultures and understands the needs of this community. Without his endless support, encouragement and vision in the past 12 years, my PBS cooking show, ACMA and our media programs would not exist today.

Website: www.acmasocal.org
Instagram: www.instagram.com/acma.socal
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/company/acmasocal
Twitter: www.twitter.com/acmasocal
Facebook: www.facebook.com/acmasocal
Youtube: www.youtube.com/asianculturemediaalliance
Other: My media business website can be accessed at www.carmamedia.com

Image Credits
Eddie Lain Eric Michelson Robert Dahey Yc Wong

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