First ‘Asian Idol’ crowned

Eleven Yale singers belting out tunes ranging from Coco Lee to Xu Meijing on Friday night, drawing a spirited crowd at Yale’s first Asian Idol competition.

Asian Idol, organized by Hanppuri — the Korean international students society — entertained a packed audience in the Ezra Stiles dining hall. Modeled after FOX’s hit show American Idol, the program featured three judges, audience participation, an elimination round and of course, a final winner. Joe Kye ’09 won the hearts and votes of the judges and screaming fans and was crowned Yale’s first Asian Idol at the end of the night.

Teresa Ding ’08 competes in Asian Idol in the Ezra Stiles dining hall, a competition sponsored by Hanppuri. Joe Kye ’09 won first place.
Kathleen Koch
Teresa Ding ’08 competes in Asian Idol in the Ezra Stiles dining hall, a competition sponsored by Hanppuri. Joe Kye ’09 won first place.

Catherine Lee ’07 came in second place, and the duo of Nate Becker ’09 and Mark Wilson ’09 finished third.

The YCC-hosted event “Last Comic Standing” also drew a large crowd Friday night, filling SSS Hall as six contestants competed in various humor categories. Roberto Velez ’08 and Andy Levine ’08 were both victorious in the competition.

Kye, a member of the Society of Orpheus and Bacchus a cappella group, said he felt “funny” at being crowed a local Asian celebrity.

“There were so many talented people — I was actually surprised things worked out the way they did,” Kye said. “I’m just glad I was able to take part and spread the notion of Asian pop culture.”

The three guest judges — Mark Sayre, a member of many choruses in New York City, Mary Beth Yoon, a fashion design student at the Parsons School of Design, and Noelle Gray, a teacher for the Connecticut Swing Dance Society and the Yale Swing Club — commented and voted on each performance. The judges’ decisions counted for 40 percent of the final result, while audience votes counted for the remaining 60 percent.

Audience members cheered on their favorite contestants and were vocal in their dissent when the judges criticized their friends.

“I am a major supporter of Duncan Cheng ’07, the best singer here!” said Lom Seunbane ’07, who held a poster with Cheng’s name.

Nick Bayless ’10 supported his friend Mingyee Lin ’10, painting a large red “N” on his chest and standing in a line of six other students who lifted their shirts so that their chests spelled out “MINGYEE.”

The first round consisted of performances ranging from techno to slow ballads, and the audience and judges chose Kye, Lee, Wilson and Becker to move on to the final round.

Lee had the audience cheering and clapping at each of her many high notes, and the judges agreed that hers was the kind of performance they were hoping for.

The judges also commended Kye for his broad range and stage presence.

“Now I think we’re having fun,” Sayre said, after Kye’s first-round performance. “This is getting interesting.”

Wilson and Becker, who were introduced by the emcees as “two white Jewish guys from Florida,” entered the contest as a duo and performed a choreographed dance routine for their rendition of the popular song “Wu Ding.” The two sophomores, whose hopes of winning the contest were broadcast beforehand on a homemade YouTube video, had the audience applauding and roaring with laughter.

“We’ve used statistical applications, and we figure our chances of winning are 130 percent,” Wilson said before the competition began.

Mary Jane Yoon ’08, executive director of the event, said nine committees worked on Asian Idol for the past three months, and that while the group broke even financially, money was not the goal.

“We anticipate it being an annual event, hopefully bigger and better planned as the years go by with the assistance and cooperation of more cultural organizations,” she said.

In addition to Kye, Lee, Becker, Wilson, Cheng and Lin, the other contestants included Teresa Ding ’08, Jessica Jeffers ’09, Josh Min ’08, Adam Young-Valdovinos ’10 and Jennifer Lin ’09.

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