e are fascinated by people who take on challenges most people go out of their way to avoid. If these risk-takers achieve fame and fortune, fascination turns to respect and admiration. They come to embody our own deep yearnings to break out of the limitations of everyday life and test our physical and emotional limits.
If a successful risk-taker happens to be Asian American, we are ever more intrigued. Knowing all too well that we are portrayed as people that shine in strait-laced, cerebral professions but rarely as daring individualists, we value those Asian Americans whose exploits break that tired mold. That's why we've
assembled five who challenge established norms in the face of prohibitive odds.
New York City Councilman John Liu has shown remarkable readiness to throw himself into the forefront of fights to address the wrongs that make America an ugly place to so many Asians. His weapon of choice is the Monday morning press conference. His readiness to shoot off his mouth where other politicians fear to speak may set Liu up for political disaster, or higher office.
San shou master Cung Le has taken on the toughest opponents in kickboxing without a loss. Most would have retired to enjoy the rewards of a 16-0 record. Instead, at the age of 33, Le chose to learn new skills and risk his shining reputation in the bloodthirsty world of cagefighting, aka mixed martial arts. He has won his first two MMA fights and could become an international superstar, or the sport's next fatality.
Hollywood producer Roy Lee has ditched a law career and sold out friends in his bid to claw his way up Hollywood's treacherous food chain. The reward has been the ability to command million-dollar-plus fees for brokering remake rights to his favorite Asian flicks. The next big deal could catapult him into Hollywood's inner circle, or send him hurtling to join the carcasses of yesterday's wunderkinds.
Professional poker champ John Juanda worked hard for an MBA only to decide he'd rather work the long odds of beating thousands of other hopefuls to reach the final tables of pro tournaments. He has done just that 145 times to reach the ranks of professional poker's money elite with $6.3 million in official winnings. What keeps Juanda playing is the knowledge that his next tournament win could be his biggest, or his last.
Golf prodigy Michelle Wie had shown so much star quality that she pocketed $10 million in annual endorsements the day she turned 16. To keep those millions flowing, all she had to do is play LPGA tournaments where top-five finishes have become routine. Instead, Wie has chosen to take on the men. Of the 11 men's tournaments she has entered, she made the cut in only one and come in dead last in her last two. Michelle Wie is on her way to becoming the legend who demolished golf's gender barrier, or golf's most interesting footnote.