Dancing with the Stars judge, TV personality, singer, dancer, actor, choreographer, Carrie Ann Inaba

2 10 2008

Hawaiian-born Carrie Ann Inaba’s diverse ethnic background inspired her to pursue a number of divergent paths, each with impressive success. She is a singer, dancer, actor, choreographer and founder/President of EnterMediArts, Inc., a video production company. She directs, writes, and edits films including E! Behind The Scenes Miss America Special, 7th Festival of the Pacific Arts, A Portrait of IVI and Beyond the Dancing Image, along with the short feature film, Black Water.

Currently Carrie Ann appears twice weekly as one of the three judges on “Dancing With The Stars.” She has gained the reputation as the honest, fearless “tell it like it is” judge on this hit show.

She says,

I would get a lot of fan mail from Asian families saying thank you so much for giving my daughter a different thing to aspire to, rather than a teacher or a doctor. I’ve been very aware of that from the time I was very young.

She calls her constant sense of responsibility her “backpack.” Carrie Ann discovered dance at the age of 3 when her mom enrolled her in a creative movement class.

I work in a medium that has a lot of power. Every time I open my mouth, I know that it affects somebody else, somewhere. In American culture we are somewhat disconnected with our bodies. We have a tendency to be “in our heads” most of the time. Dancing is about letting go of the mind, letting go of the ego and finding the power of the body. Since I’ve been a dancer my whole life and I believe so strongly in body knowledge, to see these stars find more confidence and expression through their bodies as they went through the process of learning these dances, is a joy.

After winning a talent show as a teenager, her first bold career move was to move at the age of 18 from her native Hawaii to Japan to be groomed as a pop star. She had to learn the language and culture, sing the Japanese lyrics phonetically, and bear all the pressure of recording and performing for a demanding public. During that time she released three hit singles: Party Girl, Be Your Girl, and Yume no Senaka. She also hosted a weekly radio and television series.

Returning to the States, 20 year old Carrie Ann moved to California in 1988 and studied choreography and graduated cum laude with a degree in World Arts & Culture. While in college she landed a role as a Fly Girl on the hit variety show “In Living Color,” the same show that spawned the career of Jim Carey, Jamie Fox, Damon Wayans, and fellow Fly Girl Jennifer Lopez.

She also joined many famous dancing troupes, appearing as a backup dancer for Madonna’s The Girlie Show tour, and Ricky Martin’s Living la Vida Loca tour. Carrie Ann also appeared as a dancer in movies such as Austin Powers in Goldmember and Showgirls.

Carrie Ann has choreographed several television series, including American Idol, American Juniors, All American Girl, He’s a Lady, In Search of the Partridge Family, Married by America, The Sexiest Bachelor in America Pageant, The Swan, and Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?. She also choreographed the Miss America Pageant for five years.

She’s not done yet
Carrie Ann’s “to-do list” includes creating a Vegas show, performing on Broadway, acting in a martial arts film, and producing educational videos to benefit children based on arts and culture.



1st Asian American sitcom on network TV: Pat Morita

2 10 2008

You know, we often talk about the success stories of our heroes without talking about their pitfalls, their struggles, their hurdles.

Pat Morita,  better known as Mr. Miyagi, from the movie The Karate Kid, taught a generation of young people how to block a punch with  “wax on, wax off” while coaching “Daniel-san” karate and catching flies with chopstick.

Moving on to what you did not know.

Doctors told Pat Morita that he would not be able to walk when he was diagnosed with spinal tuberculosis at the age of two. He spent the next nine years, enduring long periods in full body casts, in various Californian hospitals.

It took fusing four vertebrae in Pat’s spine for him to finally learn how to walk again at the age of 11. By this time, in the middle of WWII, his family had been sent to a Japanese internment camp in Arizona.

After this painful time during the war, Pat and his family moved back to California where they owned a Sacramento restaurant called “Ariake Chop Suey.” As a teenager, Pat would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners.

Pat went on to graduate from Armijo High School and worked at Aerojet-General, an aerospace company that designed and manufactured rocket engines. He promoted to head of computer operations, became a husband and father. Pretty middle-class American, no?

That is when he decided he had taken the wrong path in life. He quit and became a standup comedian using the name “the Hip Nip. ” He joined The Groundlings, a LA improvisational comedy troupe. His first movie role was as a stereotypical henchman in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). He later took a recurring role as South Korean Army Captain Sam Pak on the iconoclastic sitcom M*A*S*H.

He went on to star as the first Asian American sitcom on network TV as inventor Taro Takahashi. He shot to international fame playing wise karate teacher Keisuke Miyagi in “The Karate Kid.” He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as well as a Golden Globe and reprised his role as the sensei Mr. Miyagi in three sequels.

One of Morita’s last TV roles was as Master Udon on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, “Karate Island.” His last movie was Royal Kill, a 2008 thriller about a guard who must protect a high school girl.

Now for the question everyone wanted to know. Pat Morita has an American accent but used a Japanese accent when playing Mr. Miyagi.

This prolific actor, appearing in Honeymoon in Vegas, Spy Hard, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, The Center of the World and nearly 100 other roles. He died of natural causes on November 24, 2005 at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada at the age of 73. He was cremated and laid to rest in Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery. During his funeral procession, his Karate Kid co-star, Ralph Macchio said, “Forever, my Sensei”

Image from: http://www.rubinville.com/dailydave/uploaded_images/miyagi-773738.jpg