Since the release of its first magazine in 2014, Banana magazine has been the voice for contemporary Asian culture. It deals with subject matters that are concerned with how Asians are perceived in the West and try to find ways to re-address these misconceptions. In the previous Issue 003, the publication focused mainly on Asian American identity. Now, co-founders Kathleen Tso and Vicki Ho dive into deeper issues by exploring themes that are not so often talked about.
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, Banana has released Issue 004 which is the latest edition of its annual print publication. The current magazine contains 168 pages and is filled with evocative content that centers around the triumphs and trials of being an Asian in the West. Touching on different topics such as gender identity in the Asian community and creating a whimsical Wong Kar Wai-inspired photoshoot showcasing the best spots to eat Asian fried chicken, the issue highlights the significance of what it truly means to be Asian today.
The magazine also features stories from Asian celebrities including professional stuntwoman Verena Mei (known for her work in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift) who gives her take on Asian femininity. See more of the images included in the magazine in the gallery above.
Read our interview with Vicki Ho and Kathleen Tso about Issue 004 below and get your hands on the latest copy, officially releasing May 7 and is available for purchase on stands and online.
What inspired the stories and people in Issue 004?
Kathleen Tso: The “Gender + Identity” package and everyone we feature in it was inspired by the Asian Male Masculinity panel we hosted in 2017 at Ludlow House with Miss Info including panelists writer and editor Jian DeLeon; David Yi, founder of men’s beauty and grooming site Very Good Light; Jeff Staple, entrepreneur and founder of Staple Design; Kevin Kreider, fitness trainer and model; and rapper Rick Lee, also known by his stage name Lyricks. We wanted to continue the conversation beyond the event with a series in Issue 004 and open up the topic to extend to the spectrum that exists between femininity and masculinity for Asian Americans.
Vicki Ho: Most of the talent we found to share their stories and perspectives with us came from references from our contributors and our Banana supporters! It meant a lot that everyone was so open to sharing their very personal journeys with us because they all really believed in creating more open conversation surrounding Asian gender and identity. This topic is so wide in range—we can’t capture it all but we hope it’s at least a starting point for dialogue.
What was most challenging aspect in putting together Issue 004?
KT: Our biggest challenge is still just trying to find balance with creating this print magazine outside of our 9-to-5 jobs. As the issue evolves and matures, the work we put into it grows exponentially. A new challenge we face is the growing expectations from our readers for more representation. We have mostly covered East Asian-related topics and still have a lot of work to do for Southeast Asian and South Asian stories.
VH: This is the biggest issue we’ve ever published! 168 pages to be exact. Thicc with two c’s for real. This meant more people involved in the making of issue 004, more coordination between all of our contributors, more time and energy from us, more everything. It was really tough to manage with our limited bandwidth but it’s really important to us that we maintain in-person meetings, dedicated time, and high energy to everyone we got to work with. Building meaningful relationships and community with everyone we encounter gets tougher as we grow each year but we think it’s one of the most important things about Banana.
How is the issue evolving from what we know and love about Banana into what’s coming next?
KT: We hope to just deliver more of what you’ve seen in the past. As we navigate new challenges as a community, we hope to join the conversation and give Asian voices a platform.
VH: The magazine has really evolved each issue in that the quality of our stories is always leveling up. This is the first time we’ve ever done a packaged story, which most people feel for issue 004 has been the most “thematic”. As for what’s next, we want to build more IRL community moments! So expect to see us around more than just once a year!