Add Victoria Namkung to the group of A-list people you want to know. Not only is this Orange County native an accomplished print journalist, she’s a teacher, humanitarian, a fashionista, and all around talent. With grace and style, this half Korean and half Jewish writing guru has made a career path that is 100% pure class. Plus, she’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, if you’re lucky.
While most young adults are finding their way into the world, Victoria has managed to build an impressive resume that would knock anyone’s socks off, even their Jimmy Choos, if you will. Throughout her career, the sought out maven has written for top publications and magazines such as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, LA Magazine, C Magazine, and In Style to name a few. Covering red carpets and celebrity interviews are just a part of day’s work for this working gal. Before the age of thirty, Ms. Namkung co-wrote a book called Where To Wear Los Angeles 2005, a fabulous shopping guide for the Los Angeles area. In 2005, she took an active role in launching a non profit school lunch program in East Africa called Kids of Kilimanjaro, where she is currently a board member. The buck doesn’t stop there for this Queen V. After graduating with a Master’s Degree from the University of California Los Angeles in Asian American Studies, Victoria has been teaching ethnic studies courses at her alma mater UCSB and UCLA, as well as 826LA. With all this flair, it’s no wonder why this girl’s got all the Write Stuff.
Asiance Magazine caught up with Victoria to discuss her career as a magazine writer, pilgrim outfits, and her plans for the future.
ASIANCE: You’ve written countless stories, interviewed hundreds of celebrities, and even came out with a swanky pink book. You’re a fabulous magazine writer/print journalist – ”no brainer. Who is the Victoria Namkung behind all that writing?
VN: I’m just a girl from Orange County. Seriously, how do you answer that? You’re funny.
Out of about 20 who I deal with regularly, one is Asian. There are more and more Asian bylines I’m noticing, especially in the fashion world and in hard news, but it would be great to see even more.
ASIANCE: As a little girl, what did you want to be when you grew up? And when did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
VN: I think I wanted to be a news anchor. I don’t have any memories of wanting to be a doctor or lawyer or actress or anything like that. By the time I was in 6th grade, I was pretty certain I was going to be a journalist of some sort. In high school I was the Sports Editor of our yearbook for a couple years and got field passes for the football games and got to hang out with all the boys, so I think I was sold at that point.
ASIANCE: What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you in your life? The worst?
VN: No one has ever asked me that and it’s a tough one. I’d like to think that the best thing is still to come, but so far I would just say getting to do a job I love, live in a city that I love and have the best family and friends a girl could ask for. Having the means to travel is also something that I really
cherish. I’ve learned more from going abroad than in any classroom. The worst thing is probably losing friends way too early. When I was a freshman in college I lost three friends in a car accident and then within the next few years I lost three more. I think I grew up very quickly after that. But in a
lot of ways those experiences make you just appreciate life and have brought our group closer together.
ASIANCE: When did you get your first big break? What steps did you take to establish the career you have today and who were the people who were instrumental in helping you along the way?
VN: I think getting an internship with Los Angeles Magazine in 1998 was my first foot in the door. My real big break was getting hired with InStyle magazine. I worked with them for four years and went from a nobody to interviewing major movie stars and designers. Some of my editors like Glynis Costin at InStyle, Marcy Medina at Women’s Wear Daily and several others have been instrumental in my career.
ASIANCE: You’re father is Korean and your mom is Jewish. What are the holidays like at your house? I heard something about pilgrim wear and crazy characters. Is there a singing turkey somewhere in the mix? Perhaps a little “Arirang”? (Korean folk song)
VN: Yes it is true that my parents wear pilgrim costumes at Thanksgiving and they’ve been known to wear other costumes throughout the year! They’re very funny and young at heart and pretty much everyone I know loves them. We celebrate the regular holidays like Easter and Christmas, but in a non-religious way. My parents decided to raise us without organized religion and I am completely fine with that. Because they were sort of renegades by getting together, they don’t put any pressure on me or my sister to pick a side in any way.
ASIANCE; Did you ever consider going into the news business? Not too impressed with the boxy haircuts?
VN: Yes absolutely. I think I’d have a problem with getting hair and makeup done everyday and I definitely would not be open to wearing suits. That’s just not me. I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I was a news reporter for say the Metro section of the Times, but I have to be honest – “ I like the fun things like fashion, travel, food and entertainment. While I completely respect people who do hard news, I’m not interested in sleeping with a police scanner under my pillow or covering war. I’m not going to risk my life to get a story out. I’ll leave that to the many talented journalists who do that everyday.
ASIANCE: What’s a typical work week like for you? In other words, are you sipping coffee or pounding lattes like no tomorrow?
VN: I can be in my pajamas till noon or working 60 hours a week. Since I’m a freelancer, I make my own schedule so I can choose when to work. I do usually work at home most days from about eight to six and sometimes I cover events at night or have to do lunches or dinners with my interview subjects, publicists and colleagues. Overall it’s very fast-paced and you have to be very motivated to be a freelancer. I deal with deadlines everyday so that tends to dictate how my day will go.
ASIANCE: Do you think there’s equal opportunity for Asian writers out there? What’s the biggest change you’ve seen, if any in your career as an Asian American writer?
VN: I do think there are plenty of opportunities for Asian writers, but I will say that there aren’t that many Asian editors that I’ve come across. Out of about 20 who I deal with regularly, one is Asian. There are more and more Asian bylines I’m noticing, especially in the fashion world and in hard news, but it would be great to see even more. I think it’s a profession that is not
encouraged in traditional families, but as time goes on it’s more acceptable.
ASIANCE: Just curious, what’s playing in your ipod right now? Are you a closeted fan of any group?
VN: Everything! I listen to Amy Winehouse, Jenny Lewis, Aimee Mann, Jay-Z, Franz Ferdinand and Air. I wouldn’t say I’m a closeted fan of any group because I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it, but I did go to an N’SYNC concert back in the day.
ASIANCE: Let’s get down to business. What was your prom like? I sat next to my English teacher and ate cold food. Oh, and my dress tore, fun right? Do you remember what your dress looked like? More importantly, what kind of pose did you have in your picture? The hand in hand pose? The arm lying over your date’s arm pose? Perhaps the date behind you with his arms around your waist pose?
VN: My prom was great because it was my first date with my boyfriend who I ended up dating for four years, so I was very excited. I know I wore a short red dress from Nordstrom and I had gotten my shoes dyed to match. By the end of the night my feet were stained red and I was mortified. Today, I would just laugh, except for the fact that I would never wear Dyeables now. I don’t remember the pose we did because it was like 13 years ago and I don’t keep high school photos at my apartment. They’re all at my parents house! I think it was the latter though. Our Prom was at the Sports Club of Irvine so there were weight machines like ten feet from the dance floor. We all thought that was pretty lame.
ASIANCE: What’s your definition of success? And can one person really have it all?
VN: To me, success is just being happy in what you do. It’s not about money or having the biggest house on the block. I see so many people who are defined by their cars and toys. There are few people who are truly happy. I don’t know if you can really have it all to be honest. I guess it depends on everyone’s definition of “all.” But it makes me think, can you have a career, a family, a husband, a social life and be stimulated in all areas. I’m not sure that that’s possible. I think something always has to give.
ASIANCE: If you could have one Super Power, what would it be and why?
VN: I don’t usually have any regrets, but maybe going back in time. Then I could have bought more shoes at the Stella McCartney sale last year.
ASIANCE; For anyone trying to pursue a career in print journalism, what advice do you have for them?
VN: Start early and get an internship. This isn’t a career to get into as a 30 or 40 year old, unfortunately. You have to get out there and work your way up like in anything. You don’t need to go to journalism school or major in English. That is the biggest misconception. I’ve never had one editor ask me for my
credentials. It’s all about where you’ve worked and been published.
ASIANCE: What do you have lined up for the future? Anything Asiance readers should lookout for?
VN: I’ve been saying it for years, but I’d really like to write a book. Luckily I have an agent who is wonderful. Now I just have to write the damn thing.
ASIANCE: Last question: Gucci or Prada? Since you cover fashion I had to ask.
VN: Pre-Tom Ford departing I have to go with Gucci. For now I would say Prada. I think Prada is fantastic, especially the skirts and shoes. But Gucci defined fashion for the “90s, which is when I was most impressionable. I still have cut outs of ads and sketches that Tom Ford did.
For more information on Victoria go to:www.victorianamkung.com
Kelly Eun’s love for the creative arts started at the tender age of three when she appointed herself to be the head maestro at her sister’s piano recital. Yet to be versed in Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, and the like, Kelly’s extensive knowledge of the gibberish language and profound crackerjack arm skills quickly made her a favorite among doting audiences. She later went on to produce Soul Sisters in elementary school, where young spectators were captivated by the brilliant musical doings of a group of 5th graders singing and dancing during recess. It has been rumored that Soul Sisters was the original Dreamgirls in the making. Ask anyone from Corey elementary school.
In 2005, Kelly attended Harvard University following in the footsteps of Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. Although an IV league diploma was not in her future, she did manage to leave the Harvard campus with an awesome T-shirt she purchased for $14.99. Kelly’s undergraduate degree was obtained from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she holds a degree in Asian American Studies. Ironically, she never purchased a T-shirt from the campus.
Kelly currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where she could be spotted at the local PBS station working the telethons with her 65 and over homies. Kelly is extremely delighted to be a contributing writer for ASIANCE magazine and looks forward to many great articles to come.