Contributor Picks: Inspiring Women


In honor of Women's HISTORY Month, Hapa Mag wanted to celebrate the women who made a difference in our lives and who inspire us to do what we do! 

Jennifer Kumiyama  

By Alex Chester  


There are a lot of Inspiring Women out there. They hold public office, they reign as Queens of a country, they win many acting awards. However, I realized as awesome as these badass chicks are/were, the women that really inspire me are my best girlfriends.

Some of these women have overcome debilitating sickness or a physicality that deems them to be a disabled person. They run their own business; they’ve been in Film/TV/Theatre. They’ve created opportunities and communities for those that surround them. They keep going when the odds are against them. One such woman is one of my oldest and dearest friends, Jennifer Kumiyama. (Better known to her close friends and family as Kumi.)

Kumi was born with Arthrogryposis and uses a wheelchair daily. In 2010, Jennifer was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California and Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, 1st Runner Up. In 2011, Kumi founded the Ms. Wheelchair California Foundation. She also played Carmen in the Sundance Film Festival hit and Academy Award Nominated film The Sessions.  All of this is quite literally the tip of the iceberg. She is currently writing a brand new musical and working for a Congresswoman. She blows my mind. Never mind the fact she’s in a wheelchair, she is constantly on the go and working to make the world a better place. I am in awe of her.


Jeanine Tesori

by Matt Blank

There’s nothing I love so well as a well-written Broadway score. There is such lack of originality, such lack of heart, in most of what hits the mainstream. One composer who has managed to find commercial success while consistently turning out stunning music is the great Jeanine Tesori.  She is probably best-known for Shrek, Fun Home and Thoroughly Modern Millie, all of which are completely delightful.  But her early musical Violet is the stuff dreams are made of: melodic, complex, heartfelt and soulful. And Caroline, or Change is nothing short of a masterpiece on a grand, operatic scale.  

My Mom

by Rebecca Lee Lerman


My Grandma has been deteriorating for years now. My Mom is there by her side, taking care of her every step of the way. My Mom sleeps in two hour increments, because she has to help my grandma to the bathroom every two hours during the night. She visited me on board the ship for a week, and she said it was the nicest thing to get away for awhile to sleep through the night. I'm glad she was able to rest, if just for a little bit. She's also taking care of my cats for me while I am on the ship. She's a superwoman. She takes care of everyone. She is inspiring.


By Melissa Slaughter


Saying that Cher is my Inspiring Woman might make some of you scoff. “Cher? "The Turn Back Time/Believe" lady? Really?” To that I give a resounding YES. When I was in 5th grade, VH1 Divas were having a heyday. There was so much Celine, LeeAnn, Shania, and Gloria Estefan playing in my house. So is it any surprise that a little dark-haired, yellow-skinned Hapa gravitated to a black-haired, olive-skinned beauty? Of course not! Cher looked the most like me, but a taller, slimmer, devil-may-care version of me. (She’s half-Armenian, making Armenians stylish light-years before the Kardashians.) She has style, swagger and is an OG diva. Her confidence runneth over. Some get their strength from Beyonce, others from T. Swift. I choose Cher.

She’s one “T” away from an EGOT. All she needs is a Tony for her upcoming Broadway show and when she gets that EGOT I will be in tears worshipping at the altar of my guiding light Cher. She won an Oscar for Moonstruck, which I consider to be a perfect movie. I’ll have conversations about Cher were I get so excited, all I can say is “Cher!” Repeatedly. I’ve seen her live in concert; it was church. She’s a gay icon who backs it up and stands by her son Chaz. Cher. Cher. Cher. Cher. A million times Cher.


By Sam Tanabe


I have so many incredibly inspiring women in my life. My mom and my grandma immediately come to mind, but for this Women’s Month "Contributor Pick," I’ve chosen my best friend in the world, Courtney. There is nothing like the special bond between you and a forever friend. She has supported me through thick and thin and been strong for both of us when I couldn't be. Courtney gives me the most solid advice and is wiser than she even knows. I can’t begin to imagine how she’s felt this year as she battles cancer and goes through countless chemo treatments. I know she has the strength to beat it. I see her inspiring so many other young women around her. I am so proud of her and in awe of the tenacity in someone I call my best friend.

Tag @TheHapaMag with your Inspiring Women/Female-Presenting/Trans/NB people who make a difference to you! Keep it intersectional, and keep it positive! Happy's Women's Month!  #MyWonderWoman