7 Celebrities That Went to AANAPISIs

By Stephanie Mayo

Today’s Monday Morning MSI Line Up features 7 celebrities who attended an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI). Also be sure to check out previous MSI Line Ups that feature 8 Celebrities that Went to HSIs or 10 Famous HBCU Alumni!

1) Jeannie Mai — De Anza Community College (CA)


Born in San Jose, California to her Vietnamese father and Chinese mother, Jeannie Mai studied Communications at De Anza Community College close to home. Mai is known for her fashion and makeup expertise, as well as her acting and TV personality career. Her career began as a MAC makeup artist, which gave her opportunities to be exposed to other famous celebrities. She then began working as a celebrity hair stylist for MTV’s TRL, KCL-Los Angeles and Good Morning Sacramento. Her career skyrocketed in 2004 after co-hosting  the Emmy-nominated Asian American Magazine-Style show, Stir TV. She is now most famous for her fashion advice on NBC’s Today Show, Extra TV, and E!’s the Daily 10, and for being the host of How do I look? and Character Fantasy. Currently, she hosts The Real with Tamar Braxton, Adrienne Bailon, Loni Love, and Tamera Mowry.

2) Dustin Nguyen — Orange Coast College (CA)


Born in Vietnam but evacuating with his family to the US during the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Dustin Nguyen was determined to change the fate of his family. He is now renowned for his acting roles in top movies and directing the movies he has produced. Nguyen attended Orange Coast College and studied Communications. His acting and producing career started when he landed the roles of a young Cambodian freedom fighter in Magnum P.I.  and “Suki” in General Hospital. What made him famous to the nation, however, was when he became a part of the cast of 21 Jump Street as Detective Harry Ioki. The first movie he ever produced was in 2010, Fool for Love. He is mostly famous for his roles in 21 Jump Street, V.I.P, Little Fish, The Doom Generation, and The Rebel.

3) Nayan Padrai — Queensborough Community College (NY)


Born in Mumbai, India but raised in Forest Hills, New York, Nayan Padrai moved to NYC to study drama at Queensborough Community College before transferring to the School of Visual Arts to study screenwriting and acting there. Padrai is famous as an award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director. His successful career began with his position as an Associate Producer for a tv series, Mausam, Seasons. Since then, he was won several awards for his scripts and movies, such as When Harry Tries to Marry in 2009. He is now working on Billion Dollar Raja, which he recently announced will be completed soon.

4) Amit Tandon — Stony Brooke University (NY)


An musician and actor, Amit Tandon was born in New York, New York famous for his singing and acting career in India. After obtaining his BA from Stony Brooke University, he moved to India to audition for Indian Idol. Although he did not make it far in Indian Idol, the show gave Amit his breakthrough to a successful television and film career. His first role was in Dill Mill Gayye as Dr Abhimanyu Modi. He was then offered the opportunity to host season 4 of a reality show called Dadagiri. Since then, he has been on multiple shows, such as Jeeta Wohi Superstar and Zara Nachke Dikha, and has even performed in films, such as Kaisa Yeh Pyaar Hai. The most current film he performed in, Yeh Hai Mohabbatein,  just released.

5) Phillip Lim — California State University, Long Beach


Born in Thailand of Chinese descent, Phillip Lim and his family moved to Orange County, CA when he was a baby. Phillip Lim is famous for his fashion designs incorporating both his American and Asian cultures. He was exposed to his mother’s work as a seamstress, which assisted him in navigating the fashion world. He entered Long Beach with a desire to go into business to make his parents happy, but his experience working with the L.A. clothing line called “Development” made him realize he was actually interested in fashion. He changed his major to Home Economics to graduate. He later created his own label, 3.1 Phillip Lim. Now he has various clothing lines. He has five women’s lines, one men’s line, one children’s line, one swim line, one lingerie line and one eco-friendly line.

6) Benjamin Alves—University of Guam


Born in Guam of Philippine descent, Benjamin Alves (also known as Vince Saldaña) attended the AANAPISI located where he was born. Alves is famous for his acting career abroad in the Philippines. After graduating from high school, he moved to the Philippines to jumpstart his acting and modeling career, where he experienced his initial success by becoming a finalist in a model competition on ABS-CBN’s Close-Up to Famewhere. From then on, he was recruited to appear in movies, such as  Ang Cute Ng Ina Mo and Apat Dapa, Dapat Apat and in soap operas, such as Ysabella and Impostora. A few years later (2009), he returned to Guam and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Guam majoring in English Literature. Now in the Philippines, he signed a contract with another Philippines TV station, GMA Network, for three movies and three soap operas. He is well known for Islands, If Only, and The Trial.

7) Janina Gavankar —University of Illinois in Chicago

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 13: Actress Janina Gavankar attends the "Game Of Thrones" HBO celebration party inside the WIRED Cafe at Palm Terrace At The Omni Hotel during Comic-Con International 2012 on July 13, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for WIRED)

Both of Dutch and Indian descent, Janina Gavankar was born and raised in Joliet, IL. Janina Gavankar is well known for her acting and music career. She studied Music, Theater and Psychology at University of Illinois in Chicago. What began her career was her starring role in a short clip, Why is God… After her short clip, Janina has had various roles in movies, television shows, screenwriting and producing. Gavankar is most famous for her roles in The Mysteries of Laura, The League, Far Cry 4, True Blood and Vampire Diaries. She is currently focusing on her roles in Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday and The White Orchard, which are both coming out next year.

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