SEATTLE (Jan. 30, 2015) — Robert Chinn Foundation has released the names of its Class of 2015 honorees to the Asian Hall of Fame.
Members of the Class of 2015 include:
• Benson Henderson (Mixed Martial Arts Fighter, Former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion)
• Carrie Ann Inaba (Television Host, Choreographer, Producer, Judge from Dancing with the Stars)
• Jeanette Lee (World-Class Billiards Player, Winner of over 30 National and International Titles)
• Betty Nguyen (News Anchor for NBC News and MSNBC, Previously Anchored at CBS News and CNN)
The 2015 Asian Hall of Fame will take place Saturday, June 6 at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington.
Mixed Martial Arts Fighter, Former UFC and WEC Lightweight Champion
Born in Colorado Springs, raised in Federal Way, Washington, Benson Henderson is one of the biggest names in the world of mixed martial arts.
Henderson’s career started early when his Korean-American mother encouraged him and his brother to take Tae Kwon Do lessons as a way to connect with their heritage. Both sons attained black belts in Tae Kwon Do, and Henderson diversified his mastery by wrestling in both high school and college.
In 2006, Henderson became a professional mixed martial arts fighter, winning most of his early matches including a tough fight against UFC veteran Diego Saraiva. A few months later, he made his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) debut, beating opponent Anthony Njokuani early in round two. On January 10, 2010, Henderson defeated Jamie Varner for the WEC Lightweight Championship.
When the WEC merged with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Henderson continued his success with a string of wins, numerous Fight of the Night honors, the distinction in 2013 of being tied for the highest number of title defenses as a lightweight, and his first Performance of the Night bonus award in 2014. Henderson was awarded 2009 Fight of the Year for his bout with Donald Cerrone – a recognition that encompasses all of the venues of MMA.
Henderson is a proud Christian and shares his beliefs through his sport. He is married to wife Maria Magana and resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
On what it means to be honored in the 2015 Asian Hall of Fame, Henderson said, “It means the world to me to be honored for such a prestigious award. I am humbled by the fact that so many Koreans and Korean-Americans take pride in me. It makes me want to do better and be better, to continually excel.”
On why the Asian Hall of Fame is important for Asian Pacific Americans, Henderson said, “The Asian Hall of Fame is very important to Asian Pacific Americans because it is very easy to gloss over our deeds and accomplishments. A lot of other groups get recognized for their contributions to our American culture. Asian Pacific Americans need their own voice to tout the amazing things we’ve done and how we’ve added to our society.”
Carrie Ann Inaba
Television host, choreographer, producer, and judge from Dancing with the Stars
Born and raised in Honolulu, Carrie Ann Inaba is a fixture in the entertainment industry and a representative of the Japanese-American and Chinese-American communities.
Inaba had early career success as a singer in Japan in the 1980s. She made an impact in the US market as a Fly Girl on the nationally-televised “In Living Color” (1990). The Fly Girls ushered in a new era, bringing hip hop and contemporary dance to mainstream television and opening doors for Inaba including touring with Madonna and choreographing for “American Idol,” “American Juniors,” and “Dance Fever.” She parlayed her success to roles on the big screen in movies such as “Austin Powers: Goldmember,” “Austin Powers II: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” and “Monster Mash.”
In 2005, Inaba became a judge on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” One of three head judges, Inaba is a consistent force on the show through present day. She was also featured in “Dance Wars: Bruno vs. Carrie Ann” and hosted the Game Show Network’s “1 VS. 100” and TV Guide’s “Red Carpet Live.” Her credits include guest host for “Live! With Regis and Kelly” and “Live with Kelly” as well as “The View.”
Active in charitable work, in 2012 Inaba launched The Animal Project Foundation to support animal rescue organizations and assist in fostering, adoption, spay and neuter, and rescue services. She joined the Board of Directors of C.A.P.E. (Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment) in 2011 and is an original co-founder of The Dizzy Feet Foundation.
Comments on the honor from Inaba are not yet available.
World-Class Billiards Player, Winner of over 30 National and International Titles
Jeanette Lee – a Korean American who grew up in Brooklyn, NY – has long been one of the world’s top-ranking billiards players.
Known as “The Black Widow” for her ability to overwhelm and devour her opponents, Lee’s road to the top of her sport was not an easy one. At age 13 she was diagnosed with scoliosis and had a steel rod implanted in her spine. For the next 20 years, she would undergo nine more surgeries to strengthen her back.
Despite undertaking surgeries well into 2005, Lee was already earning national titles in the mid-1990s (including the WPBA National title in 1994) and became a mainstay in the international billiards scene by the early 2000s. The 2001 World Games Gold Medalist, 2003 Tournament of Champions Winner, 2004 WPBA Florida Classic Hard Rock Casino Winner, 2004 International Trick Shot Champion, 2007 Skins Billiard Champion, 2008 and 2009 Empress Cup Champion, Lee was previously ranked #1 in the world in her sport. Her achievements have garnered inductions to the BCA Hall of Fame and WPBA Hall of Fame and numerous recognitions – including Player of the Year – by Billiards Digest and Pool & Billiards Magazine.
Lee continues to dominate in her sport, balanced with an active family life raising six children with her husband George. Lee is a national spokesperson for The Scoliosis Association, Inc., and her natural birth of her daughter Savannah in 2010 was an inspiration to many who live with scoliosis.
On what it means to be honored in the 2015 Asian Hall of Fame, Lee said, “It is an honor to be selected into the 2015 Asian Hall of Fame, and I am very humbled to be recognized and inducted with a prestigious group of individuals. I feel privileged to follow in the footsteps of those who have paved the way for Asians and Asian Americans like myself. With this award I hope that I can be someone that future generations will be inspired by.”
On why the Asian Hall of Fame is important for Asian Pacific Americans, Lee said, “I believe the Asian Hall of Fame is important because it allows our community to reflect on how far Asians have come in society. Throughout my career I felt it very important not to lose sight of my cultural identity. The Asian Hall of Fame serves as a reminder for all Asian nationalities that we have such great history and even brighter futures.”
News Anchor for NBC News and MSNBC, Previously Anchored at CBS News and CNN)
Born in Saigon, Betty Nguyen came to the United States in 1975 when she was not even one year old. Nguyen and her family lived in refugee camps until moving to Fort Worth, Texas.
Nguyen attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism. She began her career at KWTX-TV as a morning anchor and reporter, served as a freelance correspondent for E! Entertainment Television, and anchored at KTVT-TV in Dallas.
Nguyen spent six years at CNN anchoring the weekend edition of CNN Newsroom. In March 2010, she joined CBS News as anchor at CBS Morning News and correspondent for CBS This Morning. She has covered major stories ranging from Hurricane Katrina, the 2012 Presidential election, the Royal wedding, the Arab spring, and the 2010 Gulf oil spill. She has interviewed some of the most important newsmakers and celebrities of our time, from the Dalai Lama to President George W. Bush, William Shatner to Dolly Parton. Nguyen currently anchors for Early Today on NBC and First Look on MSNBC.
Nguyen has earned the Outstanding Young Texas Ex Award (2008), recognition from the Smithsonian as the first Vietnamese-American to anchor a national television news program in the US (2007), a regional Emmy Award (2003), and an Associated Press Award (1998). She gives back to the community through the Betty Nguyen Endowed Scholarship for students studying broadcast journalism in addition to her work as co-founder of Help the Hungry.
On what it means to be honored in the 2015 Asian Hall of Fame, Nguyen said, “I am deeply honored to be inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame. I’ve never approached my job as a journalist with the intent on winning awards, but it is truly a wonderful feeling to be recognized by your community.”
On why the Asian Hall of Fame is important for Asian Pacific Americans, Nguyen said “The Asian Hall of Fame is an important reminder of how far we’ve come as Asian Americans. We may not all be from the same country, or share the same culture, but we embody the true meaning of the American Dream. By celebrating our achievements, it empowers us to continue to climb, knowing that anything is possible in this country we call home.”