The 2022 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia: Entertainment & Sports list is star-studded, and it’s easy to see why after an eventful year in Asia-Pacific.
From the delayed Tokyo Olympics 2020 finally taking place a year later than they were initially planned, to the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in Beijing–The region was a sports hub despite the ongoing pandemic. 15 of the Olympians who competed at either events made the list this year, including our youngest honoree, 14-year old Japanese skateboarding gold-medalist Momiji Nishiya.
But that’s not all. Korean drama has take off globally in 2021, thanks to Netflix’s most-watched series of all time, Squid Game, starring 27-year-old model-turned actress Hoyeon.
In 2020, Hoyeon (whose real name is Jung Hoyeon) was struggling to land modeling gigs, so she decided to try her hand at acting after watching Netflix shows in between jobs. Less than two years later, she made her acting debut in Netflix’s original series: Squid Game.
Hoyeon played Kang Sae-byeok, a brooding North Korean defector, in the dystopian South Korean drama. Her heart-wrenching performance earned her the award for best actress in a drama series at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, beating out Hollywood A-listers including Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.
Hoyeon also gained millions of fans—her Instagram account has almost 24 million followers—and became a brand ambassador for Louis Vuitton last year. The model-turned-actress–who was runner-up at the popular reality television show Korea’s Next Top Model in 2013– is not slowing down. She is expected to play the lead role in the upcoming Apple series Disclaimer, written and directed by Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón, who previously directed blockbusters like Gravity and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She is also set to star in the drama film The Governesses alongside Lily-Rose Depp.
Musicians on the Rise
This year’s list also includes some of Asia-Pacific’s best musical talents, who are gaining popularity around the world.
In Australia, singer-songwriter Clinton Kane‘s soulful voice and sweet lyrics have made him a TikTok sensation with 1.8 million followers. Less than a year into recording covers and releasing self-written songs on YouTube, he was picked up by Columbia Records in 2019 and has an album in the works. Born in Perth to a Filipino mother and a Norwegian father, Kane is a self-taught singer and plays piano, guitar and drums.
U.S.-based Indonesian rapper Warren Hue (real name Warren Hui) is about to declare himself “Boy of the Year,” the title of his upcoming album, after signing with multinational label 88rising and rapping on four songs on Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings soundtracks. Warren initially produced tracks on Apple’s GarageBand software in his bedroom under gaming username warrenisyellow. His single “omomo punk” won NME’s Best Song by an Asian Artist award this year.
Thai singer Peeralada Sukawat, performing as Pyra, has transitioned from an electro-R&B songwriter channeling Buddhist and Taoist themes to “dystopian pop,” with music videos alluding to Thailand’s 1976 student massacre and ongoing youth protests in Bangkok. Her effortless vocals and desire to achieve social change garnered the attention of Warner Music Thailand and NME, which named her among 100 emerging artists to watch in 2021. Pyra became the first Thai performer at the Burning Man Festival.
In Singapore, Yung Raja‘s sleek, multilingual rap gained a global audience after U.S. label Alamo Records signed him last year. The first-generation Singaporean son of Indian parents, he caught the attention of the Tamil diaspora with his rapid-fire lyrics and references to Tamil poetry and food, and Hindu religion. Yung Raja (real name Rajid Ahamed) has expressed gratitude for being able to take care of his parents as an artist while adding to Singapore’s rap scene.
Performing as Peach PRC, Shaylee Curnow infuses her music with feelings of vulnerability and difficult emotions, including writing on synesthesia and mental health. The Australian started out making comedic and self-care advice videos on TikTok before issuing her first single, “Blondes,” which amassed over 4 million Spotify streams. Her highest-charting single, “Josh,” debuted at #38 on the ARIA Singles chart, and her latest, “God Is A Freak,” where she came out as lesbian, speaks to those who left anti-LGBTQIA conservative Christian communities.
Additional reporting by John Kang.