The Hot List: 135 people to watch

The Hot List: 135 people to watch

From the drummer boys to wine masters to bank execs, making our Hot List means being unique, fascinating and, most important of all, a contributor to our vibrant, emerging world

Joey PangJoey Pang

And here they are, in no particular order:

1. Joey Pang: Tattoo artist (Hong Kong)

By standardizing the practice, Pang hopes to banish the Chinese stigma against tattooing as something only for society’s underbelly. "Tattooing isn't just about the art, there are other tangible consequences to the craft, such as issues with hygiene," says Pang. "By standardizing the practice we can bring tattooing in from the periphery of society.” Pang's Tattoo Temple is now offering courses in tattooing as a prelude to her plans for a tattoo school in the UK, which she hopes to open within a year. Find out who else made the HONG KONG Hot List.

2. Nima Martin Sherpa: Design entrepreneur (Nepal)

From a family of renowned Everest climbers, Sherpa is scaling heights as a fashion and housewares designer. With his work showcased in outlets such as Bloomingdale's and Urban Outfitters, Sherpa is a progressive player in fashion and design. His Casablanca Lounge is also Kathmandu's poshest nightclub. Check out the Design Collective to see his Hong Kong-based clothing and housewares lines.

3. Mao Asada: Ice skater (Japan)

Japan generally loves its ice skaters, but the 19-year-old Asada, who's currently ranked third in the world, has become even dearer to the nation's heart thanks to her 'little sister' good looks and cheery attitude. These qualities combine to make her a perfect spokeswoman for companies such as Olympus and Nestlé. There's really nothing to be snarky about here. When Asada wins, we all win. Find out who else made the TOKYO Hot List.

4. Zafka Zhang: Cultural investigator (China)

Zafka ZhangZafka Zhang

Whether exploring 3-D virtual worlds online or charting youth subcultures at a rock festival in rural Hebei, Zafka is a hyperactive symbol of his plugged-in generation. The 30-year-old has been head of research at HiPiHi (a virtual world similar to SecondLife), advisor to Creative Commons and co-founder of China Youthology, a group that researches China’s post-1980s generation and its increasingly digital lifestyle. Zafka also makes noise of his own, creating experimental music with guitar, keyboard, field recordings and -- what else? -- an iPhone.

5. Hubert Wee: Scrabble champ (Singapore)

For a young Scrabble master, 'win' is an awful short word to have popping up so often. This 21-year-old started playing the game just six years ago with family and friends. He's since won numerous competitions. Wee trains by pile-driving words from the dictionary into his gray matter. Next up: representing Singapore at the 2009 World Scrabble Championships in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, Nov. 26-29. Find out who else made the SINGAPORE Hot List.

6. Honey Ahmad: Foodie (Malaysia)

Malaysia might be filled with food fanatics, but the co-founder of food website is even more 'makan' ('eat') obsessed than most. With Adly Rizal, her lively site champions Malaysian food with blogs, Twitter posts, TV episodes, recipes and reviews of restaurants around the country, from hawker stalls to haute cuisine. With more than 1.5 million hits a month, the highly interactive site is on its way to achieving its mission -- getting Malaysian food worldwide recognition.

7. Tao Okamoto: Model (Japan)

Tao OkamotoTao Okamoto

Okamoto’s 'rice bowl' may be the most valuable haircut in the world. After chopping off her locks in 2008, the androgynous model has walked on nearly every big brand runway. Okamoto landed the Ralph Lauren advertising campaign this year -- the first time ever for an Asian model. Phillip Lim did a fashion show with all models done up with her hairstyle, and this November’s "Vogue Nippon" is dedicated to Okamoto's destiny as next supermodel. Find out who else made the TOKYO Hot List.

8. Tata Young: Singer (Thailand)

The gorgeous Tata Young may forever be known as the voice behind 2004’s catchy "Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy Me,” but this half-American, half-Thai singer has been captivated the nation since she was a young, boyish-looking teenager. She just launched her latest album, “Ready for Love,” and remains one of the few Thai singers to gain recognition outside the country. The nation is glued to her every move, particularly her love life, a dependable treasure of drama. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

9. Rujuta Diwekar: Diet diva (India)

Ever since devotee/actress Kareena Kapoor revealed her sleek new figure, women have been devouring nutritionist Diwekar’s diet book, “Don't Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight.” With degrees in sports science and nutrition, and industrial chemistry, the trained yoga teacher and ‘size zero’ guru boasts a heavyweight client list. Her down to earth philosophy, as explained to “The Hindu's” Shonali Muthalaly: “Crash dieting is like a fling with a bad boy … even when you’re in it you know it’s not going to work long term.” Find out who else made the MUMBAI Hot List.

10. Illac Angelo Diaz: Activist (Philippines)


Illac Angelo Diaz Illac Angelo Diaz


Model, Harvard and MIT grad, and social entrepreneur, this 2008 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader has launched the largest mass media campaign on climate change the Philippines has seen. Having already founded several organizations benefiting the poor, the 37-year-old brought together 50 of the top celebrities in the Philippines to join his current fight. A response to the devastation of Typhoon Ketsana, his Designer Village Challenge re-launches November 20.

11. Chetan Bhagat: Writer (India)

Chetan Bhagat has cracked the formula for low-priced, short, racy Indian novels written in simple English. Three of his four books have been made into feature films. All have made the bestseller list. “The New York Times” described the 35-year-old as “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history.” Bhagat’s next move is “to do a spiritual retreat and look inwards to see what I want to do next -- most likely a pure screenplay." Find out who else made the MUMBAI Hot List.

12. Ai Weiwei: Artist, provocateur (China)

Artist, curator, and architect Ai Weiwei defines Beijing's art scene and even its urban landscape -- he consulted on the design of the Olympic National Stadium, a k a, the Bird’s Nest. Now the renaissance man is taking on a new role: activist. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, he began collecting the names of student casualties to force a dialogue on shoddy school construction and corruption. At a recent exhibition, he created an installation of 9,000 children's backpacks as a memorial to Sichuan's victims.

13. Thongchai Jaidee: Golfer (Thailand)

Thongchai JaideeThongchai Jaidee

It's not just that pro golfer Thongchai holds the record for most career victories on the Asian Tour (12). It's his path to golf greatness that impresses. Thongchai didn't even play golf until he was 16 and didn't turn professional until he was almost 30. He's the first Thai to win a tournament on the European Tour (2004’s Carlsberg Malaysian Open). We could go on with his achievements, but we'll end with the coolest tidbit of all: before becoming a pro golfer he was a paratrooper in the Thai army. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

14. Pui Pornphrapa: Landscaper (Thailand)

This Harvard-trained landscape architect heads P Landscape, the Bangkok firm behind some of the outdoor spaces in the region’s most incredible hotel projects. She just finished work on landscapes for Ritz-Carlton’s new Krabi resort, is working on W Hotel’s current development in Bangkok and still finds time to work with all the major regional property brands knocking down her door. What makes Pui atractive is her low-key style and humble attitude. It’s as though she doesn’t realize how impressive she is. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

15. Doan Nguyen Duc: Tycoon (Vietnam)

Real estate magnate. Forest products developer. Rubber plantation owner. Resort owner. First owner of a private plane in communist Vietnam. As chairman of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai conglomerate -- which anticipates US$150 million in profits this year -- this carpenter-turned-entrepreneur is Vietnam’s most high-profile businessman. How big is big? After dumping US$260 million into investments in Laos, Duc announced last month that the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Joint-Stock Co., Vietnam’s largest listed property holder, plans to sell 1.45 trillion dong (US$81 million) worth of convertible bonds. Hobbies? Yep, the charismatic Duc has those, too -- he’s reportedly still in negotiations to purchase a 20-percent share of British football club Arsenal.

16. Fauna: Blogger (China)

By never granting interviews, Shanghai-bred “Fauna” has become the most mysterious blogger in Asia -- but her dedicated ChinaSMACK readers don’t mind. From the outrageous sex lives of the Chinese to images of disasters and street kids, her blog spares no gritty detail in revealing to her English-reading audience hot topics on the Chinese net. To critics who complain that Fauna is airing China’s dirty laundry, she says: “Translating popular Chinese Internet topics is not an original or unique idea. ChinaSMACK is just one way to show that Chinese netizens are not so different from non-Chinese netizens.” Find out who else made the SHANGHAI Hot List.

17. Raefer Wallis: Architect (China)

Raefer WallisRaefer Wallis


An award-wining architect, Wallis is co-founder of A00 Architecture, a company that focuses on using sustainable and recyclable materials. After completing URBN Hotel 2008 -- Asia's first carbon neutral hotel -- the firm's database of green materials became a source of local and international fascination, and led to the formation of GIGA, a foundation evaluating green building materials in China. Today the firm’s portfolio includes more than 60 construction projects in China. “Our projects are a drop in the ocean of construction that is Shanghai,” Wallis says. “The main benefit comes from building awareness through the projects.” Find out who else made the SHANGHAI Hot List.

18. Dian Soedajo: Businesswoman (Indonesia)

Soedajo was named a "Globe Asia" 100 most powerful woman and it's easy to see why. Her Mugi Rekso Abadi Group publishes 15 magazines, including Indonesian editions of "Cosmopolitan" and "Bazaar." She also holds interests in radio stations, Ferrari, Harley Davidson and Häagen-Dazs.

19. Zhang Tao: Restaurant blogger (China)

The Shanghai-raised, Wharton-educated Zhang is the most important man in the restaurant biz that most Chinese have never heard of. Launched in 2003, his has the power to make or break restaurants. With more than 8 million restaurant reviews and 12 million unique visits per month, the site that covers 160 cities and more than 37,000 restaurants in Shanghai and Dianping has accrued massive influence. “We are expanding to more cities in the next year,” says Zhang. “We will add more categories outside dining, such as weddings, beauty, travel and more.” Most impressive? “We will double our revenue next year,” he says. Find out who else made the SHANGHAI Hot List.

20. Jeannie Cho Lee: Wine expert (Hong Kong)

Jeannie Cho LeeJeannie Cho Lee

Glamorous and brainy, Jeannie Cho Lee became the first Asian Master of Wine in 2008 with a winning dissertation on the future of Hong Kong as an international hub of fine wines. Korean by ethnicity, Lee has called Hong Kong home for more than a decade while becoming the most influential force in the development of Asian wine culture. Her "Asian Palate" is the bible on Asian food and wine pairings -- chicken feet and pinot noir, anyone? -- and was launched at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair in November. Find out who else made the HONG KONG Hot List.

21. Yao Ming: Businessman (China)

His foot injury may be keeping him out of NBA action this season, but in purchasing the CBA’s Shanghai Sharks last summer, the 29-year-old global icon Yao Ming stepped back into Chinese basketball in a big way. Sure, the cellar-dwelling Sharks may have finished last season with a dismal 6-44 record, but with Yao’s pledge to “help Shanghai return to glory,” we suddenly can’t wait for the late November tip-off of the 2009-10 season. Find out who else made the SHANGHAI Hot List.

22. Phramaha Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi: Monk (Thailand)

Thais have been familiar with this monk’s teachings for awhile, but it was his recent TV appearances that got people thinking about the logic behind Buddhism -- particularly when he told audiences with a straight face that people can fly. His approach to Buddhist teachings makes them easy to understand, as shown in “Dharma with Wings." Works including "Anger Management" and "Looking Death in the Eye” have been translated into more than five languages. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

23. Tuy Sobil: Breakdancer (Cambodia)

Tuy SobilTuy Sobil

After serving two years in Taft Prison in California and another three in an immigration detention facility, Sobil was deported to Cambodia in 2004. Now 31, he didn't let the situation ruin his life. A champion breakdancer in the United States, Sobil has put his talents to use in Cambodia with Tiny Toones, a non-profit he started as a breakdancing group, then quickly expanded into an organization dedicated to computer literacy, art, HIV/AIDS prevention and providing lessons in English and Khmer. He even performed for U.S. President Bill Clinton in Hong Kong.

24. Pete Teo: Singer (Malaysia)

National unity may be a hot issue in Malaysia, but sexy? Not so much. Until 2008, when singer/actor Teo released his simple, funny and more than a little moving anti-racism music video project Malaysian Artistes For Unity. So far, more than 10 million Malaysians have watched the video, which includes cameos by 52 celebs. This year, the 37-year-old turned to film and produced the critically acclaimed 15Malaysia -- 15 short films by 15 local filmmakers on subjects ranging from sex to social apathy.

25. Min Lee: Violinist (Singapore)

Min LeeMin Lee

Dubbed Singapore’s "poster girl of classical music," Lee is one of the most talented violinists to ever grace the global stage. Since picking up the violin at age two, hers has been an upward journey -- from enrolling at Yale University at 14 to performing with prestigious acts such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Singapore Symphony Orchestra and ... well, you get the idea. She's also got heart: involved in many charities, she's raised S$5 million for various organizations worldwide. Find out who else made the SINGAPORE Hot List.

26. Freddie Yang: Game guru (China)

Although he studied art and piano, Yang always felt a different career awaited him. “I always thought my destiny was making Chinese online games,” he says. “As I got older I began to enjoy art, literature and writing, and I realized games could combine all my hobbies. Online games are kind of art in itself.” Today this 'art' is a multi-billion yuan industry and Yang’s online portal, interactive community Gtown and music game Super Dancer Online have 30 million active users. The Chinese online games industry is making headlines around the world -- Yang is a big reason. Find out who else made the SHANGHAI Hot List.

27. Christian Rijanto: Restaurateur (Indonesia)

As co-founder of Ismaya Group, Rijanto manages some of Indonesia’s hottest restaurants and lounges, including Dragonfly, Blowfish and Social House at fashionable designer store Harvey Nichols. Pasta de Waraku and Pizza e Birra round off a portfolio that aims to bring innovate culinary combinations to Jakarta. He also manages a catering company that sponsors events such as Jakarta’s Culinary Festival.

28. Ethan Ong: Drummer (Singapore)

Ethan OngEthan Ong

Ten-year-old drumming prodigy Ethan Ong has had a knack for percussion since pounding on his mother’s shoulders as a two-year-old at church. The boy wonder has gone on to impress as the youngest performer in China Drumfest 2009 and by beating 51 hopefuls to compete in the 4th National Youth Percussion Instrument Competition in Shanghai. Find out who else made the SINGAPORE Hot List.

29. Madhu Kannan: Stock exchange CEO (India)

As the new 37-year-old CEO of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), Kannan is rising to the formidable challenge of boosting the performance of Asia’s oldest exchange in the face of competition from the National Stock Exchange (NSE). He told CNN correspondent Mallika Kapur about the first changes he wants to make: “Start meetings on time and change the culture so no one’s late for meetings.” Find out who else made the MUMBAI Hot List.

30. Jessica Mayberry: Non-profit entrepreneur (India)

Mayberry is an Oxford-educated American entrepreneur whose non-profit Video Volunteers teaches low-income Indians how to shoot their own news stories and air them for fellow villagers and public officials. Giving the poor a voice, Mayberry is empowering thousands of citizen journalists throughout India, and now in Brazil, as well.

31. Kim Jung-man: Photographer (South Korea)

Kim Jung-manKim Jung-man

Korea’s most influential and sought-after celeb photographer is also a committed humanitarian, taking on projects such as setting up soccer fields for underprivileged communities in Africa. Whether in the studio or on the road, Jung-man remains one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet.

32. Yukio and Miyuki Hatoyama: Political couple (Japan)

As part of the transfer of power from the LDP to the DPJ, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and wife Miyuki have tried to appear more populist than previous politicians. Television programs show Miyuki cooking Yukio breakfast at home, and Yukio doing his part to wash the dishes. Both walked the runway in a charity fashion show for disabled children. But maybe they aren't so 'down-to-earth' after all: Yukio has a reputation for being an aloof 'alien,' while Miyuki got international press for claiming that she had 'been to Venus,' a brilliant moment for Japanese pop culture. Find out who else made the TOKYO Hot List.

33. Bae Young-jin: Fashion designer (South Korea)

Since the 1995 inception of her Seoul shop "Coser," Korea’s leading designer of traditional Korean fashion has received enormous praise, including wide acclaim for her contributions to the 1999 Paris Collection and 2002 Femme Exhibition in New York City. In 2006, she provided designs for the hugely successful MBC television drama "Royal Palace." The show went on to become one of the country’s most successful hits, cementing her reputation.

34. Joe Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Movie director (Thailand)

Joe Apichatpong WeerasethakulJoe Apichatpong Weerasethakul

One of few Thais to break into international cinema, Joe is also the first Thai director to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival (for 2004's “Tropical Malady"). His 2007 "Syndromes and a Century" brought wide awareness of Thai film censorship when the movie was banned due to sensitive scenes involving a doctor drinking and kissing in a hospital and a guitar-playing monk. He sat as a jury member at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival and was recently short-listed for the Guggenheim’s 2010 Hugo Boss Prize. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

35. Noriko Sakai: Embattled singer (Japan)

We know we're supposed to chastise Sakai for her recent drug arrest, but we can't think of a celebrity who has had a greater impact on 2009. In spite of her record label pulling all previous releases off the shelves, she still had the star power to hit number one on iTunes in Japan in August. The one-time chaste idol fell on some hard times, what with her pharmaceutical problems and druggie husband and all, but perhaps Sakai's fall has been a visceral metaphor for our own battered recessionary lives. Sakai may do some jail time or she may quietly disappear to study nursing. Either way, we care. Find out who else made the TOKYO Hot List.

36. Winfred Hutabarat: Bookstore owner (Indonesia)

Yale grad and founder of trendy Jakarta bookstore Aksara, Winfred Hutabarat is also partners in a record label promoting young Indonesian musicians. Not satisfied with books and music, she's also involved with Casa and Canteen cafes, and Loweys restaurant and bar, one of the trendiest places to be seen on a Friday in the capital.

37. Eun Kyung Yang: Fashion designer (South Korea)

Eun Kyung YangEun Kyung Yang

As head of Sport Style Marketing for Adidas Korea, Yang took the apparel line to new heights when she launched the ‘Originals’ brand, a stylish and street-savvy alternative to the traditional athletic concept. Teaming with a long list of celebrities, her personal approach to business breaks commercial barriers, resulting in unprecedented sales, the opening of several new Seoul locations and a loyal clientele.

38. Michael Geoghegan: Bank CEO (Hong Kong)

Michael Geoghegan, CEO of HSBC, moves to Hong Kong in February. The relocation marks the first time since 1992 that bank leadership will operate from one of HSBC’s two Chinese namesakes. Official headquarters of Britain’s last great colonial bank will remain in London. The 56-year-old is a hero in an era of irresponsible banking. He navigated the recent financial meltdown by opposing government bailouts, and under his leadership HSBC has become the world’s largest bank. Aggressive. Serious. Pragmatic. Foreign. This man is an ideal role model in Asia’s 'world city.' Find out who else made the HONG KONG Hot List.

39. Petchara Chaowarat: Comeback actress (Thailand)

After a film career going back five decades, she's suddenly Thailand’s It 'girl.' The country’s most famous actress in the 1960s and '70s, Petchara has made 300 films. But all that time under the spotlight eventually led to total blindness and she disappeared from the public eye, becoming a virtual recluse. The 64-year-old jolted the nation this year by coming out of seclusion to do a makeup commercial, with partial proceeds going to a development center for the blind, followed by a stunning photo spread in "Lips" magazine. Find out who else made the BANGKOK Hot List.

No, we didn't lie about 135 "hot" people. You can find the remaining 96 on our Hot Lists for Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok and Mumbai. And, yes, it was really tough narrowing a few billion people down to 135, and, yes, we might have missed two or three folks. Who'd we leave out? Let us know below.

The authors: Samantha Culp, Jenara Nerenberg, Sarah Schonhardt, Gregory Curley, Loretta Perera, Hatta Aziz, Kitty Chirapongse, Top Koaysomboon, Than Rassadanukul, Udita Jhunjhunwala, Helena Iveson, Misha Janette, Abe Deyo, Sophie Lloyd, Crystyl Mo, Kellie Schmitt, Dan Shapiro and Michele Travierso contributed to this post along with CNNGo city editors W. David Marx, Larry Loh, Jessica Beaton and Karla Cripps and associate editor Chris Anderson.