Nightclub impresario named to White House commission for Asian Americans

By Elton Lugay

Being named a commissioner at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) was a total surprise for radio/TV personality Billy Dec. First, he did not know such a government agency exists, and second, for one who is known throughout Chicago as a “nightlife impresario,” he did not expect to even be considered.

“I was introduced 12 years ago to a Filipino friend that was on the commission,” Billy recalled to The FilAm in an interview. “I found it to be really interesting that the most iconic place in government had a commission that actually gave Asians a voice.”

Billy, a Chicago native, joins 15 other Asian American leaders of various industries, professions, and advocacies selected for the WHIAAPI body. They will advise President Obama on innovative ways to engage Asian Americans to access federal programs on health, education, small businesses, etc., and help improve their quality of life.

“I was not used to that from where I grew up,” Billy, CEO and founder of Rockit Ranch Productions hospitality and entertainment company, quickly added. Rockit Ranch owns a chain of bars, restaurants as well as nightclubs, where girls dance on tables.

Where he grew up is Obama’s hometown of Chicago, specifically Lincoln Park before it became the upscale neighborhood it is today. Reports say his Filipino mother was an airline attendant and his father, now deceased, was a real estate developer with Eastern European ethnicity. Even while in college, he was drawn to the red-carpet spotlight where he met celebrities that would later become his friends.

He has visited Tacloban recently “to do some volunteer work and to see my aunts and uncles in the Visayas.”

His friendship with Obama was not through their common hometown roots. He was fascinated, he said, by this African American politician who spoke brazenly about being biracial. That’s one thing he shared with Obama.

After Obama became President, Billy swore to “support his vision.”

Billy hosts a TV and a radio show which became his platform for “integrating small bits of Asian culture.”

Being an attorney and a businessman, he said he would like to contribute to the development of education and the economy. “Economic support is important to me, education and just outreach in general,” he said.

As an Emmy Award-winning personality, Billy is a regular entertainment contributor to ABC TV’s “Windy City Live” television program. He has served as director of Cultural Relations in the 2016 Chicago Olympic Committee. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a law degree from the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.

With Billy in the WHIAAPI commission are:

• Dr. N. Nina Ahmad, co-owner and executive vice president of Government Affairs for JNA Capital, Inc., a real estate finance and development company based in Philadelphia
• Michael Byun, executive director of Asian Services in Action, Inc.
• Lt. Col. Ravi Chaudhary, Air Force officer, currently serving as executive officer to the commander, Air Force District of Washington, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
• Lian Cheun, executive director of Khmer Girls in Action
• Bill Imada, chairman and chief collaboration officer of IW Group advertising and public relations agency

Another commissioner Bill Imada, founder of IW Group  advertising and PR agency: ‘We’re excited doing everything we can to advance our community. We have big shoes to fill.’

Another commissioner Bill Imada, founder of IW Group advertising and PR agency: ‘We’re excited doing everything we can to advance our community. We have big shoes to fill.’

• Kathy Ko Chin, president & chief executive officer of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum
• Dee Jay Mailer, former chief executive officer of Kamehameha Schools
• Diane Narasaki, former executive director of Asian Counseling and Referral Service
• Shekar Narasimhan has been managing partner at Beekman Advisors since 2003 and chairman of Papillon Capital since 2012
• Dr. Mary Ann Young Okada, president and chief executive officer of Guam Community College
• Maulik Pancholy, a film, television, and stage actor widely known for playing the role of Jonathan on NBC’s “30 Rock”
• Linda X. Phan, former executive director of Asian Family Support Services of Austin, an anti-violence organization supporting immigrant families
• Lorna May Ho Randlett, a communication specialist and Reach and Relevance external relations manager at McKinsey & Company
• Dr. Tung Thanh Nguyen, professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco
• Daphne Kwok, vice president of Multicultural Markets & Engagement for the Asian American & Pacific Islander Audience at AARP.

The commissioners were sworn in May 6 as part of the nationwide celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Vice President Joe Biden keynoted the event by highlighting the achievements of generations of Asian Americans.

With fellow commissioners during May 6 oath-taking. Photo by Elton Lugay

With fellow commissioners during May 6 oath-taking. Photo by Elton Lugay

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: