Eddie Huang’s resumé is already pretty diverse. He’s the author of two best-selling autobiographies, Fresh Off the Boat and Double Cup Love, with the former adapted into an ABC primetime sitcom with a predominantly Asian-American cast. And he’s got a thriving restaurant in Baohaus, a cozy NYC spot in the East Village that serves Taiwanese street food. He’s also the host of Huang’s World, a Viceland show that features him traveling around the globe and experiencing plenty of world cuisines, filtered through his humorous lens.
Now he’s adding underwear model to his skill set. Huang recently partnered with skivvies label MeUndies on several pairs of allover panda-printed underwear for men and women. And the collaboration includes a revealing campaign with Huang as the star.
We caught up with Huang as he FaceTimed from Dubai, where he’s currently filming an episode of Huang’s World. When we spoke, he had just finished a meal at Nusr-Et, the steakhouse run by chef-turned-meme Nusret Gokce—who the Internet dubbed #saltbae.
Huang opened up about how the campaign helped him become more comfortable in his own body, the importance of intersectionalism in industries like fashion, and how underwear can help highlight genital contours—something he dubs the “dill-houette.”
First off, how was #saltbae’s restaurant? Does it live up to the hype?
Yo it’s slammin’. That motherfucker is for real. In terms of steakhouses, it’s up there— top three. If I’m gonna eat steak, it’s between them and [Peter] Luger’s for real. They’re up there; they really give Luger’s a run for their money with the bone-in New York Strip. It’s wild good.
Luger’s might still have the better dry-aged beef; I think they age their beef better. I taste the aging and the chestnuts in the beef better. But he cooks it over a wood fire, which gives it a different flavor that’s interesting. They’re pretty neck-and-neck man. I’ll still go to Luger’s, but that dude is the closest I’ve ever seen in my life.
He looks short on Instagram, is he taller in real life?
Oh, he’s not that tall. He’s like Tom Cruise. Your mans is taller, you know what I mean? And I’m not that tall, I’m 5’7″. He might be 5’5″—but he’s bro-lic. He could play running back.
What exactly made you want to do an underwear collab? How’d it happen?
My homegirl Kristen Fraser put me in touch with MeUndies, and they wanted to do a collaborative underwear with me, and I was like: “I’m down.”
I’m not into it for the biggest brand or whatever, I’m always into something kind of creative and kind of funny. I’m not always into being the most serious fashion dude, but they approached us, and I love their underwear.
I actually rock their underwear, it’s super soft and comfortable, and when they wanted to do panda underwear I was just ‘bout it. And as Asian dudes, we never see Asian models. Especially male Asian models. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.
I’ve seen like, two Asian dudes in porn. Those are the only models I’ve ever seen. I don’t know their names.
We definitely don’t have Asian male models who look like regular dudes. We’re both six-pack deficient, how’d this campaign change the way you think about issues like body positivity?
You’ve known me for a long time, I think I met you at some clothing store with Lawrence [Schlossman] back in the day. I’ve always been into solidarity and positivity in general regarding identity.
But body positivity is something that even I was a little hesitant and insecure about. I talk about my face and my skin in Fresh Off the Boat. I talk about some of the insecurities with physical self-image, but during this campaign, I actually talk about it more than I ever have.
When I was in my underwear and they were taking photos, I was like: “Damn. Cats are gonna see the dill-houette?”
Dill-houette! Well, you had guys like Justin Bieber involved in Photoshop controversies for his CK campaigns, and there are also stereotypes about Asian men and penis size. Is that something you thought about during this project?
Yeah, and it was really funny, because I did that GQ interview, and it was like a “told as is.” It was never edited or anything. My girl read it and she said, “Yo, I love this interview, and I love that you’re talking about body pos—but you don’t need to call your dick a ‘cheddar cheese combo’ when it’s soft. Don’t disparage it.”
And she was like, “Also, you’re dragging me into this. You’re shaming me. Honestly, you’re good. Be positive. You don’t have be self-deprecating.”
So throughout the campaign, I’ve become more comfortable. And as an Asian dude, you’ve been told your whole life that your dick is garbage, you’re not attractive, and no one’s gonna match you on OKCupid—but it’s not true! Mad women fuck with us, and it’s about who we are. It’s not about stigmas, it’s not about stereotypes. And I think in 2017, we’re all really getting past it, and the campaign has me feeling pretty positive about this shit.
How’s the reaction been to the campaign?
My friends have supported it, my fans supported it, and MeUndies supported it. I’m just like, “Damn.”
I honestly never thought I’d do an underwear campaign—I never thought I’d be asked. And second, I never thought that people would be like, “That was great!” Because people fuck with it, and not just in a funny way. I mean, it is funny, but no one expected me to be doing this. And now that it’s done—it’s an ill campaign. It came out crispy!
Brands are getting more intersectional and inclusive in their messaging, like Nike’s recently debuted Pro Hijab. Do you think this campaign is similar in the way it speaks to communities usually left out of the consumer conversation?
To be honest, brands and corporations really run the world, and it’s important that it’s intersectional; it’s important that there’s solidarity; it’s important that it’s multicultural. I think this is a really positive thing, and a sign that things are changing in the world for Asian-Americans, you know?
Right, and I think Matt Damon built the Great Wall. We’re still holding a few L’s! But this is still positive.
Back to the underwear—you’ve got briefs, boxers, trunks, and boxer briefs in your collab. What made you decide to model the boxer briefs in the campaign?
I remember when boxer briefs came out in high school, and shorties were like: “Yo, I want you in the black boxer briefs.” I’ve been in boxer briefs since like, the 10th grade.
I was never a tighty-whitey guy, I don’t like when boxers are all bunched up in the pants. I think boxer briefs are the way to go. I would say that boxer briefs are the X5 Panda of underwear—cross-over draws!
It’s like a good compromise between tighty-whiteys and boxers. You feel covered, but it still complements the body.
It helps with the dill-houette, it wicks away sweat, and when you’re sitting in the movie theater, it’s not gonna ride up. I’m a boxer briefs dude.
Lastly, since your collab features an allover panda print, who are your top five dead-or-alive pandas? You can include fictional characters and inanimate objects, like those panda cookies.
Number one for me is the original Washington, D.C. zoo panda, Tai Shan. That’s the first panda that I ever met. The second panda? Uh…I think it’s gotta be Kung Fu Panda. I fucks with Kung Fu Panda.
I’d put myself at number three. I’m like the Allen Iverson of pandas, Number 3—The Human Panda. Number 4—I like the panda facial masks. Very into the panda facial mask. And number 5, the BMW X5 Panda.
For a look at some of Eddie Huang’s most fire gear, check out this video of his favorite fashion pieces.