By Jessika McNabb
Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders (ACEL) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona by Jason Wong. Jason saw a need for a support system to develop leadership and professional growth in the Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. ACEL ’s mission is to be the proving ground for Asian American & Pacific Islander Professionals, forging leaders of tomorrow through professional development, cultural awareness, community service and mentorship.
Each year, ACEL hosts their annual Dynamic Leadership Conference, providing great workshops with many inspired Asian American leaders across America in many different industries coming together to share their successful stories. The highlight of the event this year is the Leadership Award Gala which was on Saturday, August 20, 2022 at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort and Villas.
Let’s celebrate Asian American & Pacific Islander Leadership and meet your 2022 ACEL honorees who are dedicated to making our community great!
2022 Corporate Leader of the Year: Varesh Chaurasia, Senior Vice President of OptumCare Arizona
Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders is proud to present the 2022 Corporate Leader of the Year award to Varesh Chaurasia for his contributions to changing the healthcare landscape in Arizona. Varesh has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare, consumer credit and the real estate industries. In 2007, he co-founded 4C Medical Group with his late brother, Dr. Vishal Chaurasia, and grew the business from a 4-physician group to one of Arizona’s largest integrated primary care groups providing care to the community. In 2019, Varesh spearheaded the successful acquisition of 4C Medical Group by Optum, one of the country’s largest integrated healthcare delivery organizations and the leader in value-based-care. He currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Optum Arizona focusing primarily on strategic growth within the market. Varesh has also held board of director positions at the Rotary Club of Scottsdale, USTA Southwest and Arizona Bank and Trust, and is an active member of the Arizona College of Healthcare Executives.
2022 Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year: Hui-Wu Curtis, Chief Operating Officer at SupportU
Hui Wu-Curtis is being recognized as the 2022 ACEL Entrepreneurial Leader of the Year for her decades of leadership spanning multiple industries including hospitality, utilities, financial services, telecommunications, and healthcare, culminating in the creation of her global business process outsourcing company, SupportU. Her leadership skills have won her many awards, including being named the 2021 Silver Globe award for Executive Excellence/Influencer of the year, CIOLook’s Top 10 Businesswomen to admire in 2021, Nearshore America’s Top 20 Social Media influencers, and CCW 2017 Customer Experience Leader of the Year. Most recently, SupportU was named one of 30 most admired companies to watch. By establishing SupportU, Hui’s efforts will focus on providing development opportunities to untapped populations and empowering diverse communities to live inspired, purposeful lives. Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders is proud to present this award to Hui as we continue to be inspired by her innovation, tenacity, and dedication to improving the lives of others.
2022 ACEL Trailblazer of the Year: Ihman Esturco, Founder & President of Asian International Film Festival
Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders is proud to recognize Emmanuel Esturco as the 2022 Trailblazer of the Year. Emmanuel, also known as Ihman, is a Filipino American stage, TV and movie actor and Producer. Beyond his many film productions, Ihman also serves as the Marketing Director of Eight Angels and Events, Activity Coordinator of Belief Hospice, and Board Member of the Abaka Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Filipino Culture. As an Arizona resident, Ihman is very involved in the community, establishing the Annual Asian International Film Festival, and serving as the Marketing Communications Director for both the Filipino American Asian Business Chamber of Commerce of Arizona and the National Federation of Filipino American Association – Arizona Chapter. On behalf of ACEL, thank you officer Ihman for all of the work you are doing to increase Asian American visibility in the arts and preserving Asian culture and diversity.
2022 ACEL Community Leader of the Year: Mai Le, CEO of Asian American Media Network
Mai Le is the founder and current publisher/editor in chief of Viet Lifestyles Magazine, a full colored, bi-lingual Vietnamese English magazine. In 2021, she has also co-founded the Asian Media Network, a media company with great focus on Asian culture and businesses. Mai has also known as the pioneer in leading and developing many great organizations with the mission to serve the community such as Miss Vietnam Arizona pageant, TNT AZ Radio, the 1st International Women’s Month Celebration, and Help Protect Arizona From Corona Virus. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Mai has devoted her time organizing many community charitable events, including fundraising campaigns for Yarnell firefighters who lost their lives, the Filipino Community of Haiyan Typhoon’s victims, and cancer patient Diane Nguyen to fulfill her last wishes. Her volunteer group, “Protecting Arizona from Corona Virus”, donated 10,000 handmade fabric masks to frontline workers, as well as 200 backpacks and school supplies for low-income children and hundred of gift bags of essential items to low-income Vietnamese elderly in both East and West valley of Arizona. Mai has been awarded the Arizona Asian American Association’s Entrepreneur Award in 2007, the APCA Champion Award in 2016, and 2 ANi Awards: The “Nationalism” award and the “Women of The Year 2019” award. This year, ACEL would like to honor her as the 2022 ACEL Community Leader of the Year for all of her great contributions in making a difference in our Asian community.
The 2022 ACEL Leadership Award Gala was the night filled with great networking, excitement, and inspiration by many successful stories. One of the best speeches of the night was Mai Le’s acceptance speech. It was sincere, compelling and challenging the audiences to join her journey of giving back as well as a hope for unity and building our Asian American voice stronger and more powerful. According to Dr. Anthony Yeung, Founder of Desert Institute for Spine Care “Mai Le gave the most powerful speech today, she kept me captivated and engaged as she called for action for unity and building a strong voice for the Asian Community”. Michael Pollack, CEO of Pollack Real Estate Investment LLC: “I have known Mai Le for many years, she has been a hard-working woman I have ever known. I’m so glad she received this honor. She truly deserved it for all the things she has been devoted to serve the community.” Mai Shannon, CEO of AMHA Hospice: “I’m so happy to see all these outstanding individuals being recognized for their great work. Our Asian community need more representation in the corporate world. I’m also happy to see both my friends Ihman and Mai Le nominated and received the honor award. They are very well deserved it”…
The model minority stereotype may depict Asian Americans as uniformly successful; however, a new report exposes how the racial group continues to struggle with advancement in the workplace, particularly Asian American women with 80% drop. Thus, we would like to share Mai Le’s acceptance speech with a hope it will inspire many Viet Lifestyles’ readers, especially women in the corporate world to continue to strive for their own purpose in life, as their representation and journey will help build our Asian community bigger and stronger.
“Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen!
Thank you! It is a great honor to have been nominated and to receive the 2022 ACEL Community Leader of the Year Award this evening!!!
I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of many great charitable organizations:
- The Vietnamese Community of Arizona
- Arizona Asian American Association
- Asian Pacific Community In Action
- The International Women’s Celebration
- Asian International Film Festival Arizona
- Veteran Alliance
- Help Protecting Arizona from Coronavirus – Vietnamese volunteers in Arizona…
This gave me the platform of doing charitable work by giving backpacks and school supplies for low-income families, giving foods and essential items to our elderly and homeless, lifting spirits of cancer patients, donating handmade fabric masks to our front liners, and hosting cultural events to preserve and promote our Asian cultures… I challenge each of you tonight to join me on this beautiful journey of giving back.
I would like to dedicate this award to my family my two lovely children Mina & Kyle, my parents and parents in law, and especially my darling husband, Dr. Khoa Le, for his endless support. Your faith in me is what propels me to continue to work harder for the betterment of our community. I love you all!
I also want to thank many of my wonderful friends and big supporters who are here with me tonight, as well as those who are not here. Well, I tried to give them the directions, so… My partner/director Ty Ng, my great friends Dr Ki Ngo, Kevin Dang, my big supporters Michael Pollack & Cheryl Pollack, Anthony Yeung & Eileen Yeung, uncle Uy Le, Loc Nguyen, and big sisters Mai Shannon, Nhu Holder, little sister Mai-Ly Dee, Jennifer Nghiem, and brothers Jimmy Vu Nhân, Tuan Nguyen, Hoang Giang, Le Jason… and many more people, especially the entire staff at Asian Media Network, Đài Tnt Arizona, VietLifestyles Magazine, and Miss Vietnam Arizona for believing in me and supporting me throughout my journeys.
When I received the award “Entrepreneur of the Year 2007” by The Arizona Asian American Association for successfully operating a 24/7 Vietnamese Radio Station, I made a promise that someday I would create a bigger voice for the Asian Communities in Arizona. Today that promise was fulfilled as I have built a studio for Asian Media Network with a mission to unite and give a voice for the Asian communities across Arizona and beyond. Our goal is to serve as a bridge to emerge the Asian and American cultures, connect different generations within our Asian community, and provide a voice to strengthen our community.
Asian Media Network offers a variety of services including video production and distribution, corporate commercial, PSA, content creation, social media, radio, print and digital marketing in multi-Asian languages for Asian and non-Asian viewers and services to the fast growing Asian-American demographics with ever-increasing buying power.
Last but not least, I would like to thank ACEL Leaders and its chairman Jason Wong, and their dedicated leaders for your great work and this recognition. I also would like to congratulate all the recipients Varesh Chaurasia, Chih-Hui Wu-Curtis, and my dear talented friend Ihman Basas Esturco. Your stories are so unique and inspiring. Join me in building the great Asian American voice and making it loud and powerful.
Thank you and God bless you all!!!”