As I watched as one celebrity after another sing or speak at the big "We Are One" concert on HBO - which was part of the three days of inaugural festivities - I was struck by the range of folks who showed up. Bruce Springsteen? Check. Mary J. Blige? Check. Denzel Washington? Check. Steve Carrell? Check. Tiger Woods making his first politics-related appearance? Check.
I wondered if any South Asians would make the cut to make it on stage. It would have to be someone who was a big enough name that they'd be instantly recognized by most of the audience (everyone was being introduced by name only, no other identified) - and someone who, like Springsteen, had been a vocal supporter of Barack Obama's campaign. While several desi celebrities had been big Obama supporters - Mira Nair and Salman Rushdie, for instance - I guessed that only a singer or actor could fit the bill. I was thinking of Norah Jones and Kal Penn. No sign of Jones, but Penn did appear, along with actor George Lopez.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one to notice Penn's presence. From NYmag.com's review by Lane Brown:
But while our president-elect, seated stage right, showed steely resolve by nodding and singing along through even the most terrible performances, heroes Sasha and Malia Obama bravely broadcast their non-enjoyment by looking completely bored (Malia) or falling asleep on their mom's lap (Sasha). When they liked something, though, Malia showed it by excitedly snapping pictures with her camera (neither First Daughter liked Mellencamp, Will.I.Am, or Crow, but both are apparently big fans of Beyoncé, Usher, and Kal Penn).
Here's a screen grab of the First Daughters taking a photo of Penn (HBO cut to this shot while Penn was speaking):
And here's Penn announcing a USAService.org video contest on behalf of the Obama team for National Service Day:
Previous items about Kal Penn and the Obama campaign:
You can watch a full recording of the show at HBO.com/weareone
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