Honolulu-born Michelle K. Sugihara has been appointed Executive Director of a media and entertainment nonprofit created in 1991 by Wenda Fong, Fritz Friedman, and former film executive Chris Lee.
Sugihara joins the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE) with a background as an entertainment attorney, a film producer, and an adjunct professor for the Claremont Colleges’ Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies.
“Michelle’s non-profit experience, strong community ties and legal background make her well-positioned to lead CAPE and take us to the next level. Her ability to address issues both analytically and creatively will serve her well as Executive Director,” said Wenda Fong, CAPE co-founder and Interim Executive Director.
CAPE is dedicated to improving Asian American and Pacific Islander images and representation through media and entertainment. In partnership with industry sponsors including Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Final Draft and Verizon, CAPE’s signature programs include the CAPE New Writers Fellowship, #IAM Campaign, educational panels and networking mixers targeting emerging and established entertainment industry leaders and creative talent.
CAPE’s board of directors includes Hawai’i-born Carrie Ann Inaba (“Dancing With The Stars”) and the organization’s co-founder Chris Lee is founding chairman of the University of Hawai’i’s Academy for Creative Media. Janet Yang, Ang Lee, John Woo, Dean Devlin, and David Henry Hwang are some of the industry notables affiliated with the nonprofit.
As Executive Director, Sugihara will lead the organization and advance CAPE’s mission of championing diversity by educating, connecting and empowering AAPI artists and leaders in entertainment and media by focusing on fundraising, programming, strategic growth and operations.
“I’ve always been a huge supporter of CAPE and its mission,” said Sugihara. “I’m eager to build on CAPE’s strong foundation and to work with our community to support AAPI artists and leaders in entertainment.”
Sugihara, a fourth generation Japanese American, was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. She graduated with honors from Claremont McKenna College with a dual major in Economics and Psychology and a minor in Asian American Studies, followed by a law degree from UCLA.
Sugihara’s community involvement includes her roles as VP of Development and founding member of the Asian Pacific American Friends of the Theater, Director of Community Relations of the Japanese American National Museum’s New Leadership Advisory Council, Co-Chair of the Multicultural Bar Alliance of Southern California, member of PBS-SoCal Asian Pacific Islander Community Council, board member of OCA-Greater Los Angeles, past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County, past member of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles’s Executive Advisory Council and past board member of the Japanese American Bar Association.
She is also an ensemble member of Cold Tofu, the nation’s premiere Asian American comedy improv and sketch group. Sugihara is a 2010 recipient of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Best Lawyers Under 40 award and a 2011 recipient of Los Angeles County Bar Association, Real Property Section’s Outstanding Young Lawyer award. She was named a “Rising Star” in Los Angeles Magazine’s Super Lawyer Rising Star section from 2008 to 2014.