By Tiffany Ran
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY

First dates are a thrilling, nerve wracking, and sometimes awkward experience that is magnified further when captured on camera. This hasn’t stopped contestants like Kirkland resident Nelson Yong from participating on NBC’s new show, “First Dates,” executive produced by Ellen DeGeneres and narrated by Drew Barrymore to take audiences through the harrowing experiences.

Contestants like Yong are chosen, matched, and flown out to take part in blind dates captured by hidden cameras set up at Chicago restaurants. The audience gets a voyeuristic view of the unscripted date that ensues. The show has been popular internationally in the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, and Ireland before its national debut.

Yong, a digital brand strategist at Brookley Huntington with 34,000 Instagram followers, has never shied away from making a first impression. On Instagram, he is photographed modeling crisp suits and sleek ties, attending galas, and advising for stores like Neiman Marcus, but he recalls earlier days as a once nerdy, shy, and overweight Asian guy. He aims in his career to help people be comfortable in their own skin, and hopes his participation will contribute to an Asian American perspective of a universal experience.

“I certainly want Asian American men, especially, to be better known as confident, fun, and able to lead conversations when it comes to dating,” Yong said.

His advice for other first daters?

“Be yourself, but practice helps. Talk less, listen more. Be prepared to ask good questions. As a guy, take the lead by being a chivalrous and generous host: lead conversation, make her feel comfortable, and pay for dinner,” he said.

Yong didn’t necessarily advise dating on-camera, but he believes that there are benefits to a light-hearted fly on the wall view of other people’s first dates, including the good, the bad, and the awkward.

“I think it’ll be fun to examine how you would do on a blind date, especially if you’ve never been on one, and how easy or uneasy it is to generate chemistry with that other person,” said Yong.

Luckily, most of us will have the luxury to establish chemistry off-camera. Yong hopes viewers will approach the show with good humor and some self-reflection. His and other contestants’ first dates will air on NBC starting April 7 and every Friday at 8 p.m.

For more information on NBC’s “First Dates,” visit nbc.com/first-dates.