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'Characters Approved' - Please Read!

USA Network announced today the winners of the first-ever Character Approved Awards, a new program created to honor individuals from a cross-section of creative disciplines who are positively influencing American culture. In its inaugural year, USA Network selected seven visionary characters based on their cultural impact, legacy and personas. While each honoree is at a different stage in his or her career, they are all cultural trailblazers who are influencing our opinions, style and view of the world.

“The 2009 Character Approved honorees represent the type of characters we not only admire and wish we could imitate, but also want to know,” said Chris McCumber, executive vice president, marketing, digital and brand strategy. “Each of the recipients is a pioneer in his or her own field, lauded by their peers and in our opinion worthy of the Character Seal of Approval. We are honored to celebrate them in this way.”

The honorees will be featured in long-form vignettes directed by Henry Alex Rubin (Murderball), which will debut Tuesday, January 27 in primetime on USA Network. The vignettes provide an inside look at the lives, the work and influences of these characters, and will be featured over the next several months across the network’s programming and online as extended length videos at Additionally each honoree will be granted the “Character” award, a tabletop steel figurine that was handcrafted by Los Angeles sculptor Bruce Gray.

The seven individuals honored for the first-ever Character Approved Awards are:

Charles Best, Founder of (Giving): As a public school teacher in the Bronx, Best saw a classic problem—the lack of money for teaching supplies—and came up with a radical solution: “the eBay of philanthropy.” Founded in 2000, allows teachers nationwide to post online requests for classroom materials and for donors to give directly to those needs via the web.

David Chang, Renowned Restaurateur and Owner of Momofuku Restaurants (Food): Since opening his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar, in New York City’s East Village in 2004, Chang’s establishments have skyrocketed to the top of the city’s Best Restaurants lists, and earned him a James Beard Award for “Best Chef in New York City”, with his refreshingly Americanized take on Asian cuisine.

Jennifer Siegal, Celebrated West Coast Designer (Architecture): Being revered as an imaginative and inventive designer on the forefront of the prefabricated architecture movement simply isn’t enough for Siegal. She is also helping reduce waste with reusable and recycled materials, as her vision for environmentally sustainable buildings continues to change the landscape of urban and suburban living.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia (New Media/Technology): An Alabama-born former options trader, Wales set out in 2001 to create an open online encyclopedia that would become “the sum of all human knowledge.” But he’s not doing it by himself; with over 10 million user-created articles in 253 languages, Wikipedia has become a global virtual community of millions where everyday people are the writers and editors.

Lupe Fiasco, Hip-Hop Superstar (Music): In an industry that responds to mainstream pop and glamour, Chicago-born and raised hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco broke out from the pack with his emphasis on strong lyricism and storytelling. Having racked up four 2009 Grammy nominations for his latest critically acclaimed album, no one can argue with his path to success.

Patrick Robinson, Head Designer for Gap (Fashion): Robinson has already put his mark on Gap brand as the newly-appointed Executive Vice President of Design, expertly handling the company’s challenge to create buzz worthy yet affordable clothing. He and his team are focused on creating a strong collection each season rooted in clean, classic American design – hitting at the very heart of Gap’s heritage.

Shepard Fairey, Artist and Street Art Sensation (Art): With a one-of-a-kind style and keen eye for design, Fairey’s unique approach to spreading art among the masses blended the worlds of pop culture and politics this past election cycle in a way no one could have ever predicted. His iconic “HOPE” image of President Barack Obama became a national sensation, recently being dedicated in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian. This year also marks a 20-year retrospective at the ICA in Boston, and numerous magazine covers including TIME, Esquire, Washington Life, WHERE Magazine and many, many others.

The Character Approved Awards is one program in a series of initiatives from USA Network designed to celebrate the inspiring, surprising and buzz-worthy individuals that shape our nation’s character. For more information on Character Approved, visit

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia (New Media/Technology)

Charles Best, Founder of (Giving)

Lupe Fiasco, Hip-Hop Superstar (music)

Check them all out at