Psst, wanna know who Anna May was?
Anna May Wong was the first Chinese-American movie star and the first Asian-American actress to gain international fame. She used her fame and influence to talk about and protest the racist practices in Hollywood, protesting against racist depictions of Chinese characters, and opening up more significant and starring roles for herself and many actors of color to follow.
Anna used her celebrity to make political statements and attract attention to important causes. She was very outspoken about Japan’s relations with China, and even wrote a criticism of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931. She also raised money for causes, auctioning off her costumes and donating money to Chinese aid and writing a cookbook and giving the proceeds to United China Relief.
In her acting career, she refused outright to play any stereotyped roles, and spoke out against Hollywood’s racism in interviews. She began acting exclusively in low-budget B movies where she could play strong, well-written Chinese characters instead of stereotypes.
Anna May Wong persevered all her life in a career where she was constantly discriminated against, no matter where she traveled. She worked hard all her life to be successful against the odds, and used her success to fight for others and help pave the way for actors of color today.
Hollywood still white-washes movies, has stereotyped roles, and discriminates in casting today. Yet, Asian actors and other actors of color have so many more opportunities today because of Anna. She was one of the first actors to speak out against racism in Hollywood.
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