PHOTOGRAPHY BY CATHERINE ASANOV
CREATIVE DIRECTOR & STYLING BY ROBIAT BALOGUN
MAKEUP BY ARCHANGELA CHELSEA FOR CELESTINE AGENCY
HAIR BY LUCY GEDJEYAN FOR CLOUTIER REMIX
STORY BY MIN A. LEE
What inspired you to pursue your acting career, and what challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
I did my first musical theater show at around 8-years-old. Everything opened for me in those first moments of being onstage. It was the one place where I felt like I could be as crazy and weird as I wanted without any judgment. I was scouted to LA when I was 14, so the industry sort of raised me in my most formative years. Most of my challenges were in trying to find myself in an industry that wanted to place me into box after box — ones that I never connected to or would leave me feeling voiceless.
How do you feel about all the diverse changes starting to come about in Hollywood finally, and what do they mean to you as an Asian American actress?
Where do I begin? It’s pretty massive the changes we’ve seen. Crazy Rich Asians blew the door wide open for us, and I feel there’s no stopping us now that we’re creating our own tables. Embracing and supporting other fellow Asian American creatives have fulfilled me in ways I never thought possible. We are doing it and lifting each other up in the process.
Of all the roles you’ve had so far on television and film, what one has meant the most to you?
I’ve learned so much from every role thus far, but booking Wrecked shattered my entire belief system wide open. It expanded my beliefs in what I could not only accomplish as an actress but gave me a new sense of personal self-worth — that I was inherently more than just a sidekick or the nerdy best friend; that women who looked like me had issues and stories specific to them that mattered. I’d never believed before that moment that I could play a leading female role.
You voiced Giggle McDimples in Toy Story 4. How different is it doing voice-over versus acting on set?
Doing voice-over really brought me back to why I loved performing as a child. I never saw any sort of scripts or scenes before a session, so I felt like I was always going into the booth with a completely open mind. It was very freeing and took a lot of the nerves and anxiety out of the process. Our director, Josh Cooley, would set up the scene as I’m reading it for the first time, so there’s about a 25 second window to make choices for the character. Similar to theater and improv, it really brought back that element of play, imagination and trusting your first instincts. I loved it so much.
What was one of the most fun moments you had while working with Pixar?
I got to film a fun behind the scenes short (which is included in the DVD Bonus Features) at the Pixar campus in Emeryville. Being within the walls of where all the iconic characters of my childhood were dreamed up felt unreal. Every animator’s office has a different theme and is fully built out in the most detailed ways. Signing my name in the “Lucky 7” lounge, a secret speakeasy frequented by the likes of Steve Jobs and Roy Disney was a major moment. You enter through a hidden bookshelf; it’s so cool!
You founded Asian American Girl Club last year, and we are obsessed with how straight forward the designs are! How did AAGC come about?
Wow, thank you so much. Seeing how people have connected with it from all over the world has been such a powerful feeling. It makes me quite emotional. When we launched, I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t think anyone would connect with it, especially on such a deep level. The idea really came from my personal stories of feeling excluded, especially from the countless clubs that I so desperately wanted to fit in. The idea that one could feel so lonely inside of something designed to be inclusive was heartbreaking. My goal was to create something by girls that look like me, for girls that look like me, to create the sisterhood and “club” I would’ve wanted and needed as a kid.
How does it make you feel to see so many people proudly sporting their AAGC apparel?
It’s a really hard feeling to describe, but each person who sports it proudly and unapologetically truly heals a tiny part of my younger self. To see friendships being formed all over the globe. To seeing women saying hi and lifting each other up. To reading stories and personal essays that I feel were written from my very own thoughts and experiences. It’s all so powerful.
Finally, any future projects you’re working on that you can tell us about?
I’m super excited to step into the world of creating and producing a few different concepts that are close to my heart. I’m having a lot of fun writing and collaborating with people who inspire me personally. Beyond that, I’m excited to level up for AAGC — we are working on a podcast and a summit for next year!