Yesterday: Anna May Wong

Continuing my three-part series seeking to shed light on early Asian American actors and actresses in Hollywood, I decided to paint a piece dedicated to Anna May Wong, known as the first Chinese American Hollywood movie star. Famous for her roles in films in the 1920s and 1930s, Wong gained international recognition, helped humanize Chinese-Americans in the American public, and remains an iconic figure in the Asian-American community, receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960 and having an award named after her in the Asian-American Arts Awards.

Although Wong achieved high amounts of success during her career, she was also overlooked for leading Asian roles for “looking too Chinese”, with directors often casting white actresses instead. Famously, Luise Rainer (a white actress in yellowface) was chosen over Wong to play the character of a Chinese peasant farmer in “The Good Earth” (1937), a choice that was known as one of the most severe disappointments in Wong’s career. She was offered to play an evil prostitute in the film, but refused the offer, saying that “You’re asking me – with my Chinese blood – to do the only unsympathetic role in the picture, featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters”. Frustrated by the type of roles she was offered in America, Wong later moved out of the country and went on to star in numerous hit films. Wong’s staunch refusal to play such negative depictions of Chinese and Asian characters in a largely discriminatory and racist society has cemented her legacy in the Asian-American community. 


hey! i'm dai, a CS sophomore looking to (hopefully) double minor in APIA studies and Art and Design. i'm a mainly digital artist who loves color and wants to improve and expand on my coloring abilities. in my current series “Chroma”, i'll generate a new color palette each week using a randomized color palette generator, and then create an illustration based off it. along the way, i hope to capture the creative process of my art, as well as the different gradients of life. enjoy!

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