News about Michelle Yeoh becoming the first Asian actress to win a Best Actress Academy Award has inspired many Asian performers, and Richmond resident Jennifer Tong is one of them.
Tong, 27, is working hard to establish her career as a full-time actress after training at Gateway Theatre summer camp.
“Following (Yeoh)’s journey has really, really inspired me … It helped me see that winning an Oscar is possible for an Asian female actress,” said Tong, who stars in the 2022 Netflix series Fakes.
“When I was a kid, I didn't get the chance to see a lot of Asian representation in mainstream media, so I never thought that acting could be a legitimate career for someone who looks like me,” said Tong.
“But seeing all these Asian faces in mainstream media definitely helps me reach further in my career.”
Tong said for young actresses like her, it can be very challenging to establish themselves in an industry where “hard work doesn't really mean anything.”
“You can work really hard and still not have the same opportunities as someone who maybe isn't working as hard,” said Tong.
What keeps her going is hearing stories like that of Ke Huy Quan, who is also from Everything Everywhere All at Once, because "he went through a long period in his career where he wasn't working at all.”
Tong added that the fact that Yeoh and other actors in the film were recognized even after “passing their prime” by Hollywood standards is also very encouraging.
In recent years, more films with a majority Asian cast have broken the ground, including Crazy Rich Asians, To All the Boys I've Loved Before and the most recent Everything Everywhere All at Once, which has created more opportunities for actresses with an Asian heritage like Tong.
“All those movies really help establish the fact that Asian stories deserve to be told and heard by everyone and they are enjoyed not only by Asian audiences but all kinds of audiences globally,” said Tong.
“We have seen great progress being made but there is still a lot to be done, and we should keep pushing for more diverse stories to be told.”