Jamie Chung is dismantling the “model minority” myth that has inflicted the Asian American Pacific Island (AAPI) communities for far too long, sharing that it’s only further excluded Asian Americans from sharing their stories and providing authentic representation when it comes to their experiences.
“I think we’re conditioned culturally by our parents and upbringing not to get in trouble, not to be outspoken, to be easy going,” the actress said in an interview for Byrdie. “Like this whole model minority bullshit, you know?”
The 38-year-old who first landed on the small screen as a cast member of Real World: San Diego has transitioned into a Hollywood actress with a number of notable supporting roles in television and film. Still, she got candid about how her identity has actually hindered her, not only in the industry but in her day-to-day life.
“I’ve been told multiple times to ‘go back to your country,’ …Or when a white person is screaming, like, gibberish to you and making fun of your language,” she recalled, going on to explain that the racist sentiments are something she’s fearful of even when attempting to go out with some friends. “I was really insecure about that, because I knew my friends and I were going to be targeted,” she said. “I always had that fear—it’s a bunch of Asian girls and people are just going to holler or make fun or tell us to ‘go back to China.’ And it’s happened multiple times.”
It’s these occurrences, she says, that have “everything to do with” the way that she’s taken a rather passive stance when it comes to her career. She even notes that she “never thought of putting myself first” until a recent moment when she was filming an episode of HBO’s horror-drama series Lovecraft Country and was encouraged to think critically of how she could best portray the character Ji-Ah to serve her own narrative, rather than serving that of the main character’s. “It’s such a simple thing to do, but it just required confidence…something I think I lacked in my entire career.”