The Once and Future King…and WHO DID THEY PICK?

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

The Fairy Princess does it again folks getting to the very heart of the debate

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The Fairy Princess has had a terrible bout of food poisoning, shared by her toddler. Recommendations include never, ever eating again at a mall in Glendale. Even if you have successfully eaten there in the past.

The Fairy Princess is recommending to just say no, or if you are, as an actor, going to eat at a mall in Glendale, do it before Pilot Season because then you will be almost the exact rate beloved by television execs everywhere, which is about 30 per cent under the recommended daily weight for your personal height.

The Fairy Princess vows to not eat at a mall in Glendale till next January at least. And then she hopes to book a series regular. Other than that, this bout of food poisoning is totally wasted on me.

Although, I must say, my collar bone looks fantastic right now.

A singer who moves well, after several days of food poisoning....just LOOK at my collar bone! IT. IS. GORGEOUS! A singer who moves well…

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Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists [Kindle Edition]

Ever wondered what it’s like to be adopted? This anthology begins with personal accounts and then shifts to a bird’s eye view on adoption from domestic, intercountry and transracial adoptees who are now adoptee rights activists. Along with adopted people, this collection also includes the voices of mothers and a father from the Baby Scoop Era, a modern-day mother who almost lost her child to adoption, and ends with the experience of an adoption investigator from Against Child Trafficking. These stories are usually abandoned by the very industry that professes to work for the “best interest of children,” “child protection,” and for families. However, according to adopted people who were scattered across nations as children, these represent typical human rights issues that have been ignored for too long. For many years, adopted people have just dealt with such matters alone, not knowing that all of us—as a community—have a great deal in common. Read these stories and you’ll be able to identity with at least one!

Contributors: Casper Andersen, Lily Arthur, Trace DeMeyer, Peter Dodds, Arun Dohle, Darelle Duncan, Erica Gehringer, Jeffrey Hancock, Bob Honecker, Cameron Horn, Tobias Hubinette, Sunny Jo Johnsen, Kristina Laine, Lakshmi, Tinan Leroy, Georgiana A. Macavei, Marion McMillan, Khara Nine, Colette Noonan, Cryptic Omega, Vanessa Pearce, Michael Allen Potter, Paul Redmond, Lucy Sheen, Joe Soll, Vance Twins and Daniel Ibn Zayd.

The book is available to the public from Amazon on Tuesday 17th April so make a note in your diary

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Hashtag Not Your Mascot, Hashtag Not Right, #NotYourMascot

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

The Fairy Princess talks about Hastag Not Your Mascot – and if you have no idea what we’re talking about – people where have you been?

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The Fairy Princess is not a sports fan.

Well, she is not a football fan – mainly because she was in the Color Guard in High School and got pneumonia waiting for those endless games to end.

The Fairy Princess likes gymnastics, ice skating, and dressage. Yes, dressage.

Lee Cheng Ni Diani of Malaysia riding Antschar in the Asian Games

Lee Cheng Ni Diani of Malaysia riding Antschar in the Asian Games

The Fairy Princess could not care less about football.

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Which is why, of course, she would go on to marry someone who plays Fantasy Football on a competitive level. (She doesn’t get that either, it’s a fantasy! It does not exist! Picking names of superstars that are already superstars does not make y’all Mr. Roarke! It makes it another reason to ignore taking out the garbage.)

You know what is a fantasy?

This:

Here is The Fairy Princess on her yacht, cruising the islands of somewhere where there is no mobile phone access Here is The Fairy Princess on her yacht, cruising the islands of somewhere where there is…

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Just had my “Letter to Them” posted on line

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If you could write a letter to your birth mother, your birth parents would you?

Well I did and you can see the letter that I posted along with all the others that have been written and posted by clicking here

You can see my letter at the bottom of the post as I have no worries about being identified

THE PROJECT

Letters for Them is an ongoing project I started at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). I was adopted from Hefei, China in 1994 at eight months old. I am currently a junior at RISD pursuing a BFA in Graphic Design. I’m constantly looking for ways to explore my personal history in my work. For a while now I’ve had this idea…

It all began when I found some old drawings I had made as a kid (maybe six or seven years old). They were letters that I had written to my birthparents when I was first beginning to understand where I came from. They were never sent as neither I nor my mom know my birthparents nor had any way of contacting/finding them.  We went back to China between my senior year of high school and my first year at RISD. While there, we were able to visit my orphanage, which has since changed quite a lot. We saw my file, which like we had expected, offered no new information as to who these unknown people were/are. Since then I continue thinking about what I’d want to say to them if I ever did have the chance to meet them. Letters for Them came as an idea that perhaps other adoptees think about this as well. Wouldn’t it be cool if we all had a common place to send these technically unsendable letters? Thus, Letter for Them was born.

 

Those are Robin Xinping’s own words from her website Letters For Them
Check it out people very interesting and I have to say the letter that I wrote was not what I expected to write!

London, 2014
Dear Mum and Dad,
This is your daughter writing to you. I don’t know whether you are alive or dead. But I’ve always wanted to make contact with you, to find you somehow. Even if I cannot hold you then at least my words can embrace you. I have oh, so many questions that I want to ask you. I don’t know where to begin. Where am I supposed to start. I guess first and foremost, why? Why did you leave me on the stairs of number nine Austin Avenue in Kowloon? Is that where you lived? Do I have brothers and sisters? Are you from Hong Kong? Or did you make the journey from mainland China to Hong Kong and if so what were you escaping from? Where you running away at all? How long had you lived in Hong Kong and where? When did life get so bad that you have to abandon your daughter on a public stairwell? Did you stay and watch to make sure I was found? Did you ever think of claiming me back. What must your thoughts have been when you heard the radio advertisements announcing that they had found yet another baby and that if anyone knew anything or were related to the baby to come forward? Or were you still in Hong Kong or had you gone somewhere else. Did you shelter in the Walled City for a while? Did you know that they flew me away from you to the other side of the world to become another family’s child? Will I ever see you again? Will I ever know where you’re buried if you are no longer alive? I don’t speak Chinese. So I’m using google translate, it’s probably an awful translation. But that’s the only way I can at least try and speak to you as the daughter I should have been. If only I had just one small thing, a dog-eared photograph of you, anything of your’s that would bring me closer to you. I have nothing not even memories of Hong Kong. They wiped me clean Mum, they emptied me out and sucked me dry. I had nothing to hold on to Mum, I’m so sorry. I feel as if I have let you down. That I turned my back on you. But I tried, I tried, I really did. There is a blemish on my heart, a hole that will never be filled which should have been where you were. Instead it’s just an open wound. An emotional scar that will always be there. I’m doing alright , all things considered. So your sacrifice wasn’t for nothing. It didn’t come without a price though. But I’m alive and have a pretty good life in some senses. I just thought that you’d like to know. I am all that I am because of you and no one can take that away from me. I just wish that I know who you were an where you are and that I could share this with you.
Always your daughter
Chau Lai-Tuen that’s the Chinese name the orphanage gave me.

倫敦2014

親愛的爸爸媽媽,
這是你的女兒寫信給你。我不知道你是否是活著還是死了。但我一直想同您聯繫,找到你弄好了。即使我不能抱著你,那麼至少我的話可以擁抱你。我有哦,那我要問你這麼多問題。我不知道從哪裡開始。我應該在哪裡開始。我想首先是,為什麼?你為什麼要離開我的號柯士甸路九中九樓梯?是,你住哪裡?我是否有兄弟姐妹嗎?你是從香港?還是你使旅程從中國大陸到香港,如果是的話你到底在逃跑?在那裡你離家出走呢?你在香港住了多久了?在哪裡?生命是何時變得這麼糟糕,你不得不放棄你的女兒在一個公共樓梯間?你留下來觀看,以確保我被發現?你有沒有想過,聲稱我回來的。一定有什麼想法一直當你聽到電台廣告,宣布他們已經發現另一種孩子,如果有人知道任何東西,或都與寶寶挺身而出?或者仍然是你在香港或你曾去別的地方。你在城寨收留了一會兒?你知道嗎,他們飛到我遠離你到世界的另一邊,成為另一個家庭的孩子?我將永遠見不到你了?我將永遠知道您要去哪裡,如果你不再活著埋葬?我不會說中國話。所以我用谷歌翻譯,它可能是一個可怕的翻譯。但是,這是我至少可以嘗試,並作為女兒,我會一直講的唯一途徑。如果我有只是一個很小的事情,你狗耳的照片,你的任何會帶給我更接近你。我沒有什麼香港甚至沒有記憶。他們消滅乾淨我媽媽,他們掏空了我,並吸我幹的。我沒有什麼要留住媽媽,我很抱歉。我覺得,如果我讓你們失望了。那我把我的背你。但我試過,我試過了,我真的做到了。有關於我的心臟,永遠不會被填滿本來應該在那裡你是一個有洞的污點。相反,它只是一個開放的傷口。情感傷痕,將永遠存在。我做的很好,所有的事情考慮。所以,你的犧牲是不是沒有。這並非沒有代價,但。但我還活著,並有一個很好的生活在某種意義上。我只是覺得,你想知道的。我都是因為你,沒有人,我可以採取的離我而去。我只希望,我知道你是誰的你在哪裡,我能與大家分享這個。
總是你的女兒
洲麗屯這就是中國名福利院給了我。
Lúndūn 2014

Qīn’ài de bàba māmā,
Zhè shì nǐ de nǚ’ér xiě xìn gěi nǐ. Wǒ bù zhīdào nǐ shìfǒu shì huózhe háishì sǐle. Dàn wǒ yīzhí xiǎng tóng nín liánxì, zhǎodào nǐ nòng hǎole. Jíshǐ wǒ bùnéng bàozhe nǐ, nàme zhìshǎo wǒ dehuà kěyǐ yǒngbào nǐ. Wǒ yǒu ó, nà wǒ yào wèn nǐ zhème duō wèntí. Wǒ bù zhīdào cóng nǎlǐ kāishǐ. Wǒ yīnggāi zài nǎlǐ kāishǐ. Wǒ xiǎng shǒuxiān shi, wèishéme? Nǐ wèishéme yào líkāi wǒ de hào kē shì diān lù jiǔ zhōng jiǔ lóutī? Shì, nǐ zhù nǎlǐ? Wǒ shìfǒu yǒu xiōngdì jiěmèi ma? Nǐ shì cóng xiānggǎng? Háishì nǐ shǐ lǚchéng cóng zhōngguó dàlù dào xiānggǎng, rúguǒ shì dehuà nǐ dàodǐ zài táopǎo? Zài nàlǐ nǐ lí jiā chūzǒu ne? Nǐ zài xiānggǎng zhùle duōjiǔle? Zài nǎlǐ? Shēngmìng shì héshí biàn de zhème zāogāo, nǐ bùdé bù fàngqì nǐ de nǚ’ér zài yīgè gōnggòng lóutī jiān? Nǐ liú xiàlái guānkàn, yǐ quèbǎo wǒ pī fà xiàn? Nǐ yǒu méiyǒu xiǎngguò, shēngchēng wǒ huílái de. Yīdìng yǒu shé me xiǎngfǎ yīzhí dāng nǐ tīngdào diàntái guǎnggào, xuānbù tāmen yǐjīng fāxiàn lìng yīzhǒng háizi, rúguǒ yǒurén zhīdào rènhé dōngxi, huò dōu yǔ bǎobǎo tǐngshēn ér chū? Huòzhě réngrán shì nǐ zài xiānggǎng huò nǐ céng qù bié dì dìfāng. Nǐ zài chéng zhài shōuliúle yīhuǐ’er? Nǐ zhīdào ma, tāmen fēi dào wǒ yuǎnlí nǐ dào shìjiè de lìng yībiān, chéngwéi lìng yīgè jiātíng de háizi? Wǒ jiāng yǒngyuǎn jiàn bù dào nǐle? Wǒ jiāng yǒngyuǎn zhīdào nín yào qù nǎlǐ, rúguǒ nǐ bù zài huózhe máizàng? Wǒ bù huì shuō zhōngguó huà. Suǒyǐ wǒ yòng gǔgē fānyì, tā kěnéng shì yīgè kěpà de fānyì. Dànshì, zhè shì wǒ zhìshǎo kěyǐ chángshì, bìng zuòwéi nǚ’ér, wǒ huì yīzhí jiǎng de wéiyī tújìng. Rúguǒ wǒ yǒu zhǐshì yīgè hěn xiǎo de shìqíng, nǐ gǒu ěr de zhàopiàn, nǐ de rènhé huì dài gěi wǒ gèng jiējìn nǐ. Wǒ méiyǒu shé me xiānggǎng shènzhì méiyǒu jìyì. Tāmen xiāomiè gānjìng wǒ māmā, tāmen tāo kōngle wǒ, bìng xī wǒ gàn de. Wǒ méiyǒu shé me yào liú zhù māmā, wǒ hěn bàoqiàn. Wǒ juéde, rúguǒ wǒ ràng nǐmen shīwàngle. Nà wǒ bǎ wǒ de bèi nǐ. Dàn wǒ shìguò, wǒ shìguòle, wǒ zhēn de zuò dàole. Yǒu guānyú wǒ de xīnzàng, yǒngyuǎn bù huì bèi tián mǎn běnlái yīnggāi zài nàlǐ nǐ shì yīgè yǒu dòng de wūdiǎn. Xiāngfǎn, tā zhǐshì yīgè kāifàng de shāngkǒu. Qínggǎn shānghén, jiāng yǒngyuǎn cúnzài. Wǒ zuò de hěn hǎo, suǒyǒu de shìqíng kǎolǜ. Suǒyǐ, nǐ de xīshēng shì bùshì méiyǒu. Zhè bìngfēi méiyǒu dàijià, dàn. Dàn wǒ hái huózhe, bìng yǒu yīgè hěn hǎo de shēnghuó zài mǒu zhǒng yìyì shàng. Wǒ zhǐshì juéde, nǐ xiǎng zhīdào de. Wǒ dū shì yīnwèi nǐ, méiyǒu rén, wǒ kěyǐ cǎiqǔ de lí wǒ ér qù. Wǒ zhǐ xīwàng, wǒ zhīdào nǐ shì shuí de nǐ zài nǎlǐ, wǒ néng yǔ dàjiā fēnxiǎng zhège.
Zǒng shì nǐ de nǚ’ér
Zhōu lì tún zhè jiùshì zhōngguó míng fúlì yuàn gěile wǒ.

 

Growing Up in the 60s With Unrealistic Artistic Mirrors

The following is the transcript and visuals of a short presentation that I gave on Saturday 29th at a cinematic arts event in Birmingham – IN CONVERSATION – A Snapshot of Chinese Cinema Today

Map of East Asia Hello, I’m Lucy Sheen. I’m an actor, published writer, filmmaker and transracial adoptee advocate and I suspect many of you have never heard of me in spite of the fact that I’ve been a professional actor for over twenty-five years. As you can see I’m also East Asian. British Hong-Kong Chinese to be exact. I was flown over to the UK in the late fifties early sixties having been adopted by an English family that had never seen me until they picked me up from the airport. I grew up in Britain during the swinging 60s.

Britain at that time was a very different place to what it is today. It was not the diverse and multicultural society that we now have. The region I grew up in was exclusively white and middle to upper class. The only other foreign presence was an Indian take-away (so not even a Chinese take-away!)
As you can probably imagine now with our differing social, cultural and political sensibilities, growing up in such an environment was complicated and not without its challenges. Culturally I found myself in a vacuum. Three television channels only and the radio, which at the time was still a popular entertainment platform, even for the younger generations. I recall listening to such radio shows as The men from the Ministry. Around The Horn, Just a Minute and The Goon Show. Even aurally my early influences were all Caucasian.

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The on screen and stage representations of East Asians that I saw, were few and far between. What I remember, were the following:

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Broken Blossoms, 1919 a D. W. Griffith film. Chen Huan, The Chinese missionary was played by Richard Barthelmass, a white actor, in relative terms and for the period this was actually a positive representation of a Chinese person. The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu 1929, Warner Oland plays the East Asian villain in the first of two films made by the same team.
The Hatchet Man, A 1932 film about Wong Low Get. Played by Edward G Robinson. In spite of all the main characters in the film being East Asian, they were all played by white actors.

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The Mask of Fu Manchu 1932,  Boris Karloff takes on the mantle of the East Asian super villain.

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  Shanghai Express 1932, With Warner Oland as the Warlord Chang.

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The Bitter Tea of General Yen, 1933 Nils Asther played General Yen. This is an early Frank Capra film before he went onto create such iconic American classics such as It’s A Wonderful life. Nils Asther actually sustained prolonged damage to his eyes under the fierce lights, due to pulling his eyelids back in order to get Asian looking eyes.

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The Painted Veil 1934, Warner Oland plays General Yu.

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The Moto film series 1937 to 1939. Peter Lorre playing the main character, Mr. Kentaro Moto. Again another famous Hollywood actor taking on an East Asian character.

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Charlie Chan Movies 1935, Warner Oland (again) takes on the investigative East Asian in the first of six films.

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The Good Earth 1937, an adaptation of Pearl Buck’s bestselling novel. The only role offered to leading East Asian actress, Anna May Wong, was that of the Villa, she turned it down, saying, “you’re asking me-with Chinese blood-to do the only un sympathetic role in the picture featuring an all-American cast portraying Chinese characters.”

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The Adventures of Marco Polo 1938, starring Gary Cooper as Polo. Again the film cast no actual East Asian actors.

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The Drums of Fu Manchu 1940, this time actor Henry Brandon takes on the role of Fu Manchu.

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Dragon Seed 1944.Starring Katherine Hepburn and Agnes Moorehead. Both playing Chinese characters in another Hollywood film. For those of you who, like me grew up in the 60s, I’d say in the UK that Agnes Moorehead is better known as Endora in the US TV series Bewitched.

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Agnes Moorehead and Kathrine Hepuburn as they appeared in Dragon Seed

Love is a Many Splendid-Thing in 1955

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saw Jennifer Jones cast as Dr. Han Suyin. Probably the most recognised film in the genre of “Caucasian man finds love in the Far East” a subject matter that found great popularity in the post World War II era.  Holden an American war correspondent in Hong Kong during the final days of the Chinese Civil War. He falls in love with Jones, a Eurasian doctor. Predictably cultural differences contrive to keep the lovers apart.  Difficult as it is in this “modern age” to accept, but in 1955 this story was revolutionary, “exotic” and new.  William Holden, also starred in the similar, World of Suzy Wong film.

Tea House of the August Moon 1956

Slide20

saw Marlon Brando playing Sakini.

In the biopic of Genghis Khan 1956, the East Asian characters again, are all played by white actors in yellow face. With a toe curlingly awful and embarrassing performance from the usually wonderful and brilliant James Mason, as the Chinese court minister.  Curiously though all the Mongol characters were played by white actors, their appearance remaining  unaltered.

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The New Adventures of Charlie Chan 1957-1958. J. Carol Naish took on the East Asian sleuthing role, Naish yet another white actor cast in the leading role pretending to be an East Asian.

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Inn of The Sixth Happiness 1958, Robert Donat plays The Mandarin, Yang Chen and a very young Burt Kwouk one of the few actual East Asians with a speaking part plays Li, who eventually gets shot in the back for helping Gladys

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A Majority Of One, 1961. Alec Guinness takes on the role of Koichi Asano the millionaire widower from Tokyo.

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Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961. Mickey Rooney playing the bucked-toothed, myopic Japanese Mr. Yinoshi. Is now one of the all time notorious examples of Yellowface at its worst.

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55 Days at Peking. The only Chinese character with any dialogue in the 1963 film was played not by a Caucasian, not by an East Asian, but an actor, who was white neither White or East Asian. But the production found it necessary to hire a large number  of East Asian extras, The rationale, that it would provide authenticity as white heroes mowed down the aggressive and vicious East Asians. Flora Robson famously played the Dowager Empress.

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7 Faces of Dr. Lao 1964. Dr. Lao is played by Tony Randall, a 7,000 year old wizard who can appear in what ever guise he wants. Again Randall another white actor taking the lead role of the East Asian wizard.

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The Vengeance of Dr. Fu Manchu 1967 – 1969 Christopher Lee takes on the guise of the nefarious East Asian in the first of five feature films. Incidentally this one has an un-credited appearance by a young Burt Kwouk.

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The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan in 1972 hit the small screens Finally I saw the character of Chan played by an East Asian actor Keye Luke, but in cartoon form! Interestingly Keye Luke was born in Canton, he ended up in Seattle Washington. Starting  out in the entertainment business as a commercial artist and designer of movie posters. But he kept finding himself being hired as an advisor on a variety of movies that had or were of an East Asian topic. He made his on-screen début in The Painted Veil 1934. It appears that Luke was in practically every single US movie that required a Chinese presence non attributed and attributed. But I suspect that he is best known as Master Pao in the US TV series, Kung Fu.

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Even though this US series attempted to tackle the subject matter of Asian Americans and their part in US society and history it was marred by the fact that the lead role was given to the white actor David Carridine. I cannot help but wonder what might have been had Warner Bros actually considered and given the part of Kwai Chang Caine to Bruce Lee.

 

David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine Bruce-Lee-Meditating1 bruce_lee_kicking_ass

In the UK Mind Your Language hit our television screens it aired 1977 – 1986. imho an appalling TV series that pandered to the base common denominator of crude stereotypical caricatures of people from differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds for cheap laughs. This show was still running a year after I graduated from drama school!

Full Cast

Full cast of Mind Your Language

The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu 1980, saw Peter Sellers don the robe and long finger nails of Fu Manchu.
Reilly Ace of Spies 1983 popular TV series saw The Chinese police inspector that Reilly matches wit with, played by David Suchet.

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I suppose the most “infamous” case of Yellow face in recent UK entertainment history was that of Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer in Mackintosh’s hit musical Miss Saigon in 1989.
As you can see the cultural mirrors I had were not great. As all of these depictions where cases of Yellow Face, non-Asian actors making themselves up to, literally, appear “East Asian” making physical adjustments to their eyes in order to appear more East Asian in shape, all the better to play the role of an East Asian. Along with the make up there was usually an accompanying stereotypical performance which inevitably involved a heavy East Asian accent. Unlike blackface or blacking up, yellow face in UK cinema and theatre appears not to be as unacceptable.

miss saigon playbill

So those were the role models and social mirrors that I had. Yellow Face examples. But very few actual East Asian faces . . .One of the first female East Asian faces I saw on TV was Anna May Wong. But she was American and not British. The many roles that she was seen in were not exactly “positive affirmations of being an East Asian woman.

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Anna May Wong

In the UK, it was Burt Kwouk, as he said of himself once in a radio interview “The all purpose Oriental”.

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Tsai Chin, sadly no longer resident on these shores.

Tsai Chin

Tsai Chin

Lynne Sue Moon (To Sir With Love, 55 Days At Peking)

 

Lynne Sue Moon (To Sir With Love, 55 Days At Peking)

Eric or Ric Young (Indian Jones, Ping Pong, The Last Emperor, Dragon)

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Barbara Yu Ling (Satanic Rites of Dracula, Ping Pong, Peggy Sui)

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Robert Lee (Dragon Seed, The World of Suzie Wong, Gangsters, Mind Your Language, Ping Pong).

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Robert Lee

Does Britain really know or remember any of those actors save Burt Kwouk and Tsai Chin?
The one small screen TV series that many UK people remember with a Chinese lead character sans “Chinese” accent, was The Chinese Detective, starring David Yip. Amazingly this TV series only came onto the scene when I was in the final years of drama school in the early 80s.
Growing up watching how East Asians were represented on stage and screen in the the UK, I soon learnt that East Asians, me, we were viewed as the perpetual foreigners. Or martial arts experts, or members of a minority. But we were a model minority. In other words we were silent, submissive and compliant. We caused no trouble and we didn’t fight back. We were boards to be slapped. We were also nerds and geeks. Even if we made our way into the wider society we were still outcasts. Sexually East Asian males were emasculated or a-sexualised, whilst the females must always be sexually available. We were always inferior and subordinate to Caucasians. However on the “upside” East Asians could be mystics, arch-villains (Dr. Fu Manchu), caricatures (Mr Yinoshi Breakfast At Tiffany’s) or just plain bizarre, unfathomable, or inscrutable.
What I was seeing on the small and big UK screen was essentially the same stereotypical view of East Asia and it’s people that the Victorians had created. On UK TV, Gangsters 1976, Mind Your Language 1977, The Chinese Detective 1981, Tenko 1981 and The Ginger Tree 1989.  Of course I couldn’t possibly not mention the beloved Dr.Who
The Talons of Weng-Chiang and John Bennett in Yellow face as Li H’sen Chang

doctor-who-the-talons-of-weng-chiang-racist Talons of Weng Chiang_chang vlcsnap-00031-300x225 wc_1

Since then we have had an East Asian doing skin work in the globally popular pre-school kids program Teletubbies – but who would know? The Children’s’ drama Spirit Warriors. And a smattering of “Chinese” characters in Brookside. A student in Coronation Street and I believe a DVD seller in Eastenders. But the one thing that many of these representations have in common is their “foreignness” most of those characters had accents and were not embedded in British society. They were not seen as British citizens, but as outsiders, foreigners.

The social and cultural mirrors that I had as a young infant, child and then teenager were dubious to say the least. Famous white actors pretending to be East Asians. Enter the Dragon didn’t hit the big screens in the UK until July 1973 and was certified as an X rated film.

Bruce_Lee_Enter_the_Dragon_1973_01As amazing and fabulous, the legendary Bruce Lee was and will always be, he’d grown up in Hong Kong and then moved to US an entirely different experience to that of UK East Asians.

What does it matter whether I saw genuine East Asian actors in positive or negative roles on the big or small screen? Surely it’s about the overall quality of the work. The fact that there were even East Asian characters on film or the TV during that period, some might argue should have been enough?

Perhaps I should turn this around. When someone says to you “Chinese” what do you automatically think of? The shape of the eyes? Skin colour? Accent? Physical height and stature? Chopsticks in the hair? Take-aways, sweet and sour, egg-fried rice? Martial arts?  Women who are submissive?

For an East Asian child growing up within British culture and society the depictions of grovelling badly spoken and “dubious” people, who were constantly being ridiculed for their accent, for the way that they looked, for being Chinese, doesn’t do anything for a young person’s self-esteem or understanding of their own identity. As a very young child I might not have been able to express fully how these portrayals of East Asian people affected me. But I knew it was bad. I was painfully aware that I was not accepted by many. That the expectations British society had of me were based on a very different footing because I was not Caucasian.

As well as being an internal outcast amongst the society and the home, I was also a cultural outcast. So it might appear odd to say the least, that I ended up as an actor writer and filmmaker. I suppose it gave me license or at least a partial licence to be who I was. Though when I first graduated from drama school I was often left wondering exactly what that might be! And even at drama school I did not escape cultural and racial bias. An environment where you should be able to gain experience, and “fail” securely, I soon learnt that the professional expectations for me were maids, prostitutes, waitresses and shady under world characters. Apparently those would be the only types of roles that I would ever be cast in.

For me the influence or lack there of, of actual East Asians and the biased attitude towards East Asians made me even more determined to try and find my way in the business of acting.

My first professional role was the lead in the Channel 4 film Ping Pong directed by Po Chi’h Leong in 1986.

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The first British feature film to look at a section of British society that until then had been stereotyped, caricatured, side-barred or orientalised. For the first time on the big screen came a view of the British Chinese without exaggerated funny accents, a look beyond the chopsticks, lanterns and kung fu slippers, an insight into the British Chinese community, their fears and a glimpse into some of their back stories, the history, the loves, the passion, the disappointments. I played Elaine Choi a British Chinese trainee lawyer, very British, in fact so British that even her dad calls her a gwei mui, a foreign devil. Elaine is what some Chinese might call, yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Elaine is feisty, untraditional and very, very British. She knew next to nothing about Chinese culture and didn’t care that other Chinese people might think her odd. Not unlike me. Here on the big screen for the first time were representations of the British Chinese as people. Not cultural-cyphers or stereotypical tropes.

David Yip and  Lucy Sheen_Ping Pong_cropped

David Yip and Lucy Sheen

But people, with lives, history and context. Sadly it’s in my personal opinion, it’s taken over twenty years for PING PONG to finally start receiving the attention and acclaim that it should have been afforded when it was originally released in 1986. I was the first British Chinese actress to have been given the lead role in a British feature film.

Ping+Pong-Woman+Warrior.JPG

Lucy Sheen as The Woman Warrior in Ping Pong

But instead of assisting my career I think it actually hindered it. I was cast as an East Asian but not the “me no speakie” english type of Chinese, the popularly accepted representation of the time. No I was an English speaking, cigarette smoking, stand up and speak for myself British East Asian. A character that UK audiences were unaccustomed to – and one could say still are today.
I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked with many of the best in British Theatre, TV and Films: Glenda Jackson, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Ian Holm, David Threlfall, Pam Ferris, Kathryn Hunter, Zoe Wannermaker, Eamonn Walker, Roger Rees, Stephen Dillane, David Yip, Burt Kwouk, more recently Julia Davis, Mark Gattis and Hattie Morahan.

Why am I reeling of who I have worked with? As I said at the start, I doubt if many people have ever heard of me let alone the work that I have done. I’ve been working as a professional actor for over twenty-five years. I was the first female British Chinese to be accepted onto a recognised UK (adult) drama school and to graduate with a BA (Hons) in Theatre Arts. In spite of being the first British East Asian actress to have be cast in a major Shakespearian role (Portia in Julius Caesar ) in the early nineties. I am also the first British Chinese actress to have been nominated for a major
UK theatre award in 1990 and again in 2010. It is important, as a colleague pointed out to me, to make people aware of these achievements. And obviously I starred in the first British made feature film about the British Chinese community, Ping Pong 1986. As another friend a fellow actor pointed out long ago; an equivalent Caucasian actress with the same CV yours, would already have had at least one lead role in a TV series if not more.
I think that says quite a lot about the attitude that the arts and the wider society has towards East Asians in the UK and as a whole. As has been written about recently by Daniel York British East Asian actor, writer and filmmaker, there is a pecking order of race and ethnicity “acceptability” in the UK which comes through in the lack of realistic representations in the media even in the 21st century, when it comes to East Asians.

There has been a a lot of public debate recently with articles in the national press from prominent Black Actors Edris Elba and David Harewood and at BAFTA from Lenny Henry about the lack of Black and Ethnic minorities in the arts and the talent drain seeing many British Black Minority and Ethnic actors going over to the states.
It comes back to how we as society represent and portray our now diverse and mixed society.
Why cannot an East Asian been seen as a journalist, secretary or fruit and veg seller? Why are there no head-liners in British soaps that are British East Asian? The East Asians that have appeared in soaps are usually immigrants with accents. Where are the British East Asians school teachers, barristers, mechanics, entrepreneurs, cab drivers, surgeons, pub landlords, lecturers and bus drivers? Only by providing realistic and fully rounded representations of British East Asians will the wider society be able to fully appreciate the contribution that East Asians in this country make whether that be as restaurateurs, 3D animators or solicitors.
In 2009 on a UK theatre stage Yellow Face was alive and well in the production of More Light at the Arcola Theatre in London.

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2011 Dolce & Gabana’s Story on Japan, filmed, staged and cat walked their models with taped eyes, proudly presenting this as some form of designer “chic”. To me this was Yellow Face pure and simple. If they had wanted to present the chic East Asian angle why not hire a group of East Asian models?

Slide48

In 2012 the controversy surrounding the Royal Shakespeare’s production of The Orphan of Zhao went viral it surged through the social media platforms in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe and of course in the UK. Sparked by a group of eleven British East Asian actors, (of which I was one) academics and other creatives who felt that this was just one step too far. A publicly funded company of global renown staging The Chinese Hamlet but casting only three British East Asians in a commonly of seventeen and in minor non protagonistic roles.

Slide49 Slide50 Slide51 Slide52

Sadly even now in the 21st century artistic representations of East Asians are limited and still subject to the stereotypical, caricature and blinkered portrayals of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. If this is happening on UK stages then is it any wonder, that what is reflected in UK TV and Film is no better?

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Lilting 2013 Cheng Pei Pei and Ben Whishaw

There are films, directors and creatives that are fighting against this trend such as Hong Khaou and his beautiful film Lilting, (2013) But this is happing in spite of, not because of the attitudes of the gatekeepers, funders and the culturally dominant in the UK. Until everyone buys into true diversity and realistic representation of British East Asians we will always be one film away, one TV series, one stage play away from Yellow face representations of British East Asians. We have to start investing and properly supporting British East Asian talent, both in front of and behind the camera, on stage and backstage. Or we will we never see changes in British culture or societal attitudes. If we as a nation do not validated and support all of our artists as human beings Then British East Asians will never be allowed to find a place on the UK cultural landscape. We will never be able to work fully or be cast as Caucasian actors and other ethnic minorities sometimes are both specifically and non-specifically. Why does this matter? Well it matters because as a tax paying British East Asian I’d like to feel fully included in the society to which I contribute. I think that fully including East Asians in British cultural society will enrich us all. We will learn more of our own history, by becoming acquainted with the many hidden and as yet untold stories that make up British culture, society and politics both past and present. Which brings us back to how British society represents East Asians on stage and screen.  Are you seriously telling me that the creative industries, the wider society truly see East Asians like me as nothing more than heavily accented, martial artists that work in restaurants and take-aways?  That the best we can hope for is to be tragic illegal immigrants found dead in refrigerated lorries or drowned whelk pickers?

That the only accents we can have are “Chinese” that there are no Welsh, Scottish, or Yorkshire East Asians? Let’s hope it doesn’t take another twenty-five years before we start seeing British East Asians in our Films, TV and on the stage. Lets hope that we are not omitted from allowing to participate in the making and telling our own stories or recreating our own histories that we will finally make our way into the cultural landscape of this country as other British ethnic minorities have done so. Again it comes back to representation and also giving the opportunities to the indigenous talent of British East Asian Artists that exist in this country, has done so for over twenty odd years.

“I knew it when I was in front….”

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

More fairyprincessdiaries – read it people

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The line from A CHORUS LINE is resonating with The Fairy Princess today  – “I knew it when I was in front”

Sheila says it. Shelia, for those who do not know the show is the ‘mature’ dancer in the show. She’s done the most shows, she has the most experience, but she sees the younger ones nipping on her heels. Shelia knows that time is the enemy of a dancer, but she is not going down without a fight.

But going to the back of the line and dancing behind the kids? When she has been in front for years?

Sheila has had it…officially!

DeTox is done, officially, too

DeTox is done, officially, too

The Fairy Princess is done, officially too, I’m going to make this short and sweet.

I understand “Activism”

Activism is looking at working conditions in the garment district and pressing for change in safety regulations.

The Triangle Fires - look it up, wait, here is the link. The Triangle Fires – look…

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The Fairy Princess Gives an Interview….just reblogging in case you missed it.

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

A perspective from the other side of the pond on diversity and inclusion. Seems that the grass is not as green as some of us might have hoped for

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

After the Panel: Stop talking. Start doing.

by Erin Quill

in Diversity & Inclusion

Post image for After the Panel: Stop talking. Start doing.

(Ed. note: The following interview series builds on Seema Sueko’s report on the Diversity: Through the Director’s Eye panel, “Jump into the Gaps.” Diversity & Inclusion online curator Jacqueline E. Lawton shared a series of questions with attendees of the panel to expand and continue the conversation.) 


JACQUELINE LAWTON: First, tell me about the work you do as a theatre artist or administrator.

ERIN QUILL: Primarily I am a Performer – I hold a BFA from Carnegie Mellon in Vocal Performance. I was in the Original Broadway Company of Avenue Q, the 50th Anniversary production of Flower Drum Song, toured as Lady Thiang in King & I, your general musical theater resume… On Los Angeles stages, I am known for my work with Lodestone Theatre Ensemble’s productions of The Mikado Project and Closer Than…

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A Tiger Lily Grows in Hollywood….With a Dragon Tattoo

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

Another diary entry from the fariyprincess – great way to start the weekend

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The Fairy Princess just wanted to have a peaceful Thursday.

She wanted to watch Scandal, and see if anyone ate their arm off to escape twenty years of incarceration, and perhaps sip a hot chocolate while doing so.

There were some excellent things that occurred this last week, and while she generally sticks to commenting on theater, attention must be paid to Hollywood who has made some cool decisions this week.

To begin with, Reggie Lee- aka Sgt. Wu on NBC’s GRIMM got his own mythical creature of horror to love and rear and name Aswang.

Obviously, the Aswang is on the right....

Obviously, the Aswang is on the right….

The Aswang is so completely a creature that Filipino parents would scare people with that I cackled with laughter – it sneaks into a pregnant woman’s bed and eats her unborn child. (I mean, of course, that is really, really bad, but that is definitely…

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Assimilate or…?

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

My response to Assimilate …
I think that I am maybe on the road to this reverse assimilation. I have spent a life time feeling rather like a two dimensional sculpture where the façade is in 3D but the back is flat and un-carved.
Society has tried to chew my face off, hell even I tried to chew my own face off when I was younger. But it remained. In the same manner that having been brought up in the culture and society of white privilege with the expectation that I would embrace and assimilate; but at the same time no matter how much education, how much orientation and submersion in white and western culture, I was never ever going to be white. I would never ever be able to reap the benefits of the white privileged culture that I was brought up in.
I think that we have to take back that which was lost, that which was taken from us. Assimilation is a slow death as those with power and money consciously or subconsciously seek to conquer all.
If you remove the children of a race and wipe their minds of emotional, cultural and linguistic memories or connections, it’s as if they never existed, as if they don’t matter. A way to control, subjugate and keep the oppressed, oppressed.
We must continue to challenge and find our own ways home

Originally posted on Transracialeyes:

Random snippets behind this post include this quote I came across on Twitter [ link ]:

“Getting rid of your Chineseness by losing your accent, it’s like grinding away your face.” —Richard A Lou, artist; from the book War Baby/Love Child

It makes me think of a former and historical/egalitarian “cosmopolitanism” or mixing of cultures in an urban setting, with a neo-cosmopolitanism today which demands assimilation and a class attainment that goes unmentioned.

I’m thinking of the mediation of this demand to “grind away your face”, from the classist Hee Haw to the Disney Channel, where everyone speaks with a “California lite” accent and has Consumerism as their religion.

Ironically, this kind of minstrelsy is often seen by the targeted group(s) as “empowering”; I’m thinking here of The Sopranos or The Jersey Shore or Glee (etc.).

There was a day when alternatives to mainstream media existed; now seemingly long gone….

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Those Wounds Heal Ill, oh @TheWoosterGroup

Lucy Sheen aka 4gottenadoptee:

As fairyprincessdiares says, things go in threes, the good and the bad.
With reference to The Wooster Group’s latest production of Trolius & Cressida. A show that I admit I have not seen. At the time they were playing in the UK I and eleven others were busy “battling” with the RSC on their production of The Orphan of Zhao. What’s the connection? Well, blow me, if The Royal Shakespeare Company was not also involved with this production. This time using Native American culture but without actually employing any Native Americans. A friend who did see the production had this to say,
“Complete theatrical car crash. Fascinating, but not for the right reasons.”

Originally posted on fairyprincessdiaries:

The Fairy Princess actually thought she was going to have a good day….after all, one of her old bosses is up to be an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) Award winner today, and she has EVERYTHING crossed for Kristen Anderson Lopez and Bobby Lopez to win for Best Song – LET IT GO, from the film, FROZEN
Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez

Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez

The Pasadena Playhouse has announced that under the direction of new Associate Artistic Director, Seema Sueko, they are going to produce a workshop of playwright, Philip C. Chung’s play, COME DOWN IN TIME, as part of their Hothouse series. They will co-produce with East West Players, and it will take place on March 20 & 21, 2014 at  8:00 PM at The Vault, 60 Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.

The HOTHOUSE Series is designed to highlight and develop plays that ‘authentically align with the Playhouse’s commitment…

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