Feminist Hero Friday: Constance Wu
by Jennie Kim
Constance Wu, a Taiwanese American actress, was born and raised in Richmond, VA in an immigrant household. Her career began in local theater productions and she later attended SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theater Arts, where she received her BFA in Acting.
I, along with most of America, came to know her as Jessica on Fresh Off the Boat, the clever, no-nonsense matriarch of the Huang family. FOTB also happens to be the first American sitcom about an Asian American family to air on network primetime since Margaret Cho's All-American Girl (aka the second ever). The show first aired in 2014 and is still going strong in its third season.
I enjoy watching Constance as Jessica – she reminds me of my own Korean mother and the countless other ahjummas of my childhood – but I found that her work outside of the FOTB universe to be the most compelling and inspiring. Despite the fact that she isn't some hot-shot actor with multiple accolades and major roles under her belt (shoutout to her back-to-back nominations in the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Comedy Actress though), she has never been afraid to call out Hollywood for its lack of representation and work for Asian American actors.
"The Asian-American experience [is something] a lot of us as Asian-Americans really haven’t explored, because they lump us all into one. Asia can be Japan and it can be India; it’s a balance, and it’s not easy, and that’s probably why it’s easier for Hollywood to hire Chinese-Chinese actresses as opposed to people who fit the Asian-American mold, because a lot of people like to simplify problems. It’s terrifying to say, ‘This is a thing that is complex and worthy of our time,’ but it is complex, and that’s why you’re not going to always find an easy, palatable answer. I think [the show is] trying to approach that complexity in a very traditionally simplistic form. And I think if we can do that, it’s almost its own type of activism.”
After the Oscar nominations came out this year, she also took to Twitter to speak out against the nomination of Casey Affleck (who has multiple sexual harassment allegations against him...yet managed to get nominated for something prestigious. Sounds oddly familiar!).
While there's no telling how long FOTB will go for and while there's no telling when Hollywood will better represent people of all backgrounds and identities, it's clear that Constance's unapologetic nature makes her a feminist hero. Whether it's in championing for Asian American actors or women's rights, she's modeled the perfect way to use your privilege and power as a platform for things that really matter.
Jennie Kim is also a #youngprofessional based in the Twin Cities working in the non-profit sector. In her spare time, you can find her on Twitter reading up on the news, long-form articles about pretty much anything, watching TV, and meeting POC in the Twin Cities (where she is surrounded by white people most of the time).
Jennie is a proud Korean American and child of Generation 1.5 and will fight you if you tell her that that isn't a real thing, because it is. She's trying to write more about the things she is passionate about and to write/speak things into existence, which motivated her to become a contributor on this website.