What they can't take away
I was really excited for this agent meeting. And it felt really good when the agent looked at me and said, You have a great look. That was the extent of the ease in that meeting. She continues:
You look androgynous in your pictures. It didn't sit right, but I smiled along and said thanks, unsure of what I was thanking her for. I needed to process whether my unease was because it was an offensive thing, or if my ideas of what female/male look like are narrow. I don't know. I still want to look female even though I have short hair. My short hair insecurity journey continues. I feel like I have very female dimples and eyes and cheekbones. But is it a bad thing to look like a guy, too? Is it a bad thing to look a little male here and a little female here. Is it because I identify as female? Is it okay that I identify as female? I don't know. Next spiral...
She goes, What are you, like I know you're Asian, but...What am I? I'm a fucking human. I'm an actress. I'm a person. What am I? What are you? Do people ever say that to you? Do people ever wonder what you are? I doubt it, but I get that ALL. THE. TIME. For a moment, it snaps me out of this reality where I am 100% human. That question brings me into another world, where the spotlight makes me think, I AM FOREIGN. I AM DIFFERENT. I AM A STRANGE CREATURE. What am I? After getting that question for so many years, I know what the question asker wants. They want to know what kind of Asian am I, but what does that get you? What if I said I was Korean? What if I said I was Thai? What if I said I was Pakistani? What do you get from that besides thinking, I must also speak this other language because I am so other that I cannot simply be like you and ONLY KNOW ONE DAMN LANGUAGE. Why can't I be as limited as you and only be fluent in one language? Why can't that be normal for someone like me? Which leads to the final question that actually makes me quite protective of my parents.
Being protective of parents seems like a common trait among first generation children. Often I'm in spaces where my parents are the butt of jokes or the reason for laughs or stares, and I go out of my way to either hide these so they don't see them, or I call these damn motherf*er's out. We are the protectors of our parents because everyone treats them like aliens in this land they know probably better than most. They are probably more American than any of you judgy people, who define "American" as those who work hard and get successful, are. Our parents, our immigrant parents work HARD and they are successful: LOOK AT THEIR CHILDREN. HA. Yeah. I own that. We own that.
Back to this agent. She goes, well, shouldn't you be fluent if your parents speak in Mandarin? Um...look at China. Look at how big it is. It has over 1 billion people! China has hundreds of dialects! Are you serious? Are you serious? Why should I be fluent just because my parents are fluent in their specific dialect? Language doesn't just come to people via blood and birth. You know what my parents were doing so that I could be sitting across the table from you to have this agent meeting? Working their asses off so you wouldn't question their place in this country. Working 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. So yeah, I know enough Chinese from those hours I saw them. I know how to say hungry and bathroom and it's so damn hot and stop smoking in Toisan Chinese, excuse me, but no I am not quote on quote fluent. What is fluent anyways?
I think in English. I dream in English. There are phrases I say that show that another language has influenced my lingo and I have a very "unique" accent, but English is what I'm fluent in. Yes, I am like you: fluent in English.
I left smiling, but I felt unsettled. I mean, I'm still a cordial person. But to this agent and many like this agent:
I know that many people come knocking on your inbox for a representation meeting. But remember this isn't a one way interview. I'm also gauging who you are! You will be, dare I say, working for me. If I don't get work, you don't get paid. And when it's a solid relationship, we truly work together, we work for each other with good communication, thank you cards and text message reminders of auditions.
To my brave and beautiful actors: Don't let people steal your power and your integrity. Have your first principles and hold onto them even when seemingly good opportunities come knocking. Sometimes that might mean letting go of the only person who "seems to be on your side". You will know when people are on your side and on your team, when you meet them. These people see you and believe in you. They see you beyond the skills you can write on a scale from 1 to 3. They see you beyond that blue polo shirt commercial shot. They see you beyond that dramatic monologue you did from "Long Day's Journey into Night." They see a human person who's got something real special and they want the world to see it too. If that person doesn't give you that vibe, honestly it's not worth it. These die-hard people give me reason to keep doing this insane life. Thank you fam.
When you go on a Bumble date and your date kind of sucks, why would you settle for him or her? Same here. I get it. You say, but Nancy, I've been single a very long time. Do you even understand that? And to that point I will say, yes indeed I understand that, because I am probably more single than you and I don't see a change coming in foreseeable future. (God, this does not mean I don't want you to open the door for me and he-who-must-not-be-named. I love this guy. EEK.) But the thing is settling for someone that doesn't fully see you will only make you bitter, insecure and prevent you from finding the better one. Patience young jedi.
There are so many hard things for actors. We come across desperate, sometimes, because, hell, we serve a-holes at mininum wage jobs, work for free 90% of the time, and get fit in this rejection hamster wheel. I know. I know. But don't let others take the integrity of who you are from you. That is what will make you endure and last in this career: Your integrity and the confidence to know, YOU ARE awesome and enough!