To what extent are you willing to go in order to achieve your dreams?
Take a good look at Chloe Bennet and you’d never be able to guess that she can speak Mandarin. In fact, this Caucasian-looking beauty is actually half Asian! Her father, Bennet Wang is Chinese while her mother, Stephanie Crane is an American.
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Chloe’s famous single in Mandarin, Uh Oh, was released in 2011 when she was just a teenager living in Shanghai, China. Despite being celebrated for her talent and beauty from a young age, Chloe didn’t rest on her laurels. Rather, she decided to take on a new challenge by embarking on a new adventure in the Hollywood entertainment scene.
In order for her to achieve her dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress, Chloe made the decision to change her last name from Wang to Bennet. This is because she believed it would be easier for her to market herself and break into the entertainment industry to secure roles in TV and movies with an anglicised surname.
Prior to changing her last name, she had experienced being asked if she was Asian or Caucasian and repeatedly got feedback from people stating that she wasn’t white or Asian enough to be part of the scene. However, this didn’t deter the actress from soldiering on in an industry where the representation of race and gender leaves much to be desired. Her perseverance (and talent, of course) paid off as she went on to star in several Hollywood hits including the ABC series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Today, the 27-year-old isn’t only well-known in the acting scene but she’s also recognised for championing diversity and creating awareness on mental health issues. Her latest coup is playing the lead voiceover role of Yi in Abominable, and she shared with us what it’s like to steer through Hollywood as an Asian-American and how she relates closely to Yi.
FEMALE: Was it important for the movie to represent Chinese culture?
Chloe: “From the beginning of my journey in this industry and as an Asian-American young woman, you’re told that you’re supposed to be this or that, and the narrative changes with each person that you’re around. It’s important for me to see characters that are Asian and that we’re represented both on and off-screen, but the heart of the movie is about people. It highlights the human experience so much more than anything else.”
F: How did the film resonate with you when you learned of its storyline?
C: “You have Yi the dreamer, Peng and Jin and everyone who has a different outlook in the story. That’s what makes this film dynamic. I don’t want to be defined by one thing, even if it’s a huge part of who I am. Hollywood tends to make trends out of everything, and what this movie does is not play into trend, it just is. It happens to feature Chinese characters, and it happens to be created, produced, written and directed by women as well as people who are just really good at their jobs.”
F: As an Asian-American actress, how does it feel to be able to represent an Asian character?
C: “Yi is so much of Jill (the director of Abominable) and our relationship and bonding were about how different we felt as kids and how unrepresented we both felt. For me, the reason I got into this entire business is because of how important I think representation is in film and how much I wanted to support myself as a young girl. You don’t have to be a man, a white girl or a damsel in distress to be on screen. There wasn’t anything like that so to be able to do this myself, it was kind of like a ‘pinch me’ moment.”
F: What do you hope for the audience to see in Yi?
C: “I would describe her as an introvert-extrovert, and I’m the same. She’d rather spend time with herself instead of being around people she doesn’t feel inspired by or has a connection with, and I feel very similar to that.”