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'Important': Asian Americans praise Anna May Wong's US neighborhood

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More than 60 years after Anna May Wong became the first Asian-American woman to star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the lead actor has literally made another first.

According to the U.S. Mint, Wong, whose face-bearing quarters and manicured hand will begin shipping Monday, will be the first Asian American to award U.S. currency. Few would be stunned by the honor than her niece and namesake Anna Wong, who learned of the American Women’s Quarters. Honor from the mint’s chief legal counsel.

“From there he got into designs and there were a lot of talented artists with many different interpretations. In an email to The Associated Press, Anna Wong took out a quarter to look at the size to imagine and experiment with how the images would translate to real life.

Fighting against the stereotypes imposed on her by a white Hollywood, the elderly Wong is one of five women honored as part of the program this year. Mint Director Ventris Gibson was named “a bold advocate for Asian-American actors who are champions for greater representation and more multidimensional roles,” she said in a statement.

Other selected icons include author Maya Angelou; An educator and the first American woman in space, Dr. Sally Ride; Wilma Mankiller, the Cherokee Nation’s first female elected chief executive; and Nina Otero-Warren, a pioneer of New Mexico’s suffrage movement.

Wong’s success has excited Asian Americans inside and outside the entertainment industry.

Her nephew, who is the brother of her father, Anna May Wong, will attend an event with Mint on November 4 at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. “Shanghai Express,” one of Wong’s films, will be screened, followed by a panel discussion.

Arthur Dong, author of the “Hollywood Chinese” book, said the quarter looked like a confirmation of the contributions of all Asian Americans, not just Wong’s. A star on the Walk of Fame is huge, but being in US currency is another famous stratosphere.

“What that means is that people all over the nation – and I guess all over the world – will see his face and name,” Dong said. “If they don’t know anything about him, they’re going to be curious and want to learn about him.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1905, Wong began acting in the silent film era. Although his career trajectory coincided with Hollywood’s first Golden Age, things were not so golden for Wong.

According to Dong’s book, he got his first major role in “The Wage of the Sea” in 1922. Two years later, he played a Mongolian slave in the movie “The Thief of Baghdad”. For several years she had to only receive offers for the roles of femme fatale or Asian “dragonwoman”.

He escaped to European movie sets and scenes, but Wong returned to the United States in the early 1930s and reprized as characters based on tropes that would hardly be tolerated today. These roles included Fu Manchu’s unreliable daughter in “Daughter of the Dragon” and a sex worker in “Shanghai Express.”

She lost the lead role to white actor Luise Rainer in the 1937 film “The Good Earth,” based on the novel about a Chinese farming family. But in 1938’s “King of Chinatown,” he played a more humane, sympathetic Chinese-American doctor.

The juxtaposition of this film with his other roles is the focus of one day of “Hollywood Chinese: The First 100 Years,” a month-long program that Dong curated at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles in November.

“(‘King of Chinatown’) was part of this multi-picture deal at Paramount, giving him more control over the genres of movies he’d be involved in,” he said. “It was quite extraordinary that a Chinese-American woman got this kind of multi-image deal at Paramount.”

In the 1950s, Wong switched to television shows. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s film adaptation of “The Flower Drum Song” was supposed to return to the big screen, but had to leave the game due to illness. He died on February 2, 1961, a year after receiving his star.

Bing Chen, co-founder of the nonprofit Gold House, which focuses on the representation and empowerment of Asian and Asian-American content, described the new quarter as “significant.” He praised Wong as a “generational” star.

But at the same time, he highlighted how anti-Asian hate incidents are. and the lack of representation in the media still continues.

“In a list of years in which Asian women have faced sweeping challenges, from being objectified on screen to being the least likely group to be promoted to corporate management, this currency reinforces what most of us have known from the beginning: (they are) here and worthy,” Chen said in a statement. “However, as a hyphenated community, it’s impossible to forget that Asian Americans are constantly struggling between being successful and being seen.”

Asian American advocacy groups outside of the entertainment world also praised the new neighborhoods. Norman Chen, CEO of The Asian American Foundation, plans to look for the coins to show his family.

“I think it would be really powerful for them to see an Asian American woman on a coin. “It’s a dramatic symbol of how we’ve become so integrated into American society, but it’s still seen in stereotypical ways.” “But my family will look at it. They will be pleasantly surprised and proud.”

To sum it up, Chen said it was a huge step forward: “Nothing is more American than our money.”


Terry Tang is a member of the Associated Press’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at