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A Lea Salonga Interview


US ASIANS: What are your opinions on the current state of diversity within the television, theater and film industry in the United States?

LEA SALONGA: Things are getting better... I believe that eventually, more minority actors will be given more opportunities to perform.

Mulan's Diversity
The movie actually breaks one stereotype: that of the Disney princess. Lea Salonga, who sang the title role, told UPI the character was a departure from the traditional Disney animated princess. "It actually is based on a Chinese legend," she said. "It isn't one Disney picked out of the air and said, 'Hey, let's make a cross- dressing story.'"
For more info, click
US ASIANS: What do you feel is the plight, progress and promise of artists of Asian descent in the American entertainment industry?

LEA SALONGA: At the end of the day, this is a business, and producers feel that their responsibility is to hire those who will help them reach that goal. So, they'll hire actors who they feel that the majority of people will want to see, and Asian actors don't always fit that bill. I'd like to think that with films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha, it'll change. I know it'll be slow, but it'll happen.

US ASIANS: Are you still having problems getting substantial roles in television for reasons that include "not Asian-looking enough, You must look really Chinese/Japanese/Korean, if I wasn't so mixed already - mga Pinoy, may halong ganito, may halong ganyan; 'Where do we put her?'"

WHEN LEA SALONGA (star of a non-Asian lead role in Les Miserables and a recent Tony-award winning artist) is told “They don't want you to audition because you're Asian" - the situation merits serious review of the factors behind the reasoning. The Yellow Ceiling" (the almost unexplainable difficulty that artists of Asian descent face achieving acceptance in race-neutral roles in America) described in Nelson Handel’s recent Los Angeles Times article profiling Lea Salonga has been stated as the most prominent obstacle faced talented artists of Asian descent.
For additional details, click HERE
LEA SALONGA: I'm keeping optimistic... I'm confident that I'll find my place in the sun.

US ASIANS: Recognizing that you’ve been stopped from auditions because of my background, who was responsible and what were the factors that allowed you the opportunity to perform as Les Miz’s “Eponine?”

LEA SALONGA: The producers of the show asked me to be part of the show, and I saw it as an opportunity to prove that this type of casting did work. I don't know that the producers saw it the same way that I did.

US ASIANS: Do you consider yourself as a role model for the artists of Asian, Filipino and Asian Pacific American descent? If so, what do you feel are the obligations of a “role model?”

LEA SALONGA: I don't know that I consider myself one... nor can I dub myself one. If I am seen as a role model, it's flattering, but it also is a position of responsibility. I have to watch how I behave in public, and be mindful of the roles I choose to do.

US ASIANS: As the only artist of Asian descent that has achieved success within the American theater (having been involved with three trailblazing productions (i.e. Flower Drum Song, Les Mis and Miss Saigon), what is your opinion on why this is a fact? Could it be that there is a lack of talent, lack of training, lack of opportunities, lack of support and/or lack of roles?

LEA SALONGA: I really have no idea. I guess in my case, it was pure luck. It's not a lack of training, or anything. A lot of the time, it's a lack of opportunity.

US ASIANS: For aspiring Asian/Asian Pacific American actors, do you feel that past pioneers such as Anna May Wong, Philip Ahn, Sessue Hayakawa and Bruce Lee are important to know and to learn from?

LEA SALONGA: It's VERY important to find out who these people are and learn what their own struggles have been in this business.

Mercury News' Marian Liu reports that "For Asian-Americans, the move toward entertainment careers has been a recent one, stretching the past 40 years, starting with such stereotypical films as the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Flower Drum Song."

(Editor's Note: This "stereotypical film" was based on the first Chinese American novel to be published by an established publishing house, the first Chinese American novel to be on the best-seller list, the first Broadway/major movie studio production to feature, star and about Asian Americans, the female stars of the Broadway show -- Pat Suzuki and Miyoshi Umeki -- became the first Asian Americans to be on the cover of Time and Newsweek and the film that launched the careers of Miyoshi Umeki, Jack Soo, James Shigeta, and Nancy Kwan.) For more info, click HERE.

  Anna May Wong    Philip Ahn   Keye Luke in his earlier days   Sessue Hayakawa Picture  

US ASIANS: Noting your few and careful selection of which Asian/Asian Pacific American organizations you have supported in the past (because of legitimate questions of production values, the proper profile in the entertainment industry, finances, scheduling, etc.) what are your criteria of the event and/or organization that would be major factors in your decision of whom to support or participate?

LEA SALONGA: I just have to be careful with the organizations I align myself with. There are groups that, on the outside, appear to be helping the community but in reality have alterior motives and intentions.

US ASIANS: What were the circumstances and reasons that prompted your participation in recording the single "How Wonderful We Are" with Peabo Bryson for Disney's special feature People: A Musical Celebration of Diversity (music & lyrics by Lebo M)

LEA SALONGA: I was nicely asked... I also saw the list of artists who were also involved in the project, and got to know what the project was about.

US ASIANS: From East West Players, Golden Ring Awards, Concert of Excellence, CAPE, FAAIM, AAA Celebrations and other organizations that advocate the integration of Asian/Asian Pacific American talents in the entertainment industry – which ones do you feel have been the most effective and beneficial?

LEA SALONGA: I'm not familiar with the groups mentioned, so I can't really answer. East West is a great company putting forth Asian talent, be it in acting or scriptwriting.

Lea with Lalaine

US ASIANS: As an extension of your commitment to Pinoy/Pinay Pride in the entertainment industry, which people have provided you with the greatest joy as the result of their success? (i.e. Van Partible of Johnny Bravo, Fritz Friedman of Sony, Lalaine of Lizzie McGuire fame, Tia Carrere, Roddy Chiong/bass player for Shania Twain, Enrique Iglesis, Gary V., etc.)

LEA SALONGA: All of them. I'm always thrilled to see any Pinoy doing something in this business that puts us in a positive light.

US ASIANS: What are your thoughts on the success of fast-rising and prominent Asian/Asian Pacific American executives such as Darlene Chan (producer of the Playboy Jazz Festival, Verizon Music Festival, Sammy Davis Show, Mercedes-Benz Music Festival), Ken Mok (producer of UPN’s successful television program “Top Model” – along with having been ABC’s Director of Comedy Development and Vice-President of MTV Television Productions and Andee Kuroda/Jay Karas (producing Osbourne Family Christmas Special/MTV, Exposed/Bravo, Young Hollywood Awards/AMC, 51st Annual Emmy Awards/FOX, Dixie Chicks’ 2004 Top of the World Tour and Paul McCartney’s 2004 World Tour –

LEA SALONGA: I'm always proud whenever an Asian rises to prominence in a positive way. It only brings attention to us in a way that changes negative perceptions that might still be prevailing.
Read about the love of her life (Robert) by clicking HERE
Review the many elements that make Lea a star professionally and personally

Family History
Gerard Salonga
Mariya Barreto
Personal Life
Words of Advice

Catholic Documentary

Faith and Prayer
Lea's Prayer
Lea on Prayer

Current Status of Diversity
David Henry Hwang Views
Filipino Pride
Influx of APA Talent
Marian Liu Interview

Mulan's Diversity

Problems Obtaining Roles
Role Models
Perceptions - Past/Present/Future
Supporting APA Organizations
Yellow Ceiling

Boyfriend / Fiance / Husband
Diane Monique LHuillier
Introduction to Robert
Lasting Memories
Lea on Romance
Life Being Married
New Baby
Wedding Day

Charity Work
Lea's Charities

Career Goals
Flower Drum Song
Memorable Performances
Selection of Roles

2005 Tour Dates
Favorite Roles
Musical Theater
Old School Singing
Richard Jay Alexander

Film Career
TV Experiences

Film & TV (Actress)
Film & TV (Herself)

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