One of my favorite multi-culti works of art features four female statues standing on the corner of LaBrea where it meets Hollywood Boulevard. Made of some type of silver metal (I'm not sure what), the four of them together support a contraption atop their heads which, in turn, holds a vertical sign that reads 'Hollywood'.
More or less representing the four main races are likenesses of actresses Dorothy Dandridge (African American), Mae West (Caucasian), Anna Mae Wong (Chinese American), and Dolores Del Rio (Mexican American).
Well-known back in the day, each of these ladies broke barriers in her own way. Because I've written several articles about Anna Mae Wong, I'm most familiar with her story and how she became an actress after being chosen as an extra during a shoot in her neighborhood. Although her life ended in 1961 when she was just 56, Wong enjoyed an unprecedented show biz career despite being forced to portray Asian stereotypes. Never allowed an onscreen romance that came to fruition, Wong often joked about having to "die a million deaths" in her films. Indeed, Wong was an enigma and her career a paradox. Acting during a time when white performers would don makeup to look Asian (or as it was called "appearing in yellowface"), Wong was even forbidden to kiss any "Asian" played by a Caucasian actor.
Dorothy Dandridge's life was also a dichotomy. Her highest achievement as the third African American actress nominated for a Best Actress Oscar was negated by a host of personal tragedies. And, like Wong, Dandridge suffered from being forced to play stereotypes--mostly of sexually promiscuous women with loose morals. Also like Wong, Dandridge died young--at age 42 of a drug overdose.
Were these women victims of their race or their gender, or both?
There are plenty of women victims in the NHK taiga series Atsuhime. Briefly, Atsuhime (left) is a princess of the Satsuma clan who was pressured into marrying Shogun #13 to unite her clan with the larger ruling Tokugawa clan. But the Shogun has since died leaving Atsuhime a young widow and "mother" to the new Shogun. In the latest episode, the Emperor's sister, Kazunomiya (right), has finally recognized that Atsuhime is her ally. Forced to marry the new Shogun (Atsuhime's "son" in order to unify the "royals" with the Tokugawa samurai clan, Kazunomiya was at first horribly unhappy having to adjust to life in Edo (Tokyo) after leaving the Emperor's Kyoto digs. I love watching this show where chicks rule! And, having my mother explain her Japanese history during each episode is an added treat.
Speaking of treats, my mom decided to get into the mixed-race game recently by making both brown rice and white rice inarizushi. Check it out. She even marked each rowwith flags for easy identification.
Hey, thanks again to the Mixed Chicks for having me participate in their November 26 podcast to talk about interesting names of multi-ethnic folks. I've explained mine so many times here that I'm sure you don't want a repeat.
At last, the new Watermelon Sushi website is up! Some tweaking remains to be done, but that will happen over the next few weeks. For now, please check it out and email me your comments. So many folks over the years have been supportive of this film endeavor, so I send you all a shout-out.
Also, if you've purchased a Hapa*Teez t-shirt, drop me a line to make sure I have the spelling of your name correct.
HAPA Hollah Daze!
Your Hip Hapa,