Please introduce yourself, what you do, why you do it, and what you want people to know about you.
I’m Joanne Chew, and I’m an actress, activist, and abstract artist based in Los Angeles. I’ve had a very blessed year in acting, getting to work on one of the last episodes of “Shameless,” and also in an upcoming crime feature directed by Rick Bieber.
I’m incredibly passionate about all matters pertaining to social justice, particularly anti-racism initiatives and womens’ rights. This year, I had the privilege of working with an incredible organization, Black Women Lead, founded by Shannon Morton. They organized a beautiful vigil in conjunction with AAPI Women Lead following the horrific shootings at three Atlanta spas in March of 2021, where the majority of the lives lost were that of Asian women. I had the opportunity to sell my artwork to help further these initiatives, and although the circumstances are incredibly heartbreaking, I was able to see how important it was to be of service, and how much could be accomplished when we join forces and work together.
I specialize in abstract art and enjoy using bright, vibrant colors. I had always had an interest in painting since I was a child, but lost touch with it when I graduated high school. I came back to in 2014, and spent several years painting along with online tutorials or accompanying friends to “Wine and Paint” nights. That reignited my passion, and I amassed enough of a collection to begin exhibiting my work in 2019, and have shown my work at ten different exhibitions throughout Los Angeles. It’s been incredibly fulfilling being able to donate my art to raise money for some very worthy causes.
One of the greatest rewards in life is to be able to give back.
What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?
This is a really interesting question. The beauty of it all is that we are ALL unique and there is nobody else like us in this industry, but when we’re starting out we get caught up with what’s currently popular/marketable. We can get so consumed by “fitting the mold” that we scrape away all the uniqueness that makes us who we are. When I was starting out, I was acutely aware that I wasn’t like the Asian actresses who were prominently working. I felt really insecure and under a lot of pressure to “fit the mold.”
I now realize that’s the wrong way to go about it. What makes you, YOU is actually your greatest superpower. It can feel incredibly isolating and lonely to constantly be told to “tweak this or that so you can be like ‘so and so'”
Even if you feel like you’re completely on your own and that you don’t really fit in, LEAN IN TO THAT. Embrace it, and be proud. Nobody else in the world can be better at being you than YOU. If you stay true to who you are, doors will open. Trust.
Describe THAT moment when you realized you wanted to do what you do now. Who did you tell first? What has it been like since that moment?
Wow. This might be the first time I’m putting this all down in writing, accessible to anyone who reads this. I got the chance to be a part of a major studio film when I was 12. My parents initially refused the offer, until casting persisted and even got my principal in on the deal. This was a “once in a lifetime” experience I couldn’t miss out on. My folks eventually relented, on the condition that I don’t do anything acting related until I turned 18.
I had completely forgotten about acting until I was a senior in high school. I signed up for an acting class just to fulfill my last remaining mandatory credits. There was one particular day where we were assigned to do monologues, and I had been struggling with mine.
Finally, I decided to chuck it all and make something up on the spot. My teacher and my class loved it. I felt such a rush of adrenaline unlike anything I had felt before. I wanted more. I wanted to keep going. I struggled with my mental health as a teenager and often felt purposeless and out of place. The thought of pursuing acting felt like a golden ticket out of all that. I was still seventeen when I graduated high school, but I begged my parents for acting lessons and to let me start auditioning for small projects in my hometown, San Francisco.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face and how did you overcome it?
Acting and hustling our million and one day jobs is exhausting. Even more so when there is a long history of thyroid/autoimmune issues in the family. I was always full of energy and extremely active. I ran marathons, was very active in martial arts, and took ballet classes. I needed a full thyroidectomy in 2014, and I needed to be on medication for the rest of my life following that. Some days are a lot easier than others. It was really humbling (and frustrating) fighting to get my past stamina back. It’s still a work in progress.
I just tell myself to keep going. Everyone’s got something (or someone) they’re continually grappling with. Just don’t let any of that put out your fire and dampen your spirit. Hang in there. That’s really all it comes down to. It’s often easier said than done, so let’s keep bolstering and uplifting each other.
If you had to pick the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could take your career (or business) to the next level…who would those 3 people be?
Leonardo DiCaprio. I’ve been a fan of his since “Growing Pains,” and it’s been incredible seeing him grow and evolve into such a vast range of roles. It’s always absolutely seamless. I’ve also been incredibly inspired by his philanthropic skills and gifts with public speaking. I’ve got so much to learn, but I enjoy that.
I cried when Chloe Zhao won Best Director at The Golden Globes. I would love to just have a chance to speak with her and hear her stories.
Viola Davis is a force to be reckoned with. I would love to just shadow her for a day, observe, and take notes. I believe that would be an incredibly life-changing experience.