Anna May Wong Becomes The First Asian American to Emerge On US Currency: The first Asian American to be depicted on US currency will be the illustrious Hollywood actress Anna May Wong. Wong’s picture will appear on quarters all around the country starting on Monday.
She was the first Asian American actress in Hollywood and appeared in more than 60 movies throughout the course of her several-decade acting career. When “yellowface” ruled the industry and the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect, Wong pushed for greater representation of Asian people in Hollywood and criticized stereotypical portrayals.
In a 1933 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Wong asked, “Why is it that the screen Chinese is almost invariably the villain of the movie, and such a horrible villain – ruthless, devious, a snake in the grass? We don’t operate that way.”
Wong started acting at the age of 14 and earned her first main part in The Toll of the Sea three years later. She was frequently cast in prejudiced and underpaid roles; in Shanghai Express, for instance, Wong received only $6,000 while Marlene Dietrich, her white co-star, received $78,166, according to NPR.
Wong left Hollywood to pursue acting prospects in Europe, where there were more opportunities for her in English, German, and French films. She was the first Asian American to host a television program, The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, and her career extended beyond the world of motion films.
She additionally gave theatre performances in London and New York, once sharing the stage with Laurence Olivier. Wong received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. The next year, she passed away.
Wong was praised as a “pioneer despite experiencing bigotry, marginalization, and exclusion” by actor Lucy Liu when she became the second Asian American woman to get a Hollywood star in 2019.
A daughter of immigrants in Los Angeles’s Chinatown, Wong rose to become the first Asian American film star in Hollywood. When she died in 1961, The New York Times called her "one of the most unforgettable figures of Hollywood’s great days." https://t.co/mwe0tBpyIO pic.twitter.com/XYFZWFLMI9
— The New York Times (@nytimes) October 18, 2022
Wong was said to as “a fearless crusader who championed for increased representation and more multi-dimensional parts for Asian American performers” in a news release regarding the coin by the director of the US Mint, Ventris Gibson.
The quarter is the fifth design in the American Women Quarters Program, which honors female pioneers on coins. Earlier versions honored the suffragist Nina Otero-Warren, the poet and activist Maya Angelou, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, and astronaut Sally Ride.