Anna May Wong was the first Chinese-American movie star, and her success was marked by racial and political controversies. Although she was a supporter of the Kuomintang, Madam Chiang Kai-Shek did not approve of the kind of image she conveyed to women. She could never play the lead and her characters almost always died in stories, which reflected the racism endemic in America at that time. She could not play opposite white leading actors because society was opposed to any depiction of interracial romantic relationships. Frustrated by the stereotypical supporting roles she reluctantly played in Hollywood, she left for Europe and starred in a number of famous films and plays. She achieved international stardom and has remained an icon.
Hollywood (Audrey Hepburn - 1960s)
2008 Ink on paper
Audrey Hepburn grew up in Europe during the Second World War. A foreign actress who came to America and became a major international movie star, she was considered quirky at the time and her slender physique was totally unconventional at a time when Hollywood’s ideal female figure was curvy and voluptuous. She broke the conventions and changed our perceptions to become a new kind of ideal beauty. In Roman Holiday, her first American film, opposite Gregory Peck, her grace and charm won over the audience making the film a hit and her a star. Her difficult background informed her portrayal of the damaged heroine in the groundbreaking Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She stood out from the crowd and became an inspiration to her audience.
Hollywood (Dorothy Dandridge - 1950s)
2008 Ink on paper
Dorothy Dandridge was an African-American movie star who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. In her early career, like all African-American actors in Hollywood, parts she played were stereotypical non-white roles. In spite of suffering from racial discrimination, she successfully became a star when most non-white actors were excluded from mainstream American culture. She was not even allowed to use main entrances to enter venues where she performed. But her beauty, talent and courage enabled her to charm the audience and brought her popularity, which gave her a visibility in mainstream American culture. Her achievement gave the African-American community a hope of achieving their dreams in America.