An Interview with Jenn An
What do you do?
I'm a Korean-American model and actor in television, films and commercials.
How do you define success?
As little wins.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
My father has always said to me, "just do your best."
What is the #1 trait that has contributed to your success?
The ability to move on: whether that be taking criticism, or letting go of a bad audition, or letting go of a project I nearly booked. There will always be more.
What keeps you happy + emotionally healthy?
My boyfriend and my two dogs. At night and on weekends, I devote all my time to them, as they do for me. It's a rule we have, so that we prioritize properly. During the day, things can get pretty slow, so I keep myself busy with hobbies. I am a HUGE DIYer, I'm always working on a new project, so even if I'm not being creative as an actor, I'm being creative as an artist.
What obstacles have you had to overcome because you were a woman? What stereotypes did you encounter as a woman?
You should know that I was once a contestant on America's Next Top Model. I remember, this one time, after our season had finished airing, Tyra was bringing a handful of girls from our season, in for a segment, shooting for The Tyra Show. A few of the girls had to fly into New York, and were put up at a hotel near the studio. One day, on our drive back to their hotel from the studio, the PA escorting us, Ryan, asked us if we would need a ride to the studio the following day. The car got quiet. Not one girl wanted to speak up, even though I knew none of them knew how to get around the city. So I said, in an assertive voice, "Yeah, we would love a ride." That was the beginning of the end of my career with The Tyra Show. That PA, Ryan, then turned around and told the Producers of the show that I was too hard to work with, and they never brought me back again. I would wonder why The Tyra Show continued to bring back other contestants from my season to do other segments, but refused to call me back. Well, that PA, Ryan, later confessed what he had done. Although... he laughed when he told me. Being around strong woman, was not something that PA wanted to deal with, although the namesake of the show he was working for was a strong woman, the producers on the show were all strong women. Maybe he had had one too many strong women around him.
What women inspire you?
ALL WOMEN INSPIRE ME. I am so in love with women. I am in awe of our ability to adapt and overcome and then to blaze trails. In my field, I am influenced by Tina Fey, for being the first female head writer for SNL, at a time when women didn't have much say in comedy. She went on to prove that women have a voice that people want to listen to, by creating shows like 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (both of which have female leads, duh). Also her SNL colleagues: Kate McKinnon who is ferociously funny and immensely talented and Kristen Wiig, who also became a writer and gave the world Bridesmaids. Melissa McCarthy who has her own brand of comedy that includes so much physical work, and heartbreaking honesty; her work reminds you that true comedy is in the honesty, not the act-outs. But politically: Hillary Clinton, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; all blazing trails, all fucking badasses.
What’s the best mistake you’ve made or the best risk you've ever taken?
It's going to sound trivial, but I changed my hair. In the winter of 2015, I was in a bad place. Financially, I had never been worse: I was in a lot of credit card debt to make ends meet, and my career was stagnant. I had been working as a showroom model for a shoe company, but it was soul draining work because it required that I give-up auditions in order to make a living. I decided that I was going to take a break from acting and modeling to get my finances in order. For the past 13 years I had long dark hair; I didn't want to have long dark hair, but I was scared that if i no longer looked like a stereotypical Asian, I wouldn't get work.
That winter, with the help of my amazing colorist, Jeremy Tardo, and stylist, Amanda Shuttleworth (both at the incredible Benjamin Salon on Melrose), we changed my look. I went from long and dark to short and light because, in my mind, I had already given up my dream -or, at least put it on hold. Well, while I looked for full time positions, I sent my agents photos of my new look. I was met with a lot of resistance, but I didn't care since I was going to leave them all, anyway. Low and behold, I worked more 2016 than all of my years in this entertainment industry combined. My decision to give up on my career allowed me to finally look like the alternative girl that I am, which helped me get the roles that were right for me.
What was a decision that changed the course of your life?
I went into college undeclared. I went to a small state school in Pennsylvania, and did a sample tasting of all the majors my school offered. I was most interested in furniture design, as I had a big concentration in sculpture and 3D art as a high schooler, however, my mom insisted that I stay out of the arts since my brother was a 2D art major at Savannah College of Art and Design. So I kept taking furniture classes, and dabbling in psychology, business, english, and science, when I came across a audition flyer for a new school musical, 'Charlie Brown.' I went and auditioned for 'Charlie Brown', and I didn't get it, but I loved it. When the next semester rolled around, I declared myself a Theatre major, and the rest is history.
What is the project you're most proud of?
I'm not sure yet... I think it's yet to come.
What is the best part of your job?
My job is the best part of my job. I love the fact that I love my work. Everyday I work, is a day I'm so grateful for. Getting to set is such a great feeling. Everything is buzzing, everything is moving. It's very fluid work, it's endlessly exciting. Anything can happen, and even when nothing happens, it's addicting.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in your career?
Probably making furniture. Maybe an interior designer. I'm really handy, I would've loved to have gone into carpentry.
What is the most exciting thing about your work industry right now?
It's changing and it's changing fast. The awards shows are feeling the pressure to be more inclusive to minorities and that goes for new productions as well. People are finally having a say in the entertainment they chose and people are saying they want more diverse casts, diverse stories, and diverse direction. The amount of female directors I encounter on set these days is incredible, I've been directed by more women than men on tv shows. This pilot season, I've read a handful or screenplays written by women, and I'm seeing a lot more leading ladies. I want to be a part of the revolution. The backlash Marvel got for their casting of Dr. Strange was appropriate and necessary, because if we don't speak up, things will never change. The whitewashing of Hollywood films has got to stop because it sends the message that the story is only important if it's told by a white person. I mean... how is the LAST SAMURAI... on. this. earth... WHITE?????????
"I'd like to promote the Sierra Club, a non profit, environmental organization founded by the famous preservationist: John Muir. They're leading a fight against our current administration's efforts to "deconstruct the administrative state," (by placing a man who sued the EPA twice in a position to head the EPA) and to essentially get rid of the EPA. I think this cause is the most urgently in need of volunteers and money. Without the EPA, no one would be regulating our drinking water, and the air we breathe, both of which were in danger of becoming harmful back in 1960's, before the creation of the EPA. Also, I've had the privilege of hiking some of the John Muir trail, and it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It reminds us that it's nature that provides everything we need, so there can be no greater cause." -Jenn An