Standup comic, performance artist, actress, and playwright Kristina Wong never imagined she’d be doing what she’s doing when she was younger.
“I had more Hollywood-y dreams,” she says. “But I came up against the issue that I wasn’t white or a guy.”
When she goes to casting calls, she’s usually asked to play some kind of stereotypical Asian character. She has auditioned to play an Asian mother, as well as a Mongolian, and once she portrayed an Eskimo in an insurance commercial. At times, her career has been demoralizing, but she’s not going anywhere. “I’m too Google-able to get a real job,” she says.
Indeed, Wong is an internet star. You may have seen her public feud with James Franco, her obsession with Jeremy Lin turned into performance art, or the clip of her reacting to a new study revealing that Asian women were the "most desirable." Instead of explaining in four minutes why the results of the research were upsetting and problematic, Wong took an absurd approach, blowing her nose, acting goofy, and celebrating that no matter how gross she acts, she can still get a date at the end of the day.
For a while, Wong was crashing public events as a beauty queen named Fanny Wong. Poking fun of Chinese American beauty pageants that prop up a Western idea of what beauty looks like, she would smoke a cigar, have messy hair, and talk constantly. Like the Chinatown beauty queens, she’d have an escort. One man had a bandana over his mouth, with an ice cream scooper as his gun. Another escort was a butch lesbian.
Meanwhile, onstage, she has had success with the long-running Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, a piece about depression and suicide among Asian-American women. She toured the work for eight years. “It was exhausting and isolating,” she says.
In her latest piece, The Wong Street Journal, which is at Intermedia Arts this weekend, Wong pokes fun at her internet presence in a show that’s semi-based on her own Eat Pray Love moment. As a radical activist, is she allowed to have an existential crisis, she asks?
The backdrop of the story is Wong’s experience traveling to northern Uganda to work for a micro-finance organization. In the piece, Wong plays a social-media activist rallying against white privilege and railing against “the man.” Yet, she ends up becoming “the man” while she’s on her trip, and has to confront all the ways she’s complicit in the suffering of others.
“It’s not enough that I believe all these things. In that setting I’m the most powerful person in the
room,” she says. “I’m the face of colonialism, as an Asian woman.” The show is about how she navigates her position of “not-so-white privilege” in a country that’s deeply intrenched in colonialist oppression, which, while no longer governed by British rule, still exists through the existence of NGOs.
“It’s about how to be okay in our mistakes,” she says of the work.
IF YOU GO:
7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
$15/$20 at the door.
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