Michelle Villemaire: Correcting yellowface

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Blogger and Thai-American actor Michelle Villemaire talks about her project ‘Correcting Yellowface.’ Blogger and Thai-American actor Michelle Villemaire talks about her project ‘Correcting Yellowface.’

The 2016 Academy Awards reignited the diversity debate in Hollywood and the “Oscars so White” campaign dominated social media, fueling outrage and action.

The omission of actors of color, both in casting and in award nominations, was particularly personal to Thai-American actor and blogger Michelle Villemaire. Simultaneously discouraged and inspired, she decided to use her blog to share a radical new project, Correcting Yellowface. She used photography to illustrate the decades-old Hollywood tradition of whitewashing: casting Caucasians in minority roles and essentially removing all racial references.

Michelle Villemaire: Correcting yellowface

Michelle Villemaire: Correcting yellowface

Michelle Villemaire tells us what she learned about Hollywood’s history and how she hopes to change its future.

“A lot of people were talking about it as if it was the first time they were hearing about it,” Villemaire said. “I’ve been aware for a while. It’s very frustrating. Why is it still happening?”

Posing side-by-side next to non-Asian actresses, cast in roles clearly designed for Asian characters, Villemaire also chronicled the history of the practice and Hollywood’s long tradition of exclusion and stereotyping.

“I don’t think we’re our mothers’ ‘model minority’ anymore,” explained Villemaire. “Now we’re noisier. We’re not worried about what other people think. We’re not worried about impressing our ancestors. Or we are and this is the way that we’re doing it, we’re speaking up.”

Michelle Villemaire joined May Lee in our Los Angeles studio to share what she learned about Hollywood’s history and how she hopes to change its future.