People just forget that we exist, I don’t
know why, I really don’t. Everybody eats Chinese food and then they keep on making out as if
we’re brand new in this country and it’s like, “Guys, you’ve been drinking tea and
wearing silk for a long time.” It’s just great seeing you guys all like this. When I was growing up it was just me and my mum. “So, where are you from?” And I say, “I’m from
Northern Ireland, I’m British.” Sometimes I make that point. Don’t you want to see where I grew up?
Meet my family? My Ama? The amount of people that don’t know where
Singapore is and it’s like, “Guys, you owned this country.” My name’s Mia Foo.
I am born and bred in London. My mum’s Irish.
My dad’s Chinese Singaporean ethnically and I’m an actor. My name is Emma. I’m from Northern Ireland. I live in London
and I’m a policy advisor. I was the only Chinese girl; the only East Asian; the only Asian girl in my primary school class. I always felt a bit like an outsider growing up.
Especially in a small community. Other kids would point out, “Oh, where
are you from? Are you Chinese? Are you Japanese? Are you Korean? Do you eat dog?”
And I’m kind of like, “Oh, OK.” I didn’t speak English on my first day of school so that really hindered me fitting in and making friends. I can remember once I had a whole bunch
of kids sticking little bits of you know like stickers that you
put on your exercise book? They’d written on it “Chink go home” and things like that and they stuck it all in my hair
because my hair was quite long. I didn’t go to church. So that was kind of a
major thing that people do back home that I wasn’t a part of and things like
Brownies, Girl Guides, things like that. At the time I was sort of like,
“Ugh, God this is horrible” and I told the teacher and they were like, “They’re just bullying you,
they’ll stop at some point.” And it wasn’t until I got quite a bit older
that I realised that was really bad. So I feel definitely in the UK when
they talk about Asian they mean a kind of specific Asian and
it’s not my kind of Asian. So I’m not half Irish and half Chinese.
I am both Irish and Chinese. I shouldn’t feel like I’m lacking in either side and I
shouldn’t feel like I’m not included in both halves. My accent doesn’t fit what they think
my accent should be based on what I look like. That’s a huge issue that I think a lot of second
and third generation Asians face in the UK. – Where is she?
– We tried to advise her that is wasn’t in her interests. I felt like the world had moved on a lot more
than it necessarily had. I felt like actually these days we are more
open to different ethnicities, we’re more open to different voices
being spoken but I feel like I didn’t realise that East Asian voices
were at the bottom of the pecking order. I was told that I wouldn’t be able
to be in a period drama and the things that we mostly produce in the UK
or the thing we mostly export in the UK is period dramas and the reason they gave
me was because of my ethnicity and that did put me off for
quite a long time. It’s an interesting thing where people
think that it’s a new phenomenon, that people like me could be brand new and it’s
like there’s quite a lot of history there that we just don’t know about.
So, that’s kind of one of my goals, I’m going to be in a period drama.
I might have to write it myself but I’m going to be in a period drama. Talks, meetings, meeting new people, I’m
talking away and they’re looking at me and I think they’re interested in what I’m saying.
Then they ask, “So, where are you from?” And my heart always sinks a little because
I know where this is going and I say, “I’m from Northern Ireland, I’m British.”
Sometimes I make that point and then they’ll say, “OK but where are your parents from?”
and that really annoys me because that shouldn’t matter in the conversation you
and I are having as individuals. It’s something I’ve never seen before in London.
I’ve never seen a full East Asian cast made by a Western studio,
in the cinema. The only other time I’ve ever seen that
kind of thing is if it is a film from Hong Kong like the kind of VHSs that my dad used to
show me or, more lately, Korean films that are coming over because they’re amazing. Before all the fuss about Crazy Rich Asians
I hadn’t really thought about how East Asians and people who look like me are represented
in Western cinema in particular. It’s always been sitcoms, TV shows,
things like Gilmore Girls. You want to get pork buns in the East Village.
That’s what is it, isn’t it? I was actually thinking of further east. Like Queens? Like Singapore. I think it’ll make East Asians in the UK
realise it’s OK to be visible. I think we’ve always had this, “Well we’re
here and we’re not going to make a fuss.” We haven’t been as vocal as say
the black community and I think when Black Panther came out and people
really made a huge fuss about it it definitely made my friends think,
“Well, what about us?” Often when we see East Asians in Hollywood
films it can be a bit of a stereotype. I’ve even been asked to put on an
“East Asian accent” and I’ve asked to specify what kind and they’ve
said it doesn’t matter. These people aren’t just rich OK, they’re crazy rich. Look, there’s new money all over Asia.
We’ve got the Beijing Billionaires, the Taiwan Tycoons but the Young family, they’re old money rich. They had
money when they left China in the 1800s and they went all the way down here.
Not there. Here. Little touches like the aunties selling the tissues
at the hawker centre and little things that no one would ever really notice or care about
but actually means quite a lot to us so that’s really nice. I think the movie makers tried really hard
and did a great job with representing Asian communities all over the world. It was a fun, funny romcom. Like, really Hollywood,
super glamour. It’s all about the earrings. As a third generation Asian I really related to
a lot of the little odd quirks of our culture like the elderly relative coming to read your face and
seeing if your nose and earlobe is particularly “auspicious.” It made a big difference or it will make a big difference
for the future as well just being able to see people playing characters that have complex lives
and an actual storyline and an arc and go through things and they’re not just there to facilitate the story
and then disappear again.