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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ansa Woo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ansa Woo.

Hi Ansa, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I grew up in a fairly conservative suburb in Northern Virginia. If I hopped in a car and drove 20 minutes South, I’d see cows and people riding leisurely on horseback. If I took the Metro North for 20 minutes, I’d be in the bustling and lively city that is Washington D.C. I was very privileged growing up in the sense, youth academic and art programs were incredibly robust and developed in my school district. “NoVa” is also known for being extremely competitive in lifestyle and academics which I found utterly exhausting on my mental and physical health. I know I wasn’t alone, extreme academic pressure led many of my peers to fall victim to addiction, mental illness and physical outbursts. Just to give you a fuller idea of where I’m coming from- The guy from “Into The Wild” who left society and peaced out in the woods? That guy lived five minutes from my childhood home. My upbringing and social circle prized hard sciences over arts. Art was always painted as a side note or a supplement rather than the pillar in life I have found it to be.

It wasn’t until college that I started placing my whole heart into studying what personally gave me the most fulfillment. This in turn made me my most healthy and giving self. I felt extremely lost in college. I felt so out of place and constantly worried that I was “doing it wrong”. These were supposed to be “the best years of my life”, “A coveted experience everyone wants.” and I just felt stupid for not wanting to party hard or rush for a sorority. I joined a script analysis class out of curiosity, then a theatre interest meeting for some free food. I was gently and firmly encouraged to attend a movement and then an acting class and never really looked back since. It took one heartbreak, two blessings from my parents and about three weeks in my childhood best friend Grace’s apartment for me to fully move into LA. I was so ignorant about how hard it can be out here. If you were to ask me if I would do it again after everything I’ve learned, I’m not sure I’d have the courage to go. I’m so thankful for each of those things that put pressure on me to move from the East Coast- Oh and thankful for my Aunt Maggie who drove with me, my dog, my mouse and my hamster across the country.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
For the most part, I had a very good upbringing. I had access to so many resources academically and artistically. I grew up surrounded by loving friends and family. I think one of the biggest issues I have dealt with has to do with identity. My mother is from Thailand and my father is a second-generation American of Korean descent. My mother and I struggled the most with communication and cultural differences when I was younger. I would starkly notice the differences between her and I; then the differences between my mother and father’s cultures compounded against how our immediate family also differed from my extended family and other families in my mostly white neighborhood. I felt influences, conflicting pressures, racism and stereotyping from so many angles. At my worst, I felt I was lacking in some way all the time; “Not Thai enough, not Korean enough, not American enough, not Asian enough… etc.”. I looked to fictional stories and media in order to find people to identify with. That younger version of myself is a driving force in my life today. I am passionate about diverse representation in media. I want to see more different stories. There are so many untold.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
The easiest answer would be; I work as a seasoned traditional commercial/ lifestyle model (not a supermodel, just model), & I am an actress. Though I am unshy and very proud of all the various other part-time things I do because 1) I love what I do, & 2) I haven’t landed a large enough role on a major network series or continuously book giant campaigns as a model, and living expenses in California are very high. So this being said, I also work as a freelance writer, a martial arts instructor at UCLA and a nanny/ caregiver/ tutor/ quarantine bubble buddy to a genius and “severely autistic” young man named Aaron. I have had various other jobs too!- such as rock climbing gym manager/ instructor, retail staff, wait staff, yoga instructor, and youth dance teacher. I’m a dog mom? I feel like that counts for something and I’m putting it in this list. In my work life, I’m proud of how I have firmly stood my ground on what I decide to work on. If a role didn’t sit with me or vouching for a certain product didn’t feel authentic, I didn’t take the job; the beauty of having other jobs aka options, aka freedom, aka power. Modeling and acting can quickly become such a subservient existence, it’s important for me to remain autonomous in all the ways I want to be.

In terms of recent work, I’m proud to say; you can catch me in Ulta Beauty’s “Conscious Beauty” Campaign, rock climbing in Oakley’s “One Love” Campaign, In Visit California’s most recent Road Trip campaign (I’m driving the blue car down PCH on the coast of Malibu), dancing at the Crimson Cat in SHOWTIME‘s series “Penny Dreadful, City of Angels”, as “Tanya” in the Brat TV series “Chicken Girls” and a frequent haunt at the Lucky Lagoon in HBO’s series “Perry Mason”.  Within and from that whirlwind I have somehow started to dip my toes into stunt work too. Ok that being said though- The feeling of a goal finally met or a piece of work airing is awesome but also very fleeting so this is a tough question! I really try to be proud of the mundane ness and tenacity of the every day and sometimes boring or grueling work that it takes to produce a lovely piece of work. I am not more unique or more deserving of anything over the next person giving it their best shot here in LA, but I do feel like I didn’t have enough people to identify within media growing up. And I still feel like lots of people, especially young Asian American women are underrepresented and I am one more person in a movement helping that to become a thing of the past.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
I see the entertainment and modeling industry slowly but steadily becoming more inclusive, diverse and inherently through this- more interesting. But this will only happen if consumers and creators alike continue to demand these industry standards and settle for nothing less. I think there is no stopping it. It’s already happening. Oh! I see stunts as an official category in the Oscars as well.

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Image Credits:

Jun Ueda Benny Haddad Brian Lipps Viet Le Matthieu Gancedo

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