German/Italian | Japanese

Photo credit: provided by Robert Gilbert

Photo credit: provided by Robert Gilbert

I identify as German/Italian American, cisgender woman, heteroflexible & Omni spiritual. My parents are High School sweethearts who met in San Jose, California, both born in America. My Great-Grandparents are from Japan on my Dad’s side and Germany and Italy on my Mom’s. People are always like, ‘what?’ that my dad is the Asian one, because they think the norm is White men end up with Asian women. They always assume it’s going to be my Mom that’s the Japanese one.

I grew up in Northern California, in the Bay Area, where there is a lot of diversity of all kinds, and a tradition of celebrating and sharing our origins. It’s a place where different is better. Even though I didn’t really have a lot of the trappings of cultural difference in my household I felt like my ethnicity made me special, based solely on my appearance. My parents are culturally American and middle-class, not ethnically cultural. They have very little in common with people from their countries of origin as far as religion, diet, and language are concerned. I think there are some deep holdovers from the countries of origin in their values, though. They both have strong work ethics and high value for education, and they are both very private people. Both sides prefer to leave things unsaid and avoid confrontation.

When I started acting professionally there were obstacles around not being White, but things have changed a lot, and if anything, being different reduces my competition.

My culture affects the way I connect with food. I live in California, so every kind of food is for every kind of person. Food is one of the last places where people seem to still be allowed to celebrate each other’s good ideas and borrow freely without being accused of appropriating. Fashion is also important, I think starting out looking different gave me a lot of permission to take chances with my style. I always liked standing out.

Men love half-Japanese ladies, it’s just a thing. I’ve gotten a lot of free drinks based on how I look. People love to use my race as an icebreaker question. It’s fine, I don’t get annoyed by it. People are curious, it’s our nature. It’s kind of irritating when they try to show off talking in Japanese to me though. I don’t speak Japanese, it doesn’t impress me. It just makes you look like you don’t understand American history. Look, my Japanese American grandparents were interned by the United States during WWII. Do you really think those people passed Japanese language and traditions on to the next generations? No, they left that shit behind to try to be accepted by their own country. I don’t speak Japanese, homey. No more than I speak German or Italian.

I think being mixed-race gives me permission not to blend in. The culture that formed my identity in the 90’s was a lot less conformist than the Instagram era. We took more chances and really didn’t try very hard to fit in with mainstream trends. It also predisposes a person to open-mindness. I don’t look like anyone else, so I’ve never felt like I needed to follow trends like anyone else. I’ve always been more inspired by discovery than mimicry.

With acting, I think being mixed-race can sometimes be an obstacle and sometimes an advantage. I can’t play a Caucasian character, but I can’t really pass as full Japanese, or any other kind of full Asian, so there are a lot of roles I’m just out of the running for. But if they’re looking for someone who looks contemporary or even futuristic, I have an advantage. The only downside is that these are usually supporting roles, like a dash of flavour in the cast. They still mostly want to build things around White folk.

If I had the opportunity to be reborn I would want to come back as a Universe if I come back at all.