EXCLUSIVE | 'Hightown' star Jona Xiao is breaking stereotypes with her roles
The actress also revealed how she felt while working with Gal Gadot and why raising awareness about Asian Lives Matter was important for her
The last few years have been hard for the Asian-American community. Along with the Black Lives Matter movement, another movement called 'Asian Lives Matter' also started and it instantly nabbed all the eyeballs when Asian people were being harassed and brutally beaten up for various reasons, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
People from the Asian community were being brutally beaten up after being called the 'reason' why the virus was spreading in America, which was absolutely untrue. However, notable personalities rose up to the occasion and got together to raise awareness about this matter. One such celebrity was the actor Jona Xiao, who is known for her roles in blockbuster projects like 'Hightown' and 'The Flash'.
The actress, who was born in China, acutely felt how things were getting worse for the Asian community in the US and chose to speak up for them all. On the other hand, she also used her craft to raise awareness about it and is proud of representing her ethnicity in Hollywood. MEAWW sat down with Jona to talk about the Asian Lives Matter movement and why she chose to speak up rather than stay silent.
Q) In the last 2 years, along with the Black Lives Matter movement, we have seen Asian Lives Matter going on as well. As an Asian-American and someone who has come from China, how do you think the situation is in the USA right now? And how do you feel that such movements are being initiated even in today’s world?
Jona: We have come really far as a society in terms of social justice, but there’s still a long way to go. There are a lot of minorities that still feel they are unrepresented, attacked (physically and mentally), and stereotyped. I believe it’s just human nature to question what’s different from you. People like it when they see people like them. So, when that happens, people say ‘oh, we are similar. Oh, you are different. I think, what’s really powerful about these movements happening around the world is this push to show the humanness of all of us and how similar we all are. I think it’s an important thing to do. Like, my role of Daisy and the fetishization of Asian women in Hollywood. We had these horrific shootings in Atlanta. So, I felt a lot of responsibility to play Daisy in a way that was three-dimensional and to really show the fullness of who she is as a person and show everyone that she’s not just an Asian body.
Q) But all these racist attacks went to a whole new level when Covid struck and a lot of people began calling it ‘Chinese Virus’. The former President kept on giving this name to the virus. As an Asian-American, how difficult it was for you to cope with such a situation?
Jona: For me, it was just speaking out and raising awareness so that people knew what was happening. We saw a lot of horrific videos we saw of Asians, especially elderly Asians, getting brutally attacked and you see it on the camera. I mean, it’s really sad that they are being blamed for the state of the world. We really need to stop scapegoating people. There’s a lot of political interest and other parties are invested in turning people against each other and the best thing to do is scapegoat the whole group. It has happened with all sorts of groups throughout the history of the world and especially in the US. So, for me, it was important to raise awareness.
Q) One special moment in your acting career that you will never forget?
Jona: I remember when I was filming ‘Keeping Up with the Joneses’. I was sitting in the green room and to my left, it was Gal Gadot, I mean ‘Wonder Woman’ itself, and Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis and all these amazing actors that I have admired. Suddenly, I had this ‘oh shit’ moment. But everyone kept telling me that you are a colleague. You deserve to be there and trust everyone in production and everyone who has signed on to hire you. This is for any field, not just acting. You deserve to be there. A lot of struggle out there. Like me, I really struggle with self-worth issues and feeling like good enough. It’s gotten way better because I have worked a lot on it, but it still comes up. It was at that moment I realized that I belong here.
Q) Gal Gadot literally looks like a real-life ‘Wonder Woman’. So, how’s she in real life?
Jona: She’s so amazing and she is very humble. She has this charm in her and she’s so funny too. SHE’S A BADASS. I have nothing but good things to say about her.
Q) We have seen a lot of representation from Asians and the LGBTQ community. How important is it to have diversity in Hollywood? And how does it inspire other people to join Hollywood?
Jona: While growing up, I always looked up to Lucy Liu and a handful of other actors. But now I am so grateful that there are so many great actors. The more we see people like ourselves in the industry, the more opportunities we get. Like for ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’, having the first South-East Asian princess is a really big deal. Little girls that could see them or dress up as someone from their own ethnicity. This is so powerful and the lessons we teach stay with them for life because they are our future generations. The movie inspired so many people, especially the kids and it helps them in changing how they live their lives.
Q) What will you tell your younger self before joining the entertainment industry?
Jona: So, I would like to tell them that “there’s a guaranteed formula for success. It’s simple as A, B, and C.”
‘A’ game mentality + ‘B’ business know-how + ‘C’ Craft = Success. So if you are strong in all three of those you will inevitably be successful in the business because you have the craft to back you up. When you are auditioning, you can really deliver by giving a great performance. Meanwhile, having an ‘A’ game mentality is so important.
Q) Any future projects that you are working on currently?
Jona: I recently got offered this campaign I am involved that revolves around football and being an athlete and empowering women.