‘If you want to flip the script, sometimes you gotta do it yourself.’
Do you ever watch a movie and think, “Hey, that person looks just me”? Unfortunately, that rarely happens for this woman.
Meet Michelle Villemaire. She’s an Asian-American Do-It-Yourself project guru living in Los Angeles. And don’t let her friendly smile fool you — she’s actually kinda annoyed right now.
For as long as she can remember, Villemaire has wanted to be a television personality.
But for most of her life, she figured she didn’t have a shot because there was hardly anyone on the big (or small) screen that resembled her.
Throughout history, and even today, many Asian characters are played by nonAsians. Villemaire calls it yellowface, and she doesn’t mince words when it comes to how she feels about it.
“The practice of yellowface is just plain racist and disgusting,” Villemaire said. “It has to stop.”
That’s why she decided to take on her most unique DIY project to date: calling out Hollywood’s yellowface problem in epic fashion.
First, she found examples of white people portraying Asian characters in movies. Then, she inserted photos of herself next to them to show the world that Asians can be amazing in the roles that were meant for them.
She called the project “Correcting Yellowface.”
“I wanted to feel like I was a part of Hollywood history, if only for a moment,” Villemaire said. “I didn’t know if the results would look right, but apparently they did.”
Check out four stunning examples of Villemaire depicting Asian characters. She appears on the right in all of the photo sets:
1. Luise Rainer playing the Chinese wife of a Chinese farmer in the 1937 movie “The Good Earth.”
2. Myrna Loy as the Chinese daughter of Fu Manchu in the 1932 movie “The Mask of Fu Manchu.”
3. Katharine Hepburn playing (you guessed it) a Chinese woman in the 1944 movie “Dragon Seed.”
4. Yep, it happens in present day movies, too. Emma Stone played a half-Asian woman in the 2015 movie “Aloha.”
But that’s not all. Villemaire has even more examples on her website.
Villemaire says the response to her work has been largely positive, too.
“There really has only been love and support,” she said. “It just shows there’s a collective desire for this.”
Ultimately, her goal is to use her project to inspire the Asian community to never give up on their Hollywood dreams.
“One woman told me that she felt healed after seeing my photos,” she beamed. “My heart is still fluttering because of that.”
Breaking into showbiz is no joke, and Villemaire knows it can be harder if you’re a person of color.
“But if you want to flip the script, sometimes you gotta do it yourself,” she said.