August 4, 2022
Actor, activist, and newly-minted author Constance Wu joins Jameela this week to discuss her new book – Making A Scene. They discuss learning from your mistakes and offering others grace for their own, why we shouldn’t dismiss stereotypes but rather make them more human, and more.
You can find transcripts for this episode here: https://www.earwolf.com/show/i-weigh-with-jameela-jamil/
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122 — Constance Wu
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, a podcast against shame. I hope you’re okay. I hope you’re ready because today’s chat is just everything. I can’t stop thinking about it. Since I since I spoke to my guest. I’ve been so moved and. And encouraged and inspired. Her name is Constance Wu, who you might know because she is a world famous and very beloved actress. And now she is also an author of her own book, Making a Scene, which is coming out October 4th, which is a biography of everything that she has been through. Everything she thinks and feels. You may have seen some headlines of late about everything that triggered, I guess, the instinct to write a book that is so personal and so honest. I think she’s just fascinating and so straight up, so unguarded in a way that you never see from people at that level of fame. She’s so driven to stop others from feeling alone in any of their feelings, and so she just puts her heart on her sleeve and is willing to open a self up to everyone in spite of how vulnerable that makes her. And I find that so fucking inspiring and generous and something that we do not see typically of Asian people because especially Asian women. We are so both like East Asian, South Asian. We are so discouraged from telling anyone that anything is wrong because we are supposed to be the strong nurturers, the strong but silent nurturers of our families. But I think regardless of where you’re from or what you look like, there are elements to this episode that will just speak to you, things that you will have experienced, things you would have seen, things you’ve wanted to understand. We’ve really unpacked systems, and we get into the nitty gritty of her mental health. In this episode, we talk about her being at the center of an online hate pile on and the way that that affected her mental health. I do want to offer a trigger warning that we do discuss self-harm and suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts, not in any great grave detail. But I just want you to know that it’s it’s in there. And so if you’re feeling fragile right now, maybe revisit this episode another time. We also discuss learning from our mistakes and allowing grace to others who make mistakes. We discuss what it’s like to be an ethnic minority in the public eye and how society often pits us against each other instead of allowing us and encouraging us to be allies. We discussed stereotypes and why we shouldn’t dismiss them, but rather make them more human. It’s just. It’s so varied, it’s so important, this chat that we have and I love that it’s a conversation between two Asian women who’ve both been through some really similar things in a similar time and who are so supportive of each other, even though we’d never met before this episode. There’s such a feeling of solidarity between us, but I think we need to hear more of in the world. Constance and I do not look at each other as a threat. We see each other as allies, as taking up space so that we can create even more room for other women who come after us and other people of color who come after us. And so I hope you love this chat. I, I will just let you know that it starts at a ten of emotion and then kind of simmers down. But she just jumps straight in. And so I jumped in with her. And I love and admire her honesty so much. I wish we had more people with big platforms like her. She may not be perfect, but fuck me is she powerful. This is the excellent Constance. Wu. Constance Wu, thank you so much for coming on my podcast. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Constance [00:04:21] Thank you. I’m good. How are you?
Jameela [00:04:24] I’m good. I’m excited to talk to you. I feel as though I. I feel as though I wish we’d spoken years ago now that I’ve had a chat with you on the pre-interview, because there are so many things I want to dig into with you. And I find you to be a really fascinating person and a fascinating kind of study of so many ways in which this industry works. And I’m so grateful to be able to have this time to talk to you about some really unique experiences that I feel like we’ve both had.
Constance [00:04:58] Yeah.
Jameela [00:04:58] And to unpack them for everyone else who gets to kind of witness them. First of all, how are you?
Constance [00:05:05] I’m great.
Jameela [00:05:06] Good. I’m glad that you’re really well. I know that right now is quite a fragile time due to the fact that you released a statement recently about some private struggles. And I know you’re going to be releasing more of your story in October, in your book, but there are certain things that you’ve kept from everyone that you are revealing in this book, which you’ve now kind of alluded to or announced. What does that feel like?
Constance [00:05:30] I mean, I feel like the worst is to come in terms of my of going through some uncomfortable things in service of a greater purpose. But last week I did release a statement talking about how three years ago. Hey. Looks like I’m already starting to cry. How three years ago, I made a suicide attempt after there was sort of a bit of an internet pile up on me over my perceived ingratitude. And, you know, that was something that I kept private because I was, like, ashamed of it. So, you know, the harder thing was I had my parents didn’t even know that I had attempted suicide. The only people who really knew were like my therapist. I mean, just I guess whoever does my insurance claims. And, you know, my therapist was like, well, you know, you should probably tell your family and your close friends before you release a Twitter statement. You don’t want them to find out, you know, something so fragile and vulnerable, you know, on the Internet. And I did. But honestly, that was even harder than releasing the statement on Twitter was telling my parents what almost happened and what I did. And and that’s why a big part of why released it is because having these kind of conversations with our Asian families is really hard. You know, we’re not used to sort of these, like, vulnerable, touchy feely type of things. And so. Finding the courage to do that rather than just blasting it online. I think was the respectful and right thing to do to let them know ahead of time. But it was it was the harder conversation, to be honest. And that reveals a lot about Asian-American families, ideas and conversations or lack thereof around mental health, which is my whole reason of releasing that very scary thing to talk about. It was three years ago. I’m now on the other side of it and so I feel strong enough to talk about it. But of course, as you can hear, it’s still it’s all will always be something that was really scary for me, but I but something that I ultimately that I want to open up in order to help other people who might feel the same.
Jameela [00:08:00] I fucking love that you spoke about it and that you are speaking about it and I want to just roll it back for anyone who kind of isn’t aware of the whole situation. So I have watched from the outside you have what has felt like a really stratospheric career. Right? And and you stand out to me because I am a different type of Asian, but I’m still you know, I think I have a special like like a laser focus for any woman of color especially who is rising because it makes me feel really excited. That’s something I didn’t have when I was younger, when I turn on the TV. And so I just saw you come up and become so beloved and so quickly, critically acclaimed, and then just start to kill it across television and film. And I was not super aware of what happened. And with you regarding you being kind of quote unquote canceled online in a really vitriolic way, I now understand from having researched it because I was being canceled at the same time. So we were both in different cities being piled on to by the world and therefore quite unaware of each other’s situation. But will you talk me through what happened?
Constance [00:09:15] Yeah. It’s funny how you said piled on by the world, yet you weren’t necessarily aware of everything.
Jameela [00:09:21] Exactly, exactly, exactly. That’s just how it feels at the time.
Constance [00:09:24] Exactly.
Jameela [00:09:24] Right. When it’s all over the media and you have strangers in your DMS and this laser focus we have for the negative comments, not the comments that have nothing to do with what’s going on or the positive comments. We only see the comments that make us feel like we’re in danger. So it makes it feel that way.
Constance [00:09:39] Right. And there is a tendency, I think, to look or to believe or look at the negative comments or buy into them a little bit more than than the positive comments, which, of course, is dangerous. But, you know. If you look at it another way, I have always thought, but there is a function to that which is negative comments can be more activating because they’re places where we can improve. And there are certain things that happened during that time, like when I issued an apology statement, like I wasn’t I didn’t use the perfect words because who does use perfect words when they’re in an emotional place? You know, and I got a lot of hatred for that, which didn’t feel good. But ultimately I did try to listen and take feedback from that and learned from it, which was hard, but, you know, so, you know, could be activating in a way and negativity. But it feels like such a vacuum when it’s happening to you that the bullying, you know, I had an Asian actress slide into my DMS, I guess, who basically told me that I was a disgrace to Asians, to my race.
Jameela [00:10:54] And just just so like I said, so because so many people weren’t aware of what happened to unpack it. You had had your show, your very late beloved, critically acclaimed show, Fresh Off the Boat, renewed for, I think, a sixth season. And this is off the back of like the huge success you’ve already had in film and and they can see the your becoming a huge star and they are naturally capitalizing on that and continuing on this very beloved show. And you had a very sort of a visceral, I found quite funny.
Constance [00:11:25] Well I said fucking hell, I mean, which anybody.
Jameela [00:11:28] You you were not happy to receive the news and publicly you stated that you wanted to cry and that you didn’t want it to be renewed. Now there are there are two things here. First of all, I think we both agree that maybe that’s not how to relay your feelings. But at the same time, now that I know the context of why you felt that way. Oh, fuck. I just, I. I wish people could have known why you were saying that and how important it was for you to be able to say that.
Constance [00:11:58] Yeah. I mean, it definitely was not the most graceful thing to say. It’s the kind of thing you say with your friend when you’re at a bar on like a Friday night and you’re like, Oh, man. And I think sometimes when you’re alone and I was alone when that happened because I wasn’t at my home in L.A. I just finished filming Hustlers. You don’t really have that outlet, and especially if you felt repressed for a long time. Sometimes it just bursts out of you you know.
Jameela [00:12:24] Bursts out of you, 100%.
Constance [00:12:25] And there were a lot of things on that show, even though I love that show and I love everybody on it, especially once I left, I was like, the cast and crew were wonderful. The very beginning of that show. Like when I first started, there was a lot of intimidation and harassment from from a producer that I kept private because I didn’t want to sort of sully any part of a show that had become such a beacon for Asian-Americans. Right. So I didn’t. And also, I was like, I could take it. It’s not that big of a deal. These, you know, vague, small, misogynistic, sexist comments. You know, I’m used to it. I can swallow it so that I don’t sully this one show that is very important to Asian Americans. But when you’ve repressed that back for like six years, and then when the studio has told you, hey, you know what, we can’t make any promises, but go ahead and you can seek other jobs because we don’t think we’re going to renew your show. We already even wrote your show. The last episode was written to function as a series finale, but they didn’t make any promises. But they gave us their blessing to pursue other work. Which was like, great. I can get a fresh start where I could be on a show or a movie where I feel like I get to be myself. And I don’t have to start with this this groundwork of intimidation and sexual harassment that was at the very beginning of Fresh Off the Boat that happened to me.
Jameela [00:14:01] I’m sorry.
Constance [00:14:01] And this was before- it’s ok. I mean, I’m you know, this is before the MeToo movement. So it’s not as if.
Jameela [00:14:08] There was no vehicle. Yeah. For you to feel like
Constance [00:14:10] Yeah I just feel like. I feel. I felt. No, I just felt scared, you know, because I didn’t hear anyone else talking about this. And then once the MeToo movement had begun and, you know, Harvey Weinstein was was put in jail and all these things that I’m so glad happened. But once that had all happened and I had a little bit more support, the show was already so beloved by Asian-Americans. And also the problems that I had at the beginning. I had worked through them and reached a point where I felt okay, so I didn’t talk about it. But, you know, bad feelings and abuse doesn’t just disappear. It inevitably comes out in other ways.
Jameela [00:14:55] Yeah. And I also, you know, I’ve said this before publicly that I think that it’s so new to women to speak out or to speak our minds. It’s so, so, so fresh. We’re talking the last maybe six years since women have started to just about find our voices. And so to expect us to word everything perfectly when we’ve had none of the practice or experience that men have had in just speaking their fucking minds like we’re not going to execute it perfectly all the time. This is brand new. It feels like being like 2016 felt like being a newborn. Like for a lot of people where you’re finally using your words for the first time and talking about things that you thought were just happening to you and coming out and bravely, you know, offering a branch out to other survivors. I think a lot of us fucked it up because. We just needed to be given a bit of grace, a bit of time to be able to find the right, perfect way to express ourselves in the way that that men have had since they were fucking born. Most time, obviously, men are allowed to talk about feelings the way that we are, but they are allowed to give their fucking opinions and they are allowed to criticize things and they are allowed to to be outspoken and they are applauded and considered leaders. We’ve been stamped on for so long and we’re not just having to learn how to use our voices. We’re having to unlearn the fact that it is good to actively silence yourself. Especially as Asians. Especially Asian women. Yeah.
Constance [00:16:23] Yeah. You’re rewarded for. I mean, it’s like the other end of the model minority stereotype. You’re rewarded for being a woman who is gracious and humble and lovely. And the the difficult part of that is those are all qualities that are actually really lovely. But you have to think about at what cost. And, you know, you obviously, I’m sure, know the term benevolent sexism, you know, benevolent misogyny. Yeah. It’s sort of sexism that feels benevolent. Like it feels kind. Because if you fit into an approved way that a woman ought to be, you extend such graciousness and such love and support. But the second you sort of stray beyond that, you’re sort of pooh poohed and looked down upon. And that perfect example was my tweets. I was not gracious, I was not lovely. I was not poised, I was emotional. I was was a little bit reckless. And I didn’t think before I spoke, which is not how I usually am. But I was in a moment of heat, a moment of emotion. And so it happened. And that was why the people who most piled on me during that time were Asian-Americans themselves. You know, while I had led the the first network TV show in decades to star an Asian-American family and the first feature film in decades to also do the same. All of that did not matter because I had one moment of gracelessness. And I think that’s what we have to just be aware of when we are talking about representation, it’s so much easier to celebrate representation wins to applaud our Oh my God, you’re such an icon. You’re a hero. You’re just this gracious, lovely person. Then to be like, You know what? That person made a mistake. They’re a person, too, and we can all make mistakes and we’re okay that way, and we still will hold each other’s hand through that because we know what that’s like.
Jameela [00:18:33] It’s funny you say that. I’ve said on this podcast before and other people’s podcast even they’re like, I’m here for brown girls who fuck up representation. I was like, Where’s our representation? We just have a bunch of perfect like women and girls of color who who are quiet and subservient and, you know, mysterious and and who don’t ever fall. They never put themselves out there. So therefore they can never trip. And I constantly do. And I think that it’s so important for the other slightly messy, chaotic people of color finding their own way at their own pace as fast as they can, given their personal circumstances. I’m here for them. I’m here for the people who were too mentally ill when they were younger to learn the things that maybe other people were able to learn. And so I think that it’s vitally important, and I think that we aren’t aware of how much we complain about the model minority concept of of, of if you are the person of color who gets to stand out, you have to be absolutely impeccable in every way. And how damaging that is and how that kind of upholds white supremacy of our proximity to whiteness and politeness is the thing that will keep us alive and thriving and and yet we uphold it within our own communities. Because my biggest pile on came from other people of color. And something really interesting that I feel like happened to me. And I’ve never spoken about this publicly before, but I wanted to talk to you about it. I feel like when my own people and other people of color came for me online over a smear campaign, things that I hadn’t even done, just like this random white woman start these fucking lies about me online, and then Piers Morgan and all these different people sort of jumping on top of me. And it just caught like wildfire because I had already become like a kind of lightning rod in the press because I was outspoken and this was very similar to you. Right. You had already been someone who was outspoken about Casey Affleck. You were outspoken about a bunch of different things and people that you felt were unfair. So you were already like a you were already on the media’s radar as like, Oh, well, she thinks she’s so fucking perfect. So she thinks she’s this social justice warrior. If she makes a mistake because she’s clearly claiming to be a saint, which you weren’t. You were just calling out shit as you saw it. So you were held to this impeccable standard. I went through the same thing, but when it happened, I feel like what I saw was my my group abandoned me completely. And then white people felt free after that to jump on me in a way that they wouldn’t with other people of color, because they knew that no one was going to come to help me. I felt abandoned. And I suddenly and I feel like a lot of white people. And for me, it was.
Constance [00:21:20] It gave them permission to unleash probably what they really wanted unleash.
Jameela [00:21:24] Exactly. Exactly is all the hatred they want to maybe give to, not because of racism. Maybe they just don’t like someone. And they feel like in this day and age, you can’t criticize anyone of color.
Constance [00:21:33] Maybe also because of racism.
Jameela [00:21:33] But also because of racism. So regardless, they can’t say shit to most people of color or any kind of minority, otherwise they’ll be piled on to an accused. But I got kind of stripped of my identity. And so I suddenly saw after the wave of my own came this wave of mostly, like what I found to be white women and white gay man who just felt completely empowered to eviscerate me to this very day and say all the things about me that they’re not allowed to say about any person of color, because they know I’ve been left alone. I’ve been isolated from the tribe, and I’ve been left alone in the field to be for my carcass to be fed on by the white people who don’t feel like they’re allowed to say shit to other people of color.
Constance [00:22:16] Yeah.
Jameela [00:22:17] And it’s a really interesting phenomenon that we don’t consider when we do this, when we isolate one of us from the tribe, that’s what we enable. I’m not saying we shouldn’t criticize each other. I’m just saying don’t fucking abandon us. Call us in. Tell us off. Guide the way. But don’t leave one of us to don’t leave one of us to rot. Because that’s what happens and that’s what we encourage when we do that.
Constance [00:22:39] Yeah, that’s how supremacy culture maintains its pillars. It’s by pitting other people of color against each other. And this happens so much with Asian-Americans in the black community, which is, you know, I talked in my social media statement about how Asian-Americans are very hesitant to talk about the touchier problems within our community. And I think that you can’t start healing or reckoning with these problems unless you acknowledge them and open them up. And I think what you’re saying is exactly is just so important in that, like this is how supremacy culture stays afloat is by us pitting against each other. I mean, there are so many Asian Americans I know who try to point to the data of like, oh, there’s no racism because, you know, we’ve become successful. Why can’t this black person become successful with no acknowledgment or awareness of like the systemic biases and structures that have been put in place for the black culture versus the Asian culture. So by by being proud of our own, like, I guess, socioeconomic success. Without acknowledging the structural and systemic racism that is baked into American culture is a way that Asian Americans unwittingly and some and unknowingly and sometimes knowingly sort of participate in strengthening the pillars of anti-black racism and white supremacy. And to acknowledge that and to admit that is a very tough thing to do, which is why I don’t I completely understand why the Asian culture has, for the most part avoided talking about that and prefers to instead be like, Oh no, we are also marching at this Black Lives Matter march instead of being like, Oh yeah, but my grandmother and my uncles, they say these kinds of things and they think these types of ways, and I haven’t acknowledged it. I haven’t owned up to it and I haven’t started the conversations that will begin to open it up. And like we have to do that. And I think it takes people like you having the courage to speak up and have your voice even when your whole culture comes for you, even when everybody comes for you. You have to sort of think about what you’re really trying to accomplish. I was going over my social media set with my shrink, and she was a little bit worried and she was like, Well, listen, like. Maybe you should hold back a little bit, because I don’t want the Asian community to come for you because we want to try to get your book out there. We want to make sure that we maximize that potential. And I thought about that for a little bit. But then I was like, Actually, the point is not selling my book. I think most people actually don’t read that much these days. So it’s like, actually, if I’m going to put this out on Twitter, a platform which is, you know, however many characters a tweet is, I don’t even know the number anymore,.
Jameela [00:25:51] 280.
Constance [00:25:51] Like 280. I’m actually trying to reach the people who are on this format and they get little soundbites and I’m trying to reach them so that if they are ever in a situation where they want to end their life, they feel that they deserve not to live anymore, that they know that they are not alone and that they know there are resources and they know that it gets better. And so once I sort of parsed that out, I was kind of like, yeah, that’s actually the greater point. And so if that means sacrificing, some people getting mad at me, some discomfort, I know I’m I’m okay accepting that three years ago, I couldn’t have accepted it because I was a little too fragile and raw after, you know, immediately posting the suicide attempt. But I’ve taken three years to really go through it. And so there will be discomfort that comes. There will be vitriol. And that the greater goal of opening these conversations matters enough to me that I’m like, okay, I have I will accept this discomfort if it means helping somebody else go through theirs. I’m sorry that. That’s such a wordy answer. Sorry.
Jameela [00:27:08] No. No I. I really. I love. I love hearing you talk. And I have loved so much of what I’ve read of what you say. And I think you speak so fucking clearly and unpretentiously, and your words really resonate with a lot of people I know. Which makes me even more suspicious of the pile on that came via the media. The media stoking that fire. Because you are bright and you are right a lot of the time about what you say and you are calling out systems and therefore you must be destroyed. We only try to destroy or silence or erase the things that we are afraid of.
Constance [00:27:48] Completely. I mean, we are a threat. We are a threat to the status quo. Not only do they threaten, they also reward women who pile on to another woman. They reward.
Jameela [00:28:03] Interesting.
Constance [00:28:04] I feel like they reward like this is this is the good one. And this is this is the benevolent sexism again. This is the woman who was able to give her activism with a gracious spoonful of sugar.
Jameela [00:28:17] What do you mean? Like, who do you mean? I’m not. You’d have to name the exact thing, but I don’t know what you mean.
Constance [00:28:22] I just think that there are certain public figures that engage in. I guess more activist messages with a more palatable presentation. I think the idea that there is a palatable presentation is part of the problem. But here’s the thing. It’s it’s also very easy to fall into the other side and be like, oh, fuck, the person who has such a palatable presentation. If that type of presentation is intuitive to you and natural to you and is your voice. I think every single type of activism is important, but somebody having a different style of activism than yours shouldn’t be a threat to your own. That’s why women who do have a more palatable type of presentation don’t need to be supporting the take down of women who maybe are not as graceful women who have a different method of activism. We need all of these things. We are. Gloria Steinem says we’re not ranked. We are link. And I think we need to remember that and try not to judge each other because again, that’s another way supremacy culture stays afloat is when we pile on each other about. The different ways we engage our activism in saying one way is more right than the other way. It’s not true. One ways more one way is more right for yourself than the other way. But like if I were, you know, I Jewish, for example, somebody is Christian faith shouldn’t feel like a threat to my own. It’s just I practice my faith this way. They practice their faith that way. And that’s not a threat that just everyone has their own thing. And we have to understand that people having differing ways is not a threat. But there’s just such a culture of fear that it starts to feel that way.
Jameela [00:30:32] 100%. So what did it feel like for you at that time? Right. So you you’ve had you’ve been on this pedestal. You’re being so rewarded for speaking out about the things that you do. And you were weighing in on like fucking heavy issues in a time where we really did not have any other Asian women other than maybe a handful of us talking about some of these things and coming for some of the people publicly that we did who we felt were being protected and rewarded when they were actively harming other people. So you were, you know, because that’s that’s the the only kind of version of you I witnessed was best like you being extremely celebrated to then one tweet changing the and erasing all of the good you’ve done and all of the work you’ve done and everything that you stand for that’s like good and and inspiring to other people. Suddenly people are claiming that all of that has been erased. Obviously, none of it has been erased. It still stands to this very day. But what did it feel like for you?
Constance [00:31:42] I mean, at the time. I mean, I felt really alone. I felt really ashamed. Yeah. I just I, you know, normally I feel like I’m I’m pretty strong and I’m pretty centered in, in my values. And I, I actually didn’t expect for social media to affect me that much because, you know, you know, when you’re a public figure, you become kind of acclimated to trolls and things like that. So it did come as a surprise, especially to have like somebody from my own community is somebody who was a former colleague of mine, just shame me to the point of telling me that I didn’t deserve to live anymore. I mean, it was gone. It was.
Jameela [00:32:35] Oh, my God. Oh my God.
Constance [00:32:35] I mean, it was very scary. I mean. Oh, sorry.
Jameela [00:32:41] No, please. I’m so sorry, and I hate upsetting you. I just only want to talk about this within.
Constance [00:32:46] But I’m not. Even though I’m
Jameela [00:32:46] Whatever you feel comfortable with.
Constance [00:32:48] crying, I’m. I’m not upset. I’m actually. It’s just that it’s a very it’s just a very scary memory, and it will always remain a scary memory. But I am on the other side of it. And, you know, the I mean, if you read my book, there’s like this thing that happened to me in middle school that still makes me cry when I talk about it, which is not even a big deal, but like. You know, there are certain wounds that will always be a little bit tender for you. And it doesn’t mean you’re still like you’re like so, like, fucked up over them anymore. It’s just like they will always be something that was a really scary time in your life and it was formative for me. But yeah, I mean, I was really ashamed and scared and alone and.
Jameela [00:33:33] And you feel like you’re being stripped of everything, not just your humanity and your identity, but also like, fuck, am I ever going to work again? You know? And like everything, I’ve worked so hard for, everything I have tolerated in order to keep going, all of that for nothing, that’s it. Like, you know, because everyone makes you feel like it’s over for you. And and a lot of people don’t even know what to say. The ones who love you don’t even know what to say because it’s still so new. Watching a woman go down like this. Like it used to happen once every.
Constance [00:34:01] Yeah, they actually can. Like my parents were, and my family was concerned for me at that time. They’re like, Oh, no, like, it’s going to mess up your career or whatever. And what was really difficult and it’s still difficult I’m still dealing with today is that I think when I when I went viral over these ungrateful tweets, it opened the door for Internet engagement. So, you know, tabloids started capitalizing on it and made up salacious, horrendous, blatant lies about who I was as a person. This person saying I was a diva, horrible to work with, hated. I mean, that stuff still follows me today in that sometimes there will be, you know, an offer for a movie or like a pending offer. And they’re saying, well, they’re not sure because they’re worried that Constance is a diva, which, like on set, nothing could be further from the truth. And my agents and managers have to actively be like, here are you are welcome to on your own contact to the directors and the producers of all of these past projects, actors and say, hey, how was she to work with? And they do. And I always gets glowing reviews because I am very professional and I like like I am.
Jameela [00:35:32] Also what Asian woman would get away with that? Like, to be honest like this the idea of that is that we’re definitely not there yet where we can Vin Diesel our way through you know the industry and like stay in our trailer the I hate the fucking word diva so passionately it’s such a sexist fucking trope that always gets used as soon as they don’t like a woman anymore or they want you to stop liking a woman. Suddenly the d word comes out and it gets it’s been used about every single woman who stands out that I can think of. That she’s a diva. She’s a monster, and it’s always based on a source said. And there’s no fucking proof of anything. They just. They just drop that and they just plant that little seed. And then our own internalized misogyny to water it and feed it and grow it until it suddenly starts to feel like a reality for people.
Constance [00:36:25] And it’s easier to believe the bad stuff, right? It’s easier to believe like, oh, of course, she doesn’t want this rumor coming out. But I believe because I heard and you don’t know the context of that, you don’t know if that source is somebody that like asked you out, for example, and you said, no, I don’t want to date you. And, you know, he became super wounded and was like, fucking bitch. I mean, I’ve definitely had people ask me out and I try as nicely as I can to be like, no, not romantically interested. And that’s, you know, sometimes hurt expresses itself as anger and people are like, fucking bitch. And it’s just like, no, actually, I mean, there’s no truth to any of those rumors. And I, I challenge people to talk to people like who have actually worked with me. You know, in my book I talked about it like there were times in the first year of Fresh Off the Boat where because I was going through the sexual harassment when I saw people being buddy buddy with my harasser, that caused a lot of uncomfortable feelings for me, which I think could be perceived as being cold. But that’s a really hard to look at, to look at somebody who is abusing you and see somebody else giving them love. That’s hard to look at. And so, yeah, I mean, you have to understand there’s context to these things, but like I said, it’s affected me even to this day where people think like, Oh, she’s a diva, when first of all, I hate that word and and I’m not. But even if I were, who gives a fuck? You know what I mean? Like you said the word, oh, we can’t all Vin Diesel our way through life. Why is it when Vin Diesel acts a certain way, he’s a cool badass. But when a woman would act that way. It’s sort of like we have to put her in her place. How dare we shine. You know.
Jameela [00:38:17] I agree. But also what constitutes a diva is so it’s so narrow right the the line you have to walk to not be called a diva. So, you know, if you are 30 seconds late, if you are truly 30 seconds late, but if you are if you are like, oh, you know what, I just don’t like these lines, I’d like to change them please. Or I think my character’s been taken in a direction that I think is unhelpful or offensive, or maybe we could try this instead. If you challenge anything and do anything other than Thank you so much. Thank you so much. Thank you for letting me a mere a mere lowly brown person. And thank you so much for allowing me to be in the room. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yes, I’ll do anything. I’ll do anything. Yes, yes I’ll suck your dick. I’ll suck your dick. Like if you do anything other than like bow and thank the entire time, you don’t just challenge things. That’s all you have to do to be called difficult or a diva difficult because you are creating difficult or challenging feelings for them, even in the most professional way. I. I’m so sorry and I’m so frustrated for you. And it must be so, like, sickening when you hear that that’s what you’re coming up against is just nonsense. I mean, people think I’m a pathological liar and that I’m literally insane because of the way that I’ve been maligned by the media. And so there’s a lot of people who I think feel very afraid to talk to me because they think I’m going to be this like this sort of like soap box, screaming, lying, problematic maniac on set. And no one knows me. I mean, the people who listen to this podcast know that I’m just quite, quite normal, quite average. A bit of a basic bitch and like quite calm. But it’s amazing how well it works. And it only works because everyone else allows it to. This is this is why I think it’s such an important conversation.
Constance [00:40:16] But people don’t even realize that they do it, that they’re saying, oh, this woman is difficult because she’s something less than grateful that we I feel like we have to overcompensate with our language like I’ve noticed on set. I mean, this is people talk about this I’ll all the time how women say I’m sorry. They have to like like I always say sorry, I have to go to the bathroom. I preface a normal need to urinate with an apology when nothing is more human in the world than having to pee. But I’ve I’ve been conditioned to do that because the times that I haven’t done that, people are like, Oh God, inconveniencing the actor is inconveniencing. Whereas, you know, with a guy, you never hear a guy say, Sorry, I have to go to the bathroom. Sorry.
Jameela [00:41:07] I rarely see a man say sorry for anything, even when they should. What’s wild about reading through the coverage of around that time and then the smear campaign about you that followed was seeing how much bigger that was than so many men’s actual like legit crimes. Legitimate crimes. You know, I often bring up Emile Hirsch, who strangled my friend in front of like a hundred people or something at Sundance, you know, and went to jail for nine days. And so was probably this is not like just a rumor or anything. It’s because it happened legally.
Constance [00:41:44] He was in jail.
Jameela [00:41:45] And now. Yeah. And now is back working with Robert De Niro and Zach Braff. And he worked in like among like alongside Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt and all these different people. Like just been welcomed back in and no one fucking talks about it. And it’s just like that’s someone who tried to who almost killed a very small woman who had just rejected, you know, his. I don’t wanna get into the whole everything of it, but, you know, a small woman who didn’t want to talk to him and that’s what he did. And I’ve got nowhere near as much coverage as what you did. You were just. You would just, ungrateful. In that moment, you were perceived as ungrateful, but really, you were a victim of harassment who just didn’t want to be harassed anymore and you wanted to be free.
Constance [00:42:29] Yeah I was a little bit graceless. But did I actually threaten somebody’s physical life? Did I strangle somebody?
Jameela [00:42:35] Or safety, did you harass anyone? No. You just wanted out. And you said it. You dared to say it.
Constance [00:42:40] Yeah I just wanted to do a play.
Jameela [00:42:41] Had you not been a woman and had you not been a woman of color, especially an Asian woman, a culture that has been so, so stereotyped and only ever represented as deeply subservient and deeply self-controlled. And that doesn’t come from nowhere, because, like you and I both grew up in these cultures. We’ve seen a lot of women have to eat a lot of shit or have to be suppressed. I’m not talking about your specific family, but I’m just saying that this is you know, this is what we probably have grown up seeing at least. We’re not saying those things don’t exist. But that can’t be the only representation people have of of us, because we are not a monolith. There are those of us who bite back or who speak out.
Constance [00:43:23] In the East Asian culture. And this is something I really is important to me to talk about, because I think in the East Asian culture, yes, there has been a movement of representation in the past ten years that has been great and a lot of the conversation has been focused on portraying only positive role models of Asians. They want Asians to be the love interest, the hero they. And, you know, I’m not saying that that isn’t important, but I don’t think the goal should be positive, heroic representation of any racial group. I think it should be fully human representation of. And that means. Stories where you’re not always perfect. Having public figures like myself who do fuck up you know and who do learn from it. I’m talking about the difficult issues within your community. Like earlier I talked about anti-black racism and then you were just talking about like, yes, there’s a lot of subservience in our culture and that is born of a very patriarchal culture. A lot of misogyny, a lot of sexism, which isn’t a secret, yet we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about how that manifests in Asian-American society today. And it does. And if we don’t talk about it, we can’t even begin to start correcting it or even reckoning with.
Jameela [00:45:01] Something else I love that you’ve spoken about is the fact that, you know, when Fresh Off the Boat first came out, there were some people who criticized the fact that you were playing a tiger mom and that there were some things that they considered to be, quote unquote, stereotypes of Asian culture. And the fact that, you know, you and I both see people from our backgrounds saying I don’t want to play any role that were specifically designed for an Asian person. Right. I want to only do roles that were like I put myself in other, you know, in parts that were designed for another race because I’m trying to break the stereotype. And you and I both have a similarity. And that we fear that that stereotype also comes from some real things that we grew from. Don’t erase our people, don’t erase our stories, don’t never tell Asian stories again because you are so determined to break through. I understand where that comes from. I understand not wanting to be pigeonholed and wanting to be stereotyped. I understand not trusting Hollywood to handle our stories in, in the nuanced way in which we deserve. But I am while I have definitely taken roles that have been not explicitly around my identity, I have never shied away from it. I will never I can’t wait to tell a great South Asian story that has all the different types of us in it. The people who the stereotypes come from, the people who are different. We are such a diverse diaspora. And and I think it’s great that you are someone who doesn’t believe in, like, completely abandoning those stories.
Constance [00:46:38] In fact, I almost feel like they need more representation because Hollywood really did them bad first time around you know.
Jameela [00:46:44] Agreed.
Constance [00:46:44] And like, the thing about stereotypes is they’re not I don’t think they’re harmful for their mere existence, for example. I’m kind of a very stereotypical actress, you know, like, I embody a lot of.
Jameela [00:46:56] A big diva.
Constance [00:46:57] Exactly. I embody a lot of those stereotypes, but I think stereotypes become harmful when they’re reductive to a person. And I think when they’re expansive, when you’re like, oh, this person, yes. They fall into the tiger mom stereotype. Yes. But they’re also so much more. They’re not just that. I think that’s important to talk about. And when you’re shame or when it’s interesting, because I think by rejecting actors saying they reject any role that has Asianness or an accent or any stereotypical attributes, what makes me worry is that that proud proclamation of their rejection almost reinforces the idea that those stereotypical attributes are inherently shameful. Because why would you reject something like unless if it wasn’t something that you were ashamed of? And I think that could be really harmful. People were like, Why does your character on Fresh Off the Boat have to have an accent? And I’m like, Well, you know why? Because she was an immigrant to this country and English was her second language. And having an accent is a very is back to what happens when some things are second language.
Jameela [00:48:17] It’s also really cool, as you’ve said before, because it means that then your parents or whoever.
Constance [00:48:22] Know two languages.
Jameela [00:48:22] Know two languages.
Constance [00:48:24] Yes. But we are so wounded by our scar. We’re wounded by the representation, the stereotypical representation that we’ve seen in the past, where people mark those accents, that we then decide to shun the very people who embody those accents to say, like, I don’t want to play any character that has this accent because we’re buying in to this very antiquated idea that having an accent is shameful. Instead of believing our very lived experience of our parents accents, which is, oh yeah, my mom has an accent and so she knows two languages. How fucking cool is that? You want to make me feel shame for that? How many languages your does your parent know? You know, I mean, like, you have to flip that script rather than letting your choices be a reaction to a system that does not understand you or your family. You have to create your own system because you are the person who knows your family and your background and your culture. And that voice is important. So why the fuck would you erase it? You know?
Jameela [00:49:31] I love you so much. I just I really do. I, I, I’m having a great time. I really like listening to you talk.
Constance [00:49:41] I get. I get real mouthy sometimes.
Jameela [00:49:43] No, but you’re not mouthy. But stop it. Stop it. You’re not being mouthy. You’re not talking too much. You’re not using too many words.
Constance [00:49:50] Thank you. I’m doing the whole thing, right?
Jameela [00:49:53] Yeah. Yeah. You’re apologizing to me. Yeah.
Constance [00:49:56] You know, even it happens even to me, you know, I’m apologizing for having a voice, and I can’t. It’s like, yeah, it’s like it’s in there.
Jameela [00:50:04] And I want you to check yourself on that because I.
Constance [00:50:08] Thank you and I’m glad you did that for me.
Jameela [00:50:09] I still sometimes do it, but less and less because fucking hell we have got to make up for thousands of years of no words leaving our mouths like we have to say all the words whenever we can. And even and even now, in this very day and age, our bodily autonomy is still being taken away or under threat. Like we have to.
Constance [00:50:34] Oh my god yeah.
Jameela [00:50:35] Speak more than ever and we have to speak to each other, and we have to speak with each other. And we have to stand side by side. Like you are not my competition. You are not my enemy. You are not someone I fear and when I hear you be.
Constance [00:50:48] Linked not [unrecognized]
Jameela [00:50:49] Yeah, exactly. And I, when I hear you being so passionate and eloquent, you make me feel less alone. And you make me feel inspired and you make me feel grateful to be able to hear your thoughts. Because I haven’t seen anyone who looks like you speak up in this way in a really long time. And it makes me feel excited that other little girls who look like you or look like me or who have a people, anyone. We come from generally quite subservient cultures when it comes to whiteness, right? There might be patriarchal oppression within our culture, but as soon as we step out of our culture and we enter the white space, all of us take a fucking backseat, regardless of gender. I see that in the men in my family, nonbinary people, whatever it’s it is. There is something about us all that boils down so everyone can benefit from seeing people who look like us. Just try out our word. It is so stupid and I don’t know if it makes any sense or even if I’ll leave it in. But you know, sometimes I watch these. I watched a lot of dog videos alright Constance, it’s what calms me down. And there’s nothing I love more than watching a puppy try and find its voice and like, bark for the first time or howl for the first time because it kind of reminds me of us. And I don’t mean that in a patronizing way to women, but it’s like it’s going to come out a little bit fucked up when it’s new, you know, our voice, it reminds us of that. It’s like we haven’t found our full fucking howl yet, and so we need to encourage that in each other. We don’t need to be like, Ooh, that wasn’t fucking perfect. That wasn’t pitch perfect, you fucking bitch. You’re an embarrassment to the rest of us. Fuck off. Go on get in that closet and die like we’re almost because men are kind of too afraid to say some of these things to us now. Post the kind of like more of the feminist wave. They don’t want to be seen as misogynist women go out and do their bidding for them. The big like the fucking the worst shit that has been said to me. The biggest group of people who have been unkind to me has been other liberal women.
Constance [00:52:49] Benevolent sexism.
Jameela [00:52:51] Exactly. I mean, it’s just. We have to encourage the broken howl of one another.
Constance [00:53:00] In almost the same way. I mean, oh, God, this is this is going to sound horrible to for us to compare this to like puppies. But like, of course, somebody is going to compare to bitches. I mean.
Jameela [00:53:10] Sometimes we piss all over the floor, you know? I’m just saying.
Constance [00:53:13] Sometimes we’re fucking bitches but bitches are cool. But, like, I mean, you all you look upon that those puppy videos, you look at it with affection, you’re like, Wow, this puppy is finding its voice. Like. And it’s when you look at it with affection rather than judgment and with like encouragement and a little bit of pride, because I like my daughter, like my daughter can’t pronounce her k’s so she turns everything into a T, so cup becomes tup and book is boot and I don’t give her shit for that. I mean, it’s not like it’s like it’s a wonderful I’m like, wow. She has found a consonant that approximates the one that she’s trying to get to. She’s a she found the t is close enough to think and what matters to more her more is communicating. I want that cup rather than communicating it perfectly. She just wants to communicate it and she’s found something that works. And eventually she’ll be able to say cup. But she can’t say it yet. And like, I look at this as like a wonderful moment that I get to witness and how fucking lucky and great is it that I get to be around it rather than like judging it.
Jameela [00:54:25] Totally. And maybe when we hear the broken howl, maybe we just howl with them, fix what they said, smooth it over, help, you know, translate whatever. You know what I mean?
Constance [00:54:34] I’m a musical theater nerd so you got harmonize that howl.
Jameela [00:54:37] 100, 100%. I think it’s really important. And. I want I want everyone to understand what I keep kind of like treading towards in this episode is that none of this could be possible. The misogyny couldn’t be possible. The patriarchy couldn’t be possible at this like at this level, the patriarchal media couldn’t savage and smear us the way they do and take away our jobs and our voices and our ability to empower other people who look like us. If the rest of us weren’t complicit. And I’m talking about people with the same political ideologies the same. Like social ideology is the same social care. They are complicit in this. Now, if we do not stop checking out, it’s okay to like I criticize other women and men. I do it, but I always do it with an aim of, like, constructive criticism. Right? I’m like, please stop doing this. And then I have no I have no personal problem with you whatsoever, like me with the Kardashians. No problem with them. I don’t mind them. I don’t know anything about them. Never seen their show. Don’t sell diet products. You won’t hear from me ever again. I’ll just fuck right off. I am not like I am very clear. I’m constructive when I have any issue. I never, ever, ever want to just go in for blood and just like a fucking piranha, eat someone through to the bone. And we have to be very careful of that, like, tendency, in us.
Constance [00:56:01] But have you ever found that even when you are constructive, the media wants to.
Jameela [00:56:06] Turn it into a bitch fight? Yeah, of course.
Constance [00:56:07] Turn into a cat fight. Even if you are being so careful and constructive, they want to pick at your words to make it seem like it’s cat fights when it’s not. And so. So I, you know, I don’t know how to answer this question. It’s a question I’m still I still ask myself on the daily because you are right, we are complicit. And it is very.
Jameela [00:56:28] We’re the market we’re the consumers we click we we we are the ones that the advertising.
Constance [00:56:34] We read the titillating article and I’m like why why do you do that I mean and I understand because sometimes we engage in our darker, you know, it’s like it’s like if I were perfect, I would never for example, have ever smoked a cigarette. But I because we know that that’s not good for your health. But like I’ve smoked before. And sometimes when I smoked, I just wanted a fuckin cigarette and I was human and that wasn’t great. But it’s like, we’re never going to be perfect. But the question for me is like, how do we talk about women not pitting against each other. But not blaming the women who do that too hard because I’m like because.
Jameela [00:57:14] We’ve been pitted against each other. It’s about understanding the system, right? I’m not trying to blame anyone.
Constance [00:57:19] I know you’re not. I’m just trying to figure it out.
Jameela [00:57:21] I’m just trying to, I’m trying to call it out and say this is exactly what they want, right? They want us to be looking at each other so that we aren’t looking at them. So they continue to strip us of our rights in complete freedom and with impunity, because we are so busy eating each other’s flesh and picking at each other and staring at each other. And our magnifying glass is on each other over the smallest things. When, when and then we’re not looking at them and our eye is not on the ball. And then they are taking away huge things from us. And then suddenly these things that we are picking at each other for and obsessing over, it’s fine to criticize, but obsessing over until someone is almost dead like that colleague of yours who made you feel like you shouldn’t even be alive. It’s so inconsequential what you did. And then meanwhile, the bigger picture is that huge rights are being stripped of us and we’re rolling backwards and in in areas that aren’t even as extreme as things like reproductive care, less women are being hired at top positions or assistant positions because men post the MeToo movement are suddenly too afraid of hiring us because we accuse them of something. You know, it’s gone from like 4% to 2%. It’s just we are in a fucking crisis and they are laughing at us as they watch us eat ourselves. And so we just need to be aware of the system and understand that we are part of a very well designed system and we are falling into a trap and we have to climb out of that trap together and learn how to critically think about how harmful something is and what kind of pile on that is worth and. And if we have to take someone’s obvious human humane mistake and then use that to eviscerate and dehumanize every single part of them, do we want to be a part of that?
Constance [00:59:03] Do we want to keep upholding those pillars of supremacy by going after each other? Who’s the real person we should be going after.
Jameela [00:59:11] Yeah. Who wins? Because it ain’t any of us. No one won when you got ripped to shreds. No one won when I got ripped to shreds. What? Like young women watching me get ripped to shreds. And I’m sure you watched that and would message me being like I am watching the way that you’re being maligned, watching the way you’re being lied about is making me afraid to speak my mind. And I’m like, That’s exactly what they fucking want. Which is why I started this podcast after all that shit, three weeks after that shit and.
Constance [00:59:39] Good for you.
Jameela [00:59:40] I kept on going because I was like the the damage of if they win is so significant that people don’t even realize it. So we’re just, we’re not allowing for any nuance, any pause, any mistakes. And that has got to change.
Constance [00:59:56] Yeah. But I think people like you doing like doing this podcast three weeks afterwards and like having the courage to put your voice out there, even when people tell you you shouldn’t. I think that’s how change happens. And it’s not going to always be comfortable, it’s not always going to be pleasant. But sometimes you have to sit through discomfort in service of something greater.
Jameela [01:00:20] And you and I have taken the criticism on board, and we’ve both shapeshift a little bit, and I feel grateful for the things that I’ve learned about maybe certain ways I express myself. And, and, and I don’t, I don’t hate myself for the things that I even may regret a little bit. I just go, okay, well, that was that was a misfire and I won’t do it again now. And I’m glad to know that a now I can share that knowledge with other people and great. And we move on. I move on. And we have to allow women, especially women of color, who slip and fall in just the tiniest ways, even to move on, to come back, to redeem. And I really hope that your book allows for redemption just among this circle of fucking vultures who try to make you feel like you didn’t belong. You do belong. You’re very, very important. And and I think that this book is going to be very liberating for lots of different people. I don’t want you to carry the burden put upon you by people who aren’t even that mad at you. They just wanted someone to scream at that day. You’re a you’re an you’re just a pleasure. Thank you for coming on and talking to me.
Constance [01:01:29] You too, thank you.
Jameela [01:01:30] Before you go, I have to ask you, Constance Wu, what do you weigh?
Constance [01:01:35] I weigh. My jokes with my friends, my actions, and. Any time that I’m scared of doing something I know is right. But I do it anyway. That’s how I weigh and measure my worth.
Jameela [01:01:57] Can I ask you one last question? What do you think you most want people to take from your book?
Constance [01:02:11] I have this thing I say in the introduction where this ties into the title where I said I stopped thinking about. This girl as a girl making a scene and started thinking about the scenes that made the girl. And I would like people to think that, you know, even if they see a public figure or even a personal figure making a scene, having a moment of gracelessness or an outburst, to think about the context and the scenes and to ask questions about what might be going on in that young woman’s life that has led to this, rather than saying she’s a girl making a scene. And I would like us to extend that grace to. Everybody.
Jameela [01:02:52] I think that’s beautiful. Thank you so much. Constance, you’ve been a joy. I’ll. I’ll see you soon.
Constance [01:02:57] Okay. See you soon. Thank you, Jameela.
Jameela [01:03:01] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and researched by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month the Stitcher Premium by going stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. Here is a nice I Weigh from one of our listeners. I weigh my ability to learn from my mistakes, my regrets, and the people I’ve had to let go out of love. I Weigh my amazing friends and the family I’m slowly creating around me. I weigh my intersection with drugs and homelessness and the professional world that allows me to see people as complex individuals. I weigh my need for times of rest and the painful work I do to grow. I weigh being an engineer, a gamer, a lover, a peacemaker. Someone who makes wrong decisions often.
February 20, 2024
Guest Cindy Gallop
We’re revisiting this incredible episode with MakeLoveNotP*rn’s Cindy Gallop, as Jameela shares an exciting announcement.