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Correcting Yellowface’: One Woman’s Project to Fix Whitewashing

Following recent discussion of Hollywood whitewashing, Michelle Villemaire, a Thai-American content creator, has re-imaged famous Asian characters originally cast with actors.

Villemaire replacing Katharine Hepburn as Jade in "Dragon Seed." Michelle Villemaire

The project, called "Correcting Yellowface," debuted on her blog last month. In her post detailing the project, Villemaire wrote that she did not see many faces like herself on television and film when she was growing up. Consequently, she became inspired to start her own photo project that would convey a lesson for more diversity in filmmaking.

“To me, correcting yellowface means taking back and reminding others about our power, history, and stories,” Villemaire told NBC News. “The responses that I have been getting in regards to the project have been so powerful and that just shows me how strong the Asian American community is.”

By reimaging herself in various roles in movies like "The Good Earth" to "Aloha," she wants to make the Asian-American community aware of the racism that exists.

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Another influence for the blogger to "correct yellowface” was Anna May Wong, one of the first Chinese-American movie stars. Villemaire said she did not discover Wong until she became an adult and understood some of the racial difficulties Wong experienced throughout her acting career. She said Wong should have been given the role to star as Olan in "The Good Earth," but it was against Motion Picture Production Code at the time for people of color to play alongside white people in romantic leads.

Villemaire said that even today, only women who have a certain skin color and eye shape are permitted in the film industry. She elaborated, saying that while there is a need to draw attention to audiences, there are many outstanding Asian actors and actresses who should be given a chance to appear in television and films.

“To this day white people are cast as Asians, deepening the message that Asians just aren’t wanted,” she said.

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