Mathilda Chua: “Let’s be real” About the International Artist Experience
A conversation with Mathilda Chua, Singaporean born actress, is a reminder of all that is alluring, sharp, funny, and unique that immigrants possess when they crash-land in the United States. Chua exudes a refreshing perspective of the international student in New York. The transplant vs the native New Yorker had always been the argument between old money privilege and the earnest roots of hard work. Yet as Chua points out she understands “there are other immigrant experiences facing much worse than hers, but I am also facing something” and learning what it takes to acquire her O-1 visa, the freelance artist visa, she is undeniably facing something that most natural-born U.S. citizens and financially acquired visas wouldn’t be able to handle on their own.
Mathilda decided to become an actress at a young age. The NYU TISCH (School of the Arts) Asian portal campus was located across from her middle school, and after learning about the opportunities that TISCH could offer her, she began pursuing to apply to acting school. Of course her parents said no. Mathilda admits she isn’t Asian-American, and that her experiences are different, identifying as mainly Asian. From needing to compromise with her family and only being able to pursuit acting if she got into the top five schools in the United States, to all the self-doubt being in the artistic craft, her experiences streams into the multiple pools of the human experience where almost all Persons of Color can relate. Upon arriving in New York she was immediately told she needed to go to accent reduction class and was confronted with the fact that there are some roles that she will probably never get cast in, “No one is going to f*cking cast me in Death of a Salesman, let’s be real!” It wasn’t until after her years studying in New York City, including the fact her sister and nephew living here in the States, at the same time her brother working within the country, she realized the value to what she has to bring to the table both artistically and socially by simply being an immigrant in the United States.
When asking Chua why New York, why the States, and why not just go home to continue her acting career, Chua points out that even though she loves where she is from and loves Singapore “right now the market, and the reason I want to be an actor, and the change I want to bring to the artistic world... what I have to bring to the table has a value in the American Market. And who knows, after three years I could bring what I’ve learned over there.” Yet we find out, one of the biggest struggle for Chua isn’t the simple survival aspect of being an artist in the United States, but staying here safely has been an obstacle. From miles and miles of paperwork and the fact that the U.S. government has decided to cut down on how many O-1 visa they grant immigrants, Chua looked to the help of others in her community for the support needed to strengthen her case stay. Being turned down so often in the past few months by colleagues and people she dare called friends, it’s the hypocrisy Chua can’t ignore and feel the need to call out.
Seeing that people being hesitant to have their name on immigration documents or be associated with such, Chua can’t help suspects the fear is rooted from the events of November 2016. Yet it is the same individuals who cry immigration reform and protection on social media. There is a difference between protesting and parading. Chua, and the rest of the People of Color community, can't help but be weary and suspicious of the intentions of those privileged in the States; questioning the willingness to “put your ass on the line.” After spending months within the visa process, she want us to know, it doesn’t cost much at all, next to nothing, and to help is a gesture that is more than generous. Chua asks that if you’re in the position of power, not just political power, but to have citizenship is a power in itself, like to protest genuinely for those in the community who can’t safely. Another note Chua wants to put across is to the People of Color community is to not let the process make you hard. Remember why you fell in love whatever you choose to do with your life. “I had let so many people let their hatred and bigotry seep into my life and it’s ugly. Don’t make time for people who don’t support you.” AKIN fully supports Mathilda Chua, and we have nothing but respect for her, as fellow Persons of Color artist we admire her unique value to the artistic world, we can tell it would be missed. While she admits that if her visa gets denied she has no choice but to accept it, and “just go home.” But until then AKIN is on her side.
Don’t forget to check her out in AKIN’s Original Short “Regards, Mathilda Chua”
”Too often do directors hire people to perform a character role that is not in line with the actor/actress's cultural heritage.”