Crazy Rich Asians Actress Victoria Loke On Women's Rights Advocacy & Asian Representation
For Singaporean actress Victoria Loke, advocating for noteworthy causes is just as important as acting.
Starring as Fiona Cheng in the glamorous 2018 film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel Crazy Rich Asians, Loke found herself a part of the beginning of a great change in Hollywood's lack of representation for Asians and Asian culture.
The rising star has since found time for activism projects. From her recent collaboration with Project X, a healthcare initiative for sex workers in Singapore, to co-founding collaborative art project #AsianGirl, a series of artworks that looks into Western hyper-sexualisation of Eastern bodies, Loke continues to use her voice to shine a light on different women's rights issues.
We speak with Loke on her latest inspiring projects.
This article is available to read in Chinese (HK).
Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with women's rights advocacy?
I have always loved the writer Toni Morrison, who once said in an interview: “I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
I first read this interview as a student myself, and it is really what galvanised me to start properly advocating for women’s rights ever since. I understand and appreciate that with every door I make my way through, part of my duty is to hold that door open for other women who might not have had the same opportunities or resources that I have had.
Rather than individual achievement, for me, the focus has always been collective empowerment from the get-go.
Since Crazy Rich Asians, have you seen a positive shift in Asian representation in Hollywood?
Absolutely! Who would’ve thought we’d not only see an Asian Marvel superhero like Shang-Chi, but also a phenomenal film like Everything Everywhere All At Once that explores Asian American cultural identity so profoundly, all in the span of a couple of years? There are so many Asian creators and performers who are now receiving their much-deserved time in the spotlight, and it’s such an exciting time to be in. I can’t wait to see what more there is to come on the horizon, and to be a part of this new wave.
How do you wish to impact/change the entertainment industry?
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with many incredibly talented female directors and writers, and I would love to keep working on more women-led projects. Ultimately, my goal is to stake my own claim in this new era of female visibility in the entertainment industry by not just participating in these projects but also originating them myself. I have recently been developing something new with a close friend of mine who is a writer and director herself, because both of us really wanted to create something that felt truly authentic to our experiences as young women in this world, and I’m looking forward to finally sharing that with everyone.
What other social advocacy projects are you involved in?
Over the course of the pandemic I was able to spend time volunteering with the team at Project X, a non-profit organisation doing extraordinary work in protecting the rights of some of the least protected members of our community through the provision of legal resources and access to healthcare for sex workers in Singapore. Their advocacy work shines a very necessary light on the rampant discrimination that still exists in our society and the myriad ways it still afflicts this very vulnerable pocket of our population, whether it is via social stigma, lack of judicial support, or even physical violence and abuse.
I strongly believe that women’s rights advocacy means looking out for each and every one of us, and ending discrimination against all women.
How can more actors use their voices for positive impact?
As artists I think there is a tendency to get caught up in the idea of making something culturally significant in order to affect positive change, and because of this a lot of us forget that we are first of all members of a society and therefore have a civic duty to help out wherever we can. This means participating in charity work that isn’t necessarily artistically fulfilling or glamorous, like giving out food at a food drive or helping out in a nursing home. To me, this would be the most fundamental way that not just actors but everyone can help inspire and remind each other to perform our civic duties too.
Imagery provided by Victoria Loke.