PC: PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken / HAIR: Corey Tuttle / MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York / STYLING: Carolyn Son

Celia Au has big plans: to create influential films and write meaningful stories that inspire change while using her growing platform to spread a positive message to the world. The actress got her start in acting after graduating from Business School at Baruch College. She was quickly booked for roles and projects after her signature “fauxhawk” haircut had instantly captured the attention of casting directors. She plays “Ying Ying” in the Netflix series Wu Assassins and stars in AMC’s comedy drama series Lodge 49 as “Alice Ba.” I am excited to see where Celia’s ambitions and passion for story-telling drives her in her thriving career.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I lived here from elementary school through freshman year of high school. My family and I moved to Staten Island for the remainder of my high school years, and then I went to college at Baruch afterward.

What is something you like to do when you’re not working?

I like to play with my dog Wookie (Follow him on the ‘Gram, @Wookiethepalm!).

What are you most proud of in life?

I’m proud of my family’s happiness. My brother and I can say, “Hey mom, you want to go on a vacation? Let’s do it!” What I remember as a kid is our parents were always working, they never really took a break. They would try their best to take us out on vacations, but most of the time they were busy working. I’m now able to provide for our family in a way that everyone doesn’t need to stress.

Before you became an actor, what career were you interested in pursuing?

I was going to be a lawyer because I wanted to fight the bad guys and make a positive impact in the world. That changed when my professor in college, who ran and was elected as a State Assemblyman, explained to me that not everything you want to do, you can do.  He said, “I promised a lot of things and had all the intentions to do them, but you just can’t. There are way too many gatekeepers.” He told me that if I wanted to change the world, I should try doing something else to change the world.

I realized later on that there is so much power in the media. Angelina Jolie, for instance, because of her being a celebrity, she has such a huge outreach and people will listen her. All of her work in Southeast Asia and helping kids with the U.N. people know about because she’s Angelina Jolie. One day when I have that outreach, I want to go out and help people, too. I want to use my platform to spread a positive message. And somewhere along the way I would love to make films and write stories that inspire people.

Are there any films that you watched recently with stories that spark inspiration or change?

Yes, I recently watched The Farewell. People are starting to see a side of us that isn’t really talked about or showcased in American media. The Chinese and Asians don’t want to tell their grandparents that they’re dying because they want to do what’s best for their family. Asians know that, but not everyone in America knows that. Generally, people tend to lean toward, “oh you’re such a smart Asian, a model minority!” But in reality, we actually go through hardships and real things too. It’s not like we’re studying all day and doing nothing. So, I think it’s great to have films like The Farewell to show us that we’re all not so different after all. We’re all similar, and it doesn’t matter what color you are, we face the same variations of struggles in life.

We’re all Blank-American, we all have this kind of mixed culture within ourselves. The more we see it in the media, the less discrimination we’re going to have. Then people will be like, “oh yeah, we’re all not so different. We’re the same. We have the same goals or problems in life.”

PC: PHOTOGRAPHY: Nick Onken / HAIR: Corey Tuttle / MAKE-UP: Romana Makeup New York / STYLING: Carolyn Son

What inspired you to be an actor? What did you do to get into this industry?

I never really thought of it as a career. It was more like, “oh, this is a cool hobby and I can get paid!”

I interned at a production company, worked as a graphic designer part time, and did another internship working at a casting office trying to learn about what casting is. I also dabbled in photography, filmography, and directing. I personally feel that if you want to be a good actor or a good anything in an industry, you should know all sides of the business.

Congratulations on the new Netflix series Wu Assassin! Can you tell me more about your character?

Thanks! I play a character name Ying Ying who was born in ancient China from a different millennium. I’m the first Wu Assassin, but after failing my mission, I was tasked to find and train the next Wu Assassin. I had a thousand chances, me being one already. Throughout the years every Wu Assassin I’ve trained has failed or has come close but failed. Now cut to 2019, in Chinatown, San Francisco, I meet Kai who is my last chance to finish my mission as the last Wu Assassin. It’s his duty to kill five Wu Warlords who possess supernatural powers.

Has it ever been difficult to find roles in film and television as an Asian woman, or do you think it helped you to differentiate yourself in your career?

I think I have a little more of a different experience than most people talk about. I wanted to stand out, so I created a haircut for myself, kind of like a fauxhawk – spiky, with shorter hair at the front, and then long hair in the back. So, when I tied it back, it looked like I had a shaved head in way. I started going on auditions and they were all like, “who’s that kid with the mohawk?!” The directors were really intrigued by my look and wanted me to play different characters. I ended up playing one of the two androgynous characters, and it was my first taste of being in a movie, playing the tough-person. I got called in for the hip commercials and music videos, some that are more punk and rocker, not specifically Asian. My look helped me to stand out amongst a body of other actors. I didn’t have the traditional sexy and weak female character roles. I never really presented myself that way. How I packaged and marketed myself was a bit different as an Asian actor.

If you created a vision board for yourself 5-10 years into the future, what would it look like?

I wish to be working consistently. I’ll be able to start making my own films that can inspire people and promote change. I’m more about spreading a positive image and message to others. You can do what you want to do and do it right. It’s my way in a sense of trying to be a type of super hero, someone who can help drive change and inspire the next generation.

Follow Celia Au on Instagram: @itsceliaau