You’ve probably seen her in one of your favorite teen hits like “Like Mike” or the comedy-mystery “Get A Clue” where she starred alongside Lindsay Lohan.
Or perhaps you’ve seen her in the Disney Channel’s current hit sitcom, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” where she plays a spoiled hotel heiress named “London”.
Chances are you’ve seen Brenda Song dozens of times, but did you know that this teen sensation is Hmong?
Yes, Song is her real last name. Her grandparents, from the Xiong clan, chose to spell it that way when they came to America.
Often mistaken for either being Chinese or Korean, Brenda is proud of her Hmong and Thai heritage and continues to partake in activities within the Hmong community whenever she can find the time.
Born and raised in the Sacramento area, Brenda and her family go back each winter for the Hmong New Year.
Now residing in the Los Angeles area where she and her family have lived since she was nine-years-old, Brenda has come a long, long way since her first break in the showbiz world when she was cast for a “Little Caesar Pizza” commercial.
She was kind enough to take a break from shooting on the set of her current project, “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” to speak with us via telephone:
Hmong Today: What do you consider yourself, Hmong or Asian?
Brenda Song: We’re all Americans, really. I think that’s why there’s so much division and turmoil sometimes, because people are always categorizing each other. I’m proud to be Hmong, but I’m more focused on being American.
In this business, it doesn’t matter what culture you are from.
HT: Do you still speak Hmong?
BS: My dad makes us (brothers Timmy, 15, and Nathan, 9) speak Hmong at home because he feels it is important for us to be able to communicate with my grand parents and for us to keep our culture.
My mom is Thai, but she was adopted by a Hmong family, so she speaks Hmong fluently as well.
HT: How would you describe the life of a movie star?
BS: I absolutely love my job! Even though there are times when I will work 12 – 14 hour days, I am still so thankful that I get to live out my dream every single day of my life.
Acting is something I’ve always had ambitions to pursue. I can still remember putting mascara on when I was just two-years-old!
HT: Are you a part of the Hollywood party scene that is often portrayed in magazines and tabloids?
BS: Besides Hollywood grand-openings and award shows, I try to stay away from the parties. It’s so easy to be swept away from that whole scene because it’s expected of you.
I’ve never drank or smoked in my entire life, but I’ve seen 15-year-olds drinking and smoking and I just think that’s gross.
HT: What do you do during your off time?
BS: Mostly I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. My schedule can be hectic at times making it a challenge to spend time with each other.
For hobbies, I play basketball and golf. I’m beginning to learn how to play tennis, which is fun. I love the Lakers!
And you know, regular girl stuff like hang out with my friends, going shopping and stuff like that.
HT: How do you fit an education in with your schedule?
BS: Actually, I graduated high school two years early. Currently I’m taking courses at a community college and online courses from UC-Berkeley. I’m majoring in psychology, mainly because I’m interested in it, but also so I can learn how to get into the different roles I play.
I take my education very seriously because they can take away your career, your money, your cute boyfriend, but they can never take away your knowledge.
One day I wont be in this business and I’ll need something to fall back on.
HT: What kind of car do you drive?
BS: That’s a funny question because I don’t have a car yet. I haven’t found the time to go select a car, that’s all. People are always asking me why I just don’t get a car, but really, I just haven’t got the time yet.
HT: Do you feel the “Hollywood” pressure to stay thin?
BS: I’m just a nobody, really. I am what I am. If I have a booty, sorry, I love eating pizza and ice cream at nights!
Every girl faces the weight issue, I think. It’s not just a Hollywood thing to be thin, it’s a societal issue that everybody faces.
HT: What’s your dream role?
BS: Cant really think of one. I love playing all sorts of different roles because I love the challenge. It’s hard to say which role I’ve liked the best because I’ve had such a wide variety of roles and I’ve loved each one.
HT: Do you still get nervous when you go for auditions?
BS: Actually, I haven’t had to audition for quite a while now. I’ve worked my way to where directors know my abilities and can be hired by reputation.
HT: Are you mostly cast when they need an Asian girl?
BS: That’s the thing, most of the roles I’ve gotten didn’t have race specified when they wrote the character.
Being Hmong, I’ve worked twice as hard as others just to prove I’m a good actress even though my hair isn’t blonde and my eyes aren’t blue. Usually, they take a look at me and they have to think twice because I wasn’t what they had envisioned when they wrote that character.
I think the only role that called for an Asian girl was for the Bernie Mac Show.
HT: How much longer do you think you’ll be acting?
BS: As long as they continue to hire me, I’ll continue to act. You never know in this business.
HT: What sort of advice do you have for those teens out there who want to follow in your footsteps?
BS: Believe in yourself. Believe in what you’re doing. And take advice from the people who are helping to guide your life because life is a big huge learning process.
If a little girl from Sacramento can be living out her dreams, anybody from anywhere can make it too!
You may have seen Brenda in...
Stuck in the Suburbs Lead Disney
Like Mike Lead 20th Century Fox
Get A Clue Lead Disney
The Ultimate Christmas Present Lead Disney
Blade Featured New Line Cinema
Game In The Sun Lead Brian Hauan/Director
The White Fox Lead Elizabeth Sung/AFI
Leave It To Beaver Featured Universal
Santa With Muscles Featured Santa Productions Inc.
Requiem Lead Elizabeth Sung/AFI
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody Series Regular Disney Channel
Phil of the Future Recurring Disney Channel
The George Lopez Show Guest Star ABC
That’s So Raven Guest Star Disney Channel
The Bernie Mac Show Guest Star Fox
Judging Amy Co-Star CBS
ER Guest Star NBC
7th Heaven Guest Star WB
MAD TV Co-Star FOX
Popular Co-Star FOX
The Tonight Show Skit w/ Jay Leno NBC
Thunder Alley Recurring ABC
Young Artist Award for Best Supporting Actress: “The Ultimate Christmas Present” (2000)
Nominated Young Artist Award for Best Supporting Actress: “The Bernie Mac Show” (2002)
DID YOU KNOW?
Check Brenda Song's official website out: www.brendasongsite.com