Grace Su aka Peachies | “Anything is worth pursuing if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and if there’s meaning behind it”
What’s OA’s favorite flavor of gummy rings? Grace Su aka Peachies, of course! This nerdy-shirt-sporting, flasses-wearing, down-to-earth jack-of-all-trades is passionately leading the Asian American movement, taking over one media outlet at a time. She got her modest start in the Xanga days as Better Luck Tomorrow‘s biggest fan, and has impressively worked her way up to directing and producing films, including Future Rock Stars of America, curating the music video program for the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, and landing enough editing gigs to keep her consumption of hard-boiled eggs at an alarming level (see Fun Facts). But most of all, this stunning yet humble beauty is finally taking the leap into acting, and given her track record, she’ll unquestionably be annihilating one ridiculous Asian stereotype after another. Satisfy your sweet tooth as OA chats with Grace in a candy store, where everything was just… peachy.
- What takes up most of your time right now: Spending time with good friends, freelancing as a video editor, and lots of transitional stuff.
- Guilty pleasure: Mac and cheese. I try not to eat too much carbs, but mac and cheese always gets me!
- Old guilty pleasure: I used to watch “Days of Our Lives” avidly back in middle school (I’ve always been pretty drama-free, so I guess that’s how I got my fix).
- Do you have a Chinese name, and if so, what does it mean: Su Pei-Qi. I honestly don’t know what it means, but I’ve been told the “Qi” is the same character from ice cream in Chinese (Bingqílín).
- Favorite flavor of Trolli Gummies: Peach, of course. The strawberry puffs are good, too.
- Relationship status: I have many relationships! With my mom, my dad, my imaginary cat…
- Pet peeve: Gossip, negativity, when people complain about petty things, and LA traffic.
- Your go-to food: Avocado. When I’m at a restaurant I’ll order something just because it has avocado in it.
- What you look for in a guy: A sense of humor, creativity, intellect… Someone who’ll challenge me and accept me for me. Most importantly, a good heart.
- Longest amount of time ever spent editing in one sitting: Two weeks. I basically locked myself in a room for two weeks straight, sleeping 2-4 hours a day, consuming nothing but coffee and hard-boiled eggs… This was when I was editing my documentary short, Future Rock Stars of America.
- What kind of car do you drive: Toyota Corolla (I recently named her after Betty from “Mad Men”… cuz’ she’s been through a lot… poor, Betty)
- Can you speak/read/write Chinese: I can speak okay. I can only read and write a little bit.
- Fun fact: I’m Taiwanese but everyone thinks I’m Korean.
- Funner fact: Back in high school, my friend brought homemade hot sauce to school. I took a taste with my finger. Later in the day, when scratching my face near my eye, my eye started burning and swelling. I had to get my eye flushed with water by a Chemistry teacher. It looked like somebody socked me in the eye.
- Funnest fact: I secretly want to do cartoon voices (I can emulate Pokemon and Cartman).
OA: You took a life-changing trip to Asia last year, and we almost lost you to their superior food and exotic wonders. What did you learn about yourself while abroad, and why did you almost decide to stay?
GS: Before I went to Asia, I was in a place where I wasn’t really sure what I was doing with my life. I was doing so much! I was lost and confused. The opportunity to go to Taiwan came up and I wasn’t tied down to anything, plus I had a good chunk of money saved up, so I planned to go for a month. It was going to be a time of rest, a sabbatical. Within the first two weeks of being there, I was meeting all these amazing people, making new friends, experiencing new things, and just having such an amazing time of growth. So I extended my stay for another month and also booked a one week trip to Hong Kong. While I was in Hong Kong, I ended up getting a job opportunity I couldn’t deny, which caused me to extend my stay there for another month! Because of the job, I got to travel to Thailand for the first time. So… I had a crazy adventure while I was in Asia and because so many doors opened up, I definitely considered moving there. When I first got back to LA, people were telling me that they noticed a change… that I was more comfortable in my own skin. I got a lot of clarity while I was Asia. I learned how to rest and move forward with purpose. I also got the sense that it was okay to have had all the random work experience… it was just up to me to choose where I wanted to go next.
OA: You are the epitome of jack of all trades, taking on the well-deserved titles of actor, producer, blogger, editor, music video curator of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. How did you manage to have a presence in so many worlds?
GS: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” That’s actually why I felt I needed to focus so that I could excel at one thing. But while I was in Asia, I realized that it was okay to wear multiple hats. More recently I’ve been learning how to whittle it down to what my main things are. I’ve had all kinds of work experience and that’s because I never really knew what I ultimately wanted to do except that I wanted to make a difference for Asian Americans in media. I’d like to think that everything I do has something to do with that goal.
OA: It definitely seems like you’re moving towards one particular focus–acting. What inspired you to put all your energy into this one art form?
GS: Acting was something I was always interested in. Growing up, I would always attend school plays and musicals, admiring the people who were on stage. Back then I took drama classes and had lots of fun with that. But I was always too chicken to audition for any plays myself. I’d always end up behind-the-scenes, which carried over into my college studies as a film major and even into my career. Several years later, I had a quarter life crisis. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with my life! By this point, I had already had several friends encourage me to try acting. I realized that if I didn’t try, I’d regret it. “Just do it!” So I’ve been dabbling the last two years while juggling various projects behind-the-scenes. This year, I decided I wanted to focus on taking acting seriously. Besides paying the bills with editing, I want to spend my free time developing myself as an actor. I’m going to get into an acting class!
OA: You are a huge advocate of expanding the Asian American voice in the media arts, and you’ve certainly done your part. Tell us first and foremost about your short documentary, Future Rock Stars of America.
GS: Well, I was accepted into Visual Communications’ film fellowship “Armed With a Camera” and given $500 to make a 5 minute short! During that time (2004-2005), I was very plugged into the Asian American music scene in LA. There was something exciting happening with FM (Far East Movement), a band called Nemo, and a bunch of other artists. So I followed them around with a camera as they were organizing a show called Talk of Da Block. The show centered around a homegrown fan base. It was a grassroots, community type of event. I interviewed the guys on several different topics and probably could have made a feature with all the footage I got, but I only had five minutes! So it’s really just a glimpse of what was brewing back then. You can watch it on YouTube!
OA: Having been there to witness this decade’s transformation, how have Asian Americans made headway into mainstream media, and where do you see it all going?
GS: Within the last decade, a lot has happened for Asian Americans in media. It’s an exciting time! When I first got involved, there was the BLT generation. Then people like John Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, and Sandra Oh started to hit primetime. When “America’s Best Dance Crew” came along, Asian Americans became so cool. And now, Asian Americans are dominating YouTube! Super do it yourself, creating their own content. It makes complete sense, cuz’ obviously, Hollywood hasn’t provided the most opportunities for Asian Americans. Look at FM. They’re very self-made. They really deserve their success. It wasn’t handed to them overnight. And it’s amazing to see how they’ve grown. (Random fact: Kev from FM told me if I ever became a TV personality, I should use Peachies as my stage name). Anyway, I feel so blessed by all those who have paved the way and I’m excited to see bigger and better things happen for all of us.
OA: Given how passionate you are about this subject, what does it personally mean to be Taiwanese American? Is there one particular side you identify more with?
GS: I didn’t really become proud of being Taiwanese American until after taking an Intro to Asian American Studies class in my sophomore year of college. While I was learning about all this history, I started looking into my family’s history, which led me to make a documentary about my dad’s motivation to move here. I learned to appreciate my roots and my parents so much more during that time. Moving to a new country—that’s a huge deal! They’ve done so much to provide me with the opportunities that I have now. Even though there are a bunch of politics behind it, I identify myself as Taiwanese American because my family has been in Taiwan since the Qin Dynasty and most of my family is still there. By the way, Taiwanese food is the best. Even stinky tofu (the fried kind).
OA: Unfortunately, as much progress as Asian Americans and minorities in general are making, there is still a lot more work to be done. Can you tell us about the racism and stereotyping you’ve encountered in auditions and in the industry in general?
GS: Oh my god, I never thought this would happen to me. So last year, I go to this casting… As I’m signing in, the casting assistant hands me sides labeled “Asian Nail Salon Technician” and says, “This is a comedy… so an accent would be good” and I’m like, what the heck?! I started to flip out in my mind but I was calm on the outside. First thing I do is text my agent: “This is not at all what you told me it would be. This is super racist, making fun of Asians.” My agent was pretty pissed. The casting people had tricked everyone—they posted a completely different breakdown which had nothing to do with a nail salon. There was nothing about the role being Asian/ethnic specific either. I really wanted to just leave but my agent told me to just do it and give them my best interpretation. So I went in there and when the casting director asked if I could do an accent, I said “nope.”
OA: What if you actually booked that part? Would you accept?
GS: Oh, hell no!
GS: Well, I’m definitely not pursuing a path most of my parents’ friends’ kids are pursuing. So I know that it’s hard for them. Initially, they told me they would support me as long as I could sustain myself financially. After the last few years, they’ve realized that I’m doing something that I’m really passionate about, so they’ve been supportive even though they don’t totally understand what I’m doing. I’m thankful.
OA: And let’s not forget about your fantastic blog, Peachies.net. What is the vision of the blog, and give us the humble beginnings of your BLT days and how that got the ball rolling for you.
GS: So I had the nickname Peachies before the “Peachies” that people know now. It’s an online moniker I’ve been using since the Asian Avenue days. Xanga is probably where it really started. I used to blog all the time back in college. As I mentioned, I took an Intro to Asian American Studies class and that really opened up my eyes to things I never knew about. I started attending Asian American student conferences and getting really gung ho about being Asian American. That same year, Better Luck Tomorrow was coming out. It was the first all-Asian American cast since The Joy Luck Club and the fact it had been picked up by MTV Films for a wide release was a big deal. I was such a super fan that I started blogging about it daily with news, theater listings, my own BLT encounters (I made it a point to go to every single BLT event that I could go to) and because of that I started getting a surge of traffic from people searching for BLT. At the same time, I started to promote AA musicians, events, and other films… That’s how it started. In the beginning, “Peachies” was known as a blogger that promoted AA arts.
OA: As if all your good-doings for the community here wasn’t enough, you just recently took a trip to Cambodia. Tell us about your experience and what you learned.
GS: That opportunity came up very last minute. My friend David Kang, founder of Project LACE (Loving Abandoned Children Everywhere), had organized this medical mission trip months in advance. Four nights before departure, a nurse dropped out and he needed a replacement ASAP. So I looked at my calendar, and even though I had a promising call back and audition, I thought how often do I get to go on a free trip to Cambodia for a medical mission? God permitting, I would go! I just needed to get my passport renewed, a visa, and get all my vaccinations done within three days. I prayed about it and God allowed me to get everything taken care of within 48 hours! It was super impromptu. Because I was one of the few non-medical people, I helped with whatever was needed. I ended up working in the pharmacy mostly and got to be a dental assistant one of the days. We were going to very rural places, so I had to learn how to make do with whatever we had. The best times was when I got to interact with the locals. One of the days I got to personally hand out medication to hundreds of people. I also got to hand out clothing to a bunch of kids. That was one of the best experiences where we really got to care for people. Because it was my first time in that third world environment, it was eye opening to be there. It was yet another stepping stone for me, growing as a person. I highly recommend going on a medical mission trip.
OA: What projects are you currently working on, and any updates on “The Refuge,” starring the lovely, You, directed by Nicholas Acosta?
GS: I’m in talks with a handful of people about all sorts of different projects but the last project I worked on was “The Refuge.” It’s something to look out for. I got to work with super talented people: Nicholas Acosta, Adrian Zaw, Don Le, and many others.
OA: Why the lovely little flasses (fake glasses)?
GS: I copied the style in Asia. All the girls in Taiwan and Hong Kong were doing it! I just had to copy it and bring it over here. When I came back from Asia, I was wearing them all the time! I wear real glasses most of the time now.
OA: Words of wisdom for aspiring actresses and anyone trying to make a career in the entertainment industry.
GS: If you’re looking for a steady paycheck, this ain’t the industry. If your goal is to be famous, I would advise you make a better goal. Anything is worth pursuing if you’re passionate about what you’re doing and if there’s meaning behind it. Once you know what you want to do, take initiative. Do your research, hone your craft, make connections, have a strong support group… it’s so important to have good people around you keeping you in check! Stay humble. Know who you are and what you stand for. Never place your identity or value in what you do, because you might lose yourself. This is a tough industry, but stay positive and count your blessings!
How to stalk Grace Su:
Photography by Melly Lee
Edited by Julie Zhan
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