If you haven't heard of Constance Wu, don't worry. She'll make sure you do. The Fresh Off The Boat star's persistence is the exact reason why she made TIME's 100 Most Influential People list in 2017. As Jessica, a mom who would do anything for her family, Wu is a force to be reckoned with, a "pioneer" according to Time. But as one of the few Asian-American actors on television, there's a lot of responsibility that goes with having the spotlight. As Lena Dunham says in her TIME 100 essay on Constance Wu, "she is tasked with being more than just an actor. And she takes this second gig just as seriously." Sure, the actor is great on TV, in Dunham's opinion, she's as "smart and expansive" as Lucille Ball, but she's even better in person, where she's never afraid to say exactly what's on her mind. Whether it's about the unwavering sexism of Hollywood or Tinsel Town's penchant for whitewashing, Wu persisted, and she has no plans to stop.
After Casey Affleck, who was accused of allegedly sexually harassing two women he worked with on the mockumentary I'm Still Here, was nominated for Best Actor at the 2017 Academy Awards, Wu took to Twitter bash the Oscars for ignoring the allegations. "Men who sexually harass women 4 OSCAR! Bc good acting performance matters more than humanity, human integrity! Bc poor kid rly needs the help!,” she tweeted. (Affleck has denied all allegations against him and settled the suits out of court for an undisclosed sum)
Wu would later say that if Affleck won Best Actor — which he did — it would be a nod to Donald Trump and the other powerful men who get away with mistreating women. "I know it's just an award," she tweeted, "but I guess I'm in this career, not for the awards, but because the treatment of human life matters to me. So I stand the f*ck up for it."
I've been counseled not to talk about this for career's sake. F my career then, I'm a woman & human first. That's what my craft is built on.— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) January 24, 2017
Her powerful statement was appreciated by those who didn't have the same platform. Especially because Wu was "counseled not to talk about this for career's sake," but took the attitude of "F my career then, I'm a woman & human first. That's what my craft is built on." With one tweet, she brought to light the problem women face — that, when they do speak up, they are too often shut down. As Dunham wrote in Time, Wu "chose honesty and fight over the neutrality so many think they need to maintain in order to further their careers. It was a hallelujah moment." It was also a courageous one.
But it wouldn't be the only one. Wu has also been outspoken on the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood; she called out medieval epic The Great Wall, which takes place in China but stars Matt Damon. “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world,” Wu wrote. “It’s not based in actual fact.” She wasn't trying to blame Damon or any other individual for whitewashing, “Rather," she tweeted, "it’s about pointing out the repeatedly implied racist notion that white people are superior to POC and that POC need salvation from our own color via white strength. When you consistently make movies like this, you ARE saying that. YOU ARE.”
Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & "but it's really hard to finance" are no longer excuses for racism? TRY pic.twitter.com/mvNet5PrtH— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016
These are just some examples of what Wu does: she tries to start a conversation around topics that many would like to sweep under the rug. She does so by being honest, but also by pointing out our similarities rather than our differences. Dunham, who toured with Wu around the country supporting Hillary Clinton, wrote that what makes the actor so special is "her monstrously big heart, her passion for change and the careful way she lets everyone around her share the challenges of their own identity."
Wu knows that people are more apt to change when they can relate it to themselves, which is why her arguments are based in humanity. Representation is important to anyone who has a story to tell, so we must all work hard to make sure those stories are told. Women feeling valued is good for everyone, and we should all fight for equality. And, in the meantime, the actor will continue speaking up until those things become clear to everyone else around her.