Vietnamese-American actress Kathy Uyen
words: MATTHEW COWAN | photo: MIKE PALUMBO
It’s my first meeting with actress Kathy Uyen. We need airconditioning in Kathy’s Blue Velvet club in downtown Ho Chi Minh City where the shoot is, so I charge downstairs. At the bar, she’s taking a call. When she spots me, she reacts like we’ve known each other for years.
Once upstairs Kathy seems tense. She’s concerned liquor bottles as a backdrop won’t cut it. I learn this is Kathy working. She’s meticulous, to the point, focused. This isn’t a woman who’s here because she has nothing better to do. Her styling shows that. There’s nothing out of place. She’s her own brand and it’s important. She looks stunning.
Then on a whim she invites us into her private life. She shares pictures of her new home and asks for opinions on paint. She asks if there should be more tint. Then comes the realisation she’s not just a star, but foremost a regular person juggling everyday things. It loosens us up. The shoot goes like a dream.
“I primarily see myself as constantly evolving”
Kathy grew up American speaking Vietnamese, but has evolved into a Vietnamese-American speaking English. She’s added tint to her own story, where it was once all the same shade. The Vietnamese part now means so much more.
Had Kathy not accepted a lead role in 2008, she may never have come to Vietnam at all. Now she marvels at the irony of finally achieving the American dream of house, white picket fence and two dogs in Vietnam.
“It’s funny how life finds a way to bring you what you need. You just have to go where your heart is, where your roots are.”
Meanwhile, Kathy’s passion for acting and respect for her craft is abundantly clear and it’s this that will drive the next stage of her career. She wants to teach the next generation of Vietnamese actors to be respectful of their craft, too.
“I want them to appreciate what it takes to be an actor. Because there’s history, depth, technique and rules that you have to learn before you can break them.”