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A Thank You to Sandra Oh, Who Inspires Me to Be a Strong Asian-American Woman

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Time’s “100 Most Influential People” was released for 2019 and among the incredible honorees, one name has me most excited: Sandra Oh. Not only is she on the list as a “pioneer,” but she is also one of six honorees to grace the cover of the special-edition issue. Well-known for her 10-years on Grey’s Anatomy, where she played the fearless Dr. Cristina Yang, Sandra Oh’s legacy exceeds beyond the TV screen.

For me, she is the definition of a role model through-and-through. Growing up in a predominantly white community most of my life, I did not have many Asian role models to look up to. Seeing Sandra Oh on my screen every week on Grey’s, with her blue scrubs, effortlessly curly hair, and quick wit to match, was one of the first times that I saw a strong, onscreen role played by a Korean woman. Her role was different than the problematic Asian stereotypes I'd seen with characters like Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles or Mickey Rooney’s less-than-okay portrayal of I.Y. Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Her portrayal of Cristina Yang was strong, genuine, and so convincing that, for a long time, I seriously considered a career in cardiothoracic surgery because of her.

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As someone who loves film and TV and wants to get involved in the entertainment industry, Sandra is an inspiration. She has shown me that Asian actors don’t have to settle for minor, stereotypical roles. but instead can thrive in a leading role where the focus is not on race. She has inspired me to explore a creative career, and while I may not want to necessarily be an actress like her, I’ve learned that it is possible to be a successful, Asian woman in the arts.

For a long time, I felt like I needed to fit into white standards to feel beautiful, accepted, and successful. As a kid, I fell into this trap of assimilation without even knowing what the word truly meant. Sandra Oh has single-handedly shown me what it means to be a confident woman of Asian descent and because of her, I am no longer afraid to embrace my heritage. 

Along with her endless list of accolades and nominations, her lists of firsts are also noteworthy. In this year alone, she became the first Asian woman to host the Golden Globes, the first to win multiple Golden Globe awards, and the third Asian American woman to host SNL. What is so admirable about Sandra Oh is the fact that she is constantly pushing herself creatively. For her to walk away, on her own terms, from a massive show like Grey’s Anatomy to explore other unknown ventures is more than brave. She is never afraid to test her limits and demonstrates that it is never too late to pursue different passions.

Because of the example Sandra has set in her career, she has opened the door for others like her to grow. She is a pioneer for both women and the Asian community and I believe that she will continue to make positive contributions in the future. Grey’s creator Shonda Rhimes summed it up best when she wrote this statement for Time:  “Sandra Oh has chosen to fearlessly take up space in a universe that has not always made space for her.”

In her interview with Time, Sandra mentions how, "The only way that you can survive if you want to be an artist is concentrating on your art. All I have ever been focused on and wanting is to try and get to the truth of things and that is what has sustained me. And if that inspires change, hallelujah!"

So, from one Asian woman to another — thank you Sandra for constantly being someone I can relate to, laugh with, and be inspired by. I know that your legacy is so much more than any award Cristina Yang could even dream of achieving.

Sydney Hom is currently a senior at UCLA ('19) studying communication. When she's not writing for Her Campus, you can find her binging Grey’s Anatomy, (badly) singing early 2000's hits, or crying over dog videos. She loves everything pop culture and her fictional heroes are Cristina Yang, Leslie Knope, and Carrie Bradshaw. Sydney's personal motto is to create and inspire.
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