It often only takes one formative, life-changing performance on a TV show or a movie where everything clicks, especially when it comes to representation onscreen: "That's me." "That's my story." "They look like my family!"
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we asked some of today's top Asian American entertainers to dig deep into their memory banks and tell us the first time they felt represented in mainstream Hollywood culture -- and they took the question and ran with it.
From Brenda Song's Suite Life of Zack and Cody character and a Disney classic, Mulan, to Sandra Oh in Sideways and Lara Jean in To All the Boys I've Loved Before, the answers were as varied as ever.
Here are what stars like Lana Condor, Chloe Bennet, Keiko Agena, Tamlyn Tomita, director Jon M. Chu and more told ET about the first time they felt represented in media.
Actress, Gilmore Girls and Prodigal Son
There must have been something before, but Lucy Liu in Ally McBeal. Not that she was like me, but she was an Asian person. She was very memorable. When I grew up, I didn't even think to look for an Asian person because there were none, so I just related to all the white characters. I grew up in Hawaii, so whatever character I saw, I attached myself to that storyline because I had to. It wasn't until Fresh Off the Boat -- and I'm a full-on adult at this time -- but I remember when that show came out thinking, "Oh please, dear God, let this be a good show," and it was funny and I was so proud and so nervous, and that was huge. And when Crazy Rich Asians came out and how people gravitated to that movie and watching those women dominate the red carpet for a little while, that gave me a thrill. That's so recent, which is sad in a way, but that was different than anything that had come before.
Actor, Never Have I Ever
Well, it's funny because I've always been the guy where people can't really pinpoint what I am. So I can't ever say I've been put into a box of being an Asian American. I have sometimes when people know about it, especially when I first moved to Florida. There was nobody with my ethnicity in my neighborhood, so I was very much put into a box of my own. This may sound super dumb, but when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the movie Johnny Tsunami, which was a Disney Channel movie. I remember he had a Hawaiian father and a Caucasian mother, and I was like, "Oh my God, that's me!" And then he moved to Wyoming, where there's nobody that's his ethnic makeup and totally put into a box. I always identified with that one when I was a kid.