Looking on Chuti Tiu’s website, I think, wow, I am going to meet a goddess. And, when I meet her, a goddess she is -- both inside and out!
She starts the interview by telling me about Pretty Rosebud, a movie which she wrote, produced, and starred in, with her husband Oscar directing the film. She did the movie because she believes that artists should make their own opportunities, and this surely has been a dictum she has followed in her own career. “We also made sure the cast and crew were multiracial,” says the thoughtful Tiu. She and her husband have also co-written another screenplay entitled Lunarticking.
Tiu recently finished working with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn on the soon to be released movie The Internship, which proved to be an exciting and joyful experience for her.
Enterprising and service-oriented even as a child, Ms. Tiu had wanted to run for Congress and then President of the United States. First, however, she entered another kind of contest, the Miss America pageant, winning the title of Miss Illinois and then going on to capture the talent award for her piano playing in the national competition. She informs me that these events are more than just beauty contests: they also involve scholarship programs, which were a major aim for her.
This actress/producer/writer and Milwaukee native was born to parents of Filipino and Chinese descent. She is a first generation American, as her parents hail from the Philippines. Steeped in tradition, they introduced her to classical piano when she was seven and encouraged her artistic and performing aspirations. She became a classical pianist and subsequently won many awards for her playing. On her career as a performer, she says, “I have always wanted to make people happy.” She also plays the trombone, indicative of her diverse talents.
In high school, she won America’s Junior Miss beauty pageant, which earned her a scholarship to prestigious Northwestern University. She was now both performing her music and acting, as well as studying economics and political science. Indeed, she was that rare combination of beauty, artistic talent, and brains. She was accepted at Columbia University for a masters degree in international studies, but put her academic endeavors on hold to work for the Institute for Peace in Washington, D.C.
Alas, acting had become deeply embedded in her blood, so she made her way to Los Angeles. There, she faced many challenges as she attempted to establish herself. Her first shock as an Asian American actress came when she was rejected for a part because the casting director wanted an “All American girl”; she had grown up thinking she was “The All American Girl”. Ironically, the name of a character of Filipino heritage she portrayed in a television series was changed in the show to Lin – to sound more Asian. Undaunted by these initial affronts, she has flourished in Los Angeles in plays, television, and movies. One of the plays she appeared in was the famous and controversial Vagina Monologues, but Tiu feels “Women should enjoy all aspects of their sexuality.”
Her film work includes a role in Beautiful, a movie directed by Sally Fields, in which she played Miss Hawaii. She also appeared in Rampart with Woody Harrleson. Another movie, Vertical, is coming out in 2014.
Tiu has been likewise very active in TV, with roles in Two Broke Girls, 24, The Closer, Raising Hope, Weeds, Southland, In Plain Sight, Dragnet, Desire, Beverly Hills 90210, Tales of the South Seas, General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, and The Specials.
An activist with sensitivity, she is a vigorous opponent of racism and sexism and feels the entertainment industry should be more inclusive as far as women and Asians are concerned. She is mystified by the duplicity she sees in the industry because she feels the United States is the world’s true melting pot.
When asked if she considers herself a feminist, she replied, “Yes, in the wholistic sense of the word. I celebrate and am proud of what women are and have to offer; however, I acknowledge that both sides of the equation (i.e, both genders) are necessary for a fully functioning whole. I don’t believe in the emasculation of men: I believe in the celebration of women.”
A spiritual and caring human being, she supports such charities as Nourish the Children, Step Up Women’s Network, and Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. She has also recently become involved with Write Girl, which empowers girls through mentorship and self-expression.
With her acting career on the rise and her own movies in production, this beauty is hurdling the barrier of prejudice and making her mark. We look forward to experiencing her sparkling personality at work in all of her artistic venues.