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Bella Donna: Nancy Kwan

Well into the 1960s, Caucasian actors often snagged the roles of Asian characters; Shirley MacLaine famously played a geisha in 1962. But things started to change, in part due to Nancy Kwan's rise to stardom. Born in Hong Kong to a Chinese architect and English fashion model, she trained as a ballet dancer during her youth. While visiting Hong Kong in her late teens, she was scouted and eventually cast in the lead role in The World of Suzie Wong. The film was controversial, as many people believe that the "hooker with the heart of gold" character created and reinforced negative stereotypes about "exotic" Asian women. Still, Kwan's performance earned her a Golden Globe (for Most Promising Newcomer) and turned her into an international icon.

See a gallery of photos and find out about her trendsetting style when you

.

Kwan helped shape beauty trends in the '60s and beyond. After the famous hairstylist Vidal Sassoon gave Kwan a bob haircut, this iconic photograph appeared in Vogue. According to Sassoon, "My new style, which until then had been known as the Mary Quant cut, because it had been seen first at her collection, got a new name: the Nancy Kwan cut." Variations on this style continue to be popular today, and Kwan later appeared in the infomercial staple Pearl Cream. But her biggest influence may be off-screen. Along with starting her own film company, Kwan has been an advocate for homeless youth issues and has served as a spokesperson for the Asian-American Voters Coalition. Her most recent film appearance is in the 2007 documentary Hollywood Chinese.




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GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
For years, I had the Nancy Kwan cut, too. It is a beautiful cut, especially with straight Asian hair. The haircut looks great from ALL sides. It moves beautifully, too. Technically, I think it's a graduated, asymmetrical bob. Mine was done by the creative director of Vidal Sassoon. He said his cut is better than Vidal's. LOL
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 7 years
For years, I had the Nancy Kwan cut, too. It is a beautiful cut, especially with straight Asian hair. The haircut looks great from ALL sides. It moves beautifully, too. Technically, I think it's a graduated, asymmetrical bob.Mine was done by the creative director of Vidal Sassoon. He said his cut is better than Vidal's. LOL
fifthdaughter fifthdaughter 7 years
She is gorgeous!!
fifthdaughter fifthdaughter 7 years
She is gorgeous!!
98769876 98769876 7 years
She looks like my great grandmother. When she was younger of course. : ) She is so beautiful.
Beauty Beauty 7 years
Yeah, the Rooney-as-Yunioshi thing totally ruins that movie. It's a terrible, racist casting choice. And Hollywood continues to make some bad decisions to this day — the movie 21 features a white actor instead of an Asian actor... in a role based on an Asian guy. So there is a LOT of work that needs to be done.
Beauty Beauty 7 years
Yeah, the Rooney-as-Yunioshi thing totally ruins that movie. It's a terrible, racist casting choice. And Hollywood continues to make some bad decisions to this day — the movie 21 features a white actor instead of an Asian actor... in a role based on an Asian guy. So there is a LOT of work that needs to be done.
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 7 years
Ha tatsauce tell my white friends that. They have such a hard time understanding why I can't be as joyful as they are about watching old movies.
tatsauce tatsauce 7 years
Hooray for Nancy Kwan, although she annoyed me in "Flower Drum Song". It is sad that roles for Asian-Americans from back in the day were stereotypical and negative but just having Asian-American faces on screen was a big feat in itself. Sure does beat Mickey Rooney playing a Chinese man in Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is the reason why I refuse to watch that movie, even though Audrey Hepburn is so loveable. I'm happy to see more Asian-American and Hapa (mixed) faces appearing in the media but we still need more and it's about damn time!!!
tatsauce tatsauce 7 years
Hooray for Nancy Kwan, although she annoyed me in "Flower Drum Song". It is sad that roles for Asian-Americans from back in the day were stereotypical and negative but just having Asian-American faces on screen was a big feat in itself. Sure does beat Mickey Rooney playing a Chinese man in Breakfast at Tiffany's, which is the reason why I refuse to watch that movie, even though Audrey Hepburn is so loveable.I'm happy to see more Asian-American and Hapa (mixed) faces appearing in the media but we still need more and it's about damn time!!!
kitchenfloor kitchenfloor 7 years
Who is Suzie Wong...? Goes to Google it.
aimeeb aimeeb 7 years
Lovely!
aimeeb aimeeb 7 years
Lovely!
lazyasian lazyasian 7 years
@brilliance13 - that's because she is half white (English)
bellaressa bellaressa 7 years
Hell me too Sugar.
bellaressa bellaressa 7 years
Hell me too Sugar.
sugar_me_sweet sugar_me_sweet 7 years
I agree, very beautiful. I wish there were more Asians in the media that didn't reinforce negative stereotypes.
Jude-C Jude-C 7 years
Honestly, even though it is our traditional dress, I can't even stand to see women in cheongsams anymore :(
bellaressa bellaressa 7 years
She is just beautiful. I also agree with Jude and hated the stereotypes.
azulsky azulsky 7 years
Nancy is absolutely beautiful. The documentary she's in looks interesting I'll be putting it on my list of films to sit down and watch.
Jude-C Jude-C 7 years
Absolutely beautiful, but yeah, as an Asian woman I really hate that Suzie Wong stereotype.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 7 years
Take that Posh Spice...Vidal Sasson and his Muse Nancy Kwan were the orginators of that strong iconic bob...I've always loved it!
kitkat87 kitkat87 7 years
i love her hair, too...wish i could pull that off!
Bolly Bolly 7 years
I love her hair! I actually had the Kwan bob for a long time, it was great.
CityStyleLife CityStyleLife 7 years
So Stunning....
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