Kelly Hu — Pg 2 of 2


Hu started to care at the age of 13 when she started looking for modeling jobs. “The first thing the agent asked me was ‘Is that your natural skin color?’ My mom jumped in and said, ‘No, it’s not!’ The agent told me I had to lose my tan.”

It took over a year for Hu’s tan to fade. Then she signed up for the only modeling class she could afford. “My mom pretty much raised me by herself, and she didn’t really have a lot of money. She sent me to the cheapest one around, the Sears Charm School.” It paid off. “I know it sounds stupid, but I learned a lot. I think it was because I wanted to learn so much, I was like a sponge. I worked on it a lot.”

Her career got its start thanks to a strong demand in Japan for eurasian models. “They were recruiting a lot of girls to spend summers there.” When she was 15, Hu decided she would follow in the footsteps of fellow Hawaii native Malia Yamamura who had won first runner up in the national competition the year before and went on to achieve spectacular success in Japan. Hu succeeded too well.

“I won the national title and wasn’t even allowed to model for a whole year, which defeated the purpose of entering in the first place. But of course it opened a lot of doors for me.”

Speaking of doors, Hu recently had a bit part in Oliver Stone’s movie of the same name. She played Dorothy Manzarek, wife of Ray Manzarek (played by Kyle MacLachlin). “If you blinked at all you won’t have remembered me. I was in the Thanksgiving and birthday party scenes. I was there helping Meg Ryan…vomit.”

Hu’s been in demand as a model. She has appeared in commercials for Ricoh Cameras, Ivory Soap, Dole Pineapple, Thrifty Car Rental, Bud Light, among others. The Sears Charm School has indeed paid off.

But even beautiful, successful models have reservations about their looks. Hu confesses to a physical drawback—her left eye. “I have one weak eye, and it sometimes does this” — she rolls her left eye around to the side of her head — “and photographers hate it. They always tell me to watch the eye.”

When Hu has a crisis of confidence, she turns to her favorite book, which she calls her inspirational bible — A Guide for the Advanced Soul, written by Susan Hayward. “Whenever you have a problem, you just open it up to any page and your answer is on that page. Most of the time it works. It’s incredible!” Hu was turned onto the book by fellow actor Dustin Nguyen of 21 Jumpstreet, and was so impressed that she bought dozens of copies and gave them out to friends. Moderation is not Hu’s strong suit.

Her friends are mostly an international bunch—Saudi, German, Dutch. Her current boyfriend is Dutch, which is part of the reason Hu is attracted to him. “He’s so easygoing and so understanding about everything. He’s not judgemental and he’s open to almost anything. I think that has a lot to do with his being Dutch, because the Dutch are maybe the most liberal people in the world, and it really shows.”

Hu also has a soft spot for the local Los Angeles color, and she and her friends are familiar with the Hollywood club scene. “We go to Roxbury a lot. We almost lived there for a while. Sometimes we’d go out as often as three or four times a week, religiously. We were bad.”

Some of those revels were disasters. “I like to drink socially, but I’m not very good at it. I get drunk very easily. The group that I hang out with, we’re really into Sex on the Beach shots and these things called Mike Tyson shots. Scary. I don’t even know what’s in them.”

Then she stumbled into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. “I guess I had the wrong room, but I sat in anyway because it was so interesting and I thought I had something to learn. It was almost like I was sent there.” She stayed for the whole meeting. “I learned to be sympathetic to people who are affected by alcoholism. I learned so much about myself and was reminded to be that much more thankful for the things I have. There are people out there who are alcoholics, drug addicts, who have the AIDS virus, and are still working toward bettering themselves and helping other people.

“I said to myself: Here I am being depressed over something stupid like a bad hair day or a bad skin day.’ I have no business thinking that way.” The run-in with AA changed her clubbing habits, and pressuring someone to have a drink will never again figure in her socializing agenda.

The room Hu had been looking for that day was that of a group called Project Angel Food, a charity with which Hu has been associated for some time. They make and deliver dinners for AIDS patients, and Hu has worked in the kitchen on occasion.

Hu has adapted quite well to California, but remains at heart an island girl. “I think Hawaii is one of the few places in the world that has almost no prejudice. I have never come across prejudice once. People are intermarried and you don’t define your friends by where they’re from. People have six, seven, eight races mixed up in them, nobody cares. I think that’s one of our best attributes, the fact that people there are so open and so liberal.” Who could be a better spokesperson as the next Miss Hawaii?

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