Lia Chang in New York in 2014.
|Born||San Francisco, California|
|Occupation||Actor, Photographer, Journalist|
Lia Chang is an American actress, a multi-platform journalist and a photographer. She worked as a fashion model before adding her life behind the camera, and is noted for her portraits, performing arts, and botanical photographs.
Chang was born in San Francisco, California, the eldest daughter of Russell Chang, a field engineer for IBM and Sun Microsystems, and the late Beverly Umehara, a secretary and prominent union labor activist. Chang attended St. Mary’s Chinese Day School in San Francisco Chinatown and graduated from Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, California.
Acting Career and Modeling Career
Chang began modeling in high school, and after graduating from Archbishop Mitty High, traveled to New York for a modeling convention, where she worked as a petite runway and print model, as a fit model for Isaac Mizrahi, and as a petite showroom model for Liz Claiborne.
Chang made her feature film debut in Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon in 1984, followed by a role as a Wing Kong Guard in John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China in 1985. In 1986, Chang made her professional stage debut as Liat in the U.S. and Canadian Tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, starring Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden, and directed by Geraldine Fitzgerald, in Toronto. In 1990, she made her New York stage debut in Richard Caliban’s Famine Plays with Cucaracha Theatre Company. During her association with that company, she appeared in Two Gentleman of Verona and the late night theater soap opera Underground Soap. She has performed with the Naked Angels Theatre Company in Hot Keys; with the Signature Theatre Company as Sally and Joy in Sam Shepard's 1965 Obie award-winning play, Chicago, directed by Joseph Chaikin at the Public Theater; and at La MaMa with André De Shields as Princess Noel in Lonnie Carter’s Gulliver.; and at the Billie Holiday Theatre as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes' Power Play. In 2013, she appeared in the 2013 revival production of Lorey Hayes' Power Play with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes and Marcus Naylor at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival.  Other television credits include guest-starring roles as a reporter and as attorney Han Su Lee on "Another World", as a nurse on "As the World Turns", and as an ICU nurse on "New York Undercover". Since 1989, played a nurse on the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live". She played Crystal in Frankenhooker (1990), a gangster's gun moll in Abel Ferrara's King of New York (1990), a shoe saleslady in A Kiss Before Dying (1991), Scotty's Girl in New Jack City (1991), a hotel desk clerk in Mike Nichols's Wolf (1994), starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, and Taxman (1997). She is featured in Joann Faung Jean Lee’s book "Asian American actors: oral histories from stage, screen, and television."
Chang hails from a family of photographers, her father is an amateur photographer and her cousin Michael Chin, is an award-winning cinematographer of documentaries. Since making her stage debut in South Pacific in 1986, she has documented her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism in stills and video including award-winning playwrights Ayad Akhtar, Ping Chong, Philip Kan Gotanda, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Rajiv Joseph, David Henry Hwang, Suzan-Lori Parks, Rick Shiomi and Chay Yew; actors Denise Burse, Samrat Chakrabarti, Jarlath Conroy, Andre DeShields, Jose Llana, Meshach Taylor and BD Wong; and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun.
After years of working as an actress and a model, she was disturbed at the lack of positive images of Asian Americans and artists of color in the mainstream media, in books, in museums; and knew she could make a difference. She bought her first professional camera in 1993.
In 1995, Chang was commissioned by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), to produce a photo essay of Asian Pacific Americans in the Workforce. In 1996, she received a Murray and Isabella Rayburn Foundation Grant to produce three additional sets of the Exhibition; four sets of her first solo exhibition, "Asian Pacific Americans in the Workforce" were on view for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in New York at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives at NYU Bobst Library; and in Washington D.C. at the National AFL-CIO Headquarters, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2001, the West Charleston Library of Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Las Vegas, Nevada, featured a retrospective of Chang’s work in "Asian Americans: At Home in the Galaxy", a multi-component exhibition which included Notable Asian Americans who have broken boundaries and have carved unique paths to success in their specialized field and "Asian Pacific Americans in the Workforce", ordinary women and men of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestry, working in a variety of fields and occupations. The third component included a fabric book art installation piece called “Coming to America” which detailed her grandmother’s experience of being detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station.
Chang’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Angel Island Immigration Station, Asian American Federation of New York (AAFNY), Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation Art Collection and the New York Historical Society. Portraits from Chang’s Asian American Pioneer Series are published in "Chinese Americans: The Immigration Experience" by Peter Kwong and Dusanka Miscevic (Filmmaker Ang Lee, Playwright David Henry Hwang, Fashion Designers Yeohlee and David Chu, Author Maxine Hong Kingston, Reporter Ti-Hua Chang). Her portraits of notable Chinese Americans can be seen at CAM in Los Angeles (Playwright David Henry Hwang); the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York (author C.Y. Lee, Bill Lann Lee and Gary Locke and his wife Mona Lee Locke); the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) in San Francisco (Portraits of New York Chinatown after 9/11); and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles (author and activist Michi Weglyn).
In 2010, the Lia Chang Theater Photography and Other Works Portfolio was established in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection. In 2011, “IN REHEARSAL,” a display of 36 photographs drawn from the Lia Chang Theater Portfolio were on view in the Asian Division Reading Room at the Library of Congress.; and her Portraits of New York Chinatown After 9/11 were featured in a Post 9-11 Commemorative Display for the 10th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including Vanity Fair, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Broadwayworld.com, New York Magazine, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post.
Chang was a syndicated columnist for KYODO News, writing about arts and entertainment in her “What’s Hot in New York” column from 1995-2004. She studied film and communications at Hunter College and photography at the International Center of Photography (ICP). She is the recipient of numerous journalism awards and fellowships and in 1997, Avenue Magazine named her one of the "One Hundred Most Influential Asian Americans." In 2000, she received the (OCA) Organization of Chinese Americans Chinese American Journalist Award for an article entitled, "An Active Vision," which detailed the life of her mother Beverly Umehara, who in seven years made the transformation from a humble, hardworking secretary and mother of four into a labor activist, a respected union leader and a role model for rank and file workers, women of color and all Asian Americans. In 2001, she received the Asian American Journalists Association 2001 National Award for New Media for an article she wrote about her grandmother’s harrowing journey through the Angel Island Immigration Station. She is an Asian American Journalists Association Executive Leadership Graduate (2000), a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age (2000), a National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media (2001), a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism (2002), and National Tropical Botanical Garden Environmental Journalism Fellow (2003).
|1985||The Last Dragon||Girl Student|
|1986||Big Trouble in Little China||Female Wing Kong Guard|
|1989||Another World||Attorney Han Su Lee|
|1989–present||One Life to Live||Nurse Lia|
|1990||King of New York||Gangster’s Gun Moll|
|1991||New Jack City||Scotty’s Girl|
|1991||A Kiss Before Dying||Shoe Saleslady|
|1995||New York Undercover||ICU Nurse|
|1997||Taxman||Mr. Green’s Receptionist|
Awards and Honors
1997 Avenue Magazine named her one of the “One Hundred Most Influential Asian Americans”
2000 Organization of Chinese Americans 2000 Chinese American Journalist Award
2001 Asian American Journalists Association National Award for New Media
1996 “Asian Pacific Americans in the Workforce” on view at National AFL-CIO Headquarters, Washington DC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC,Tamiment Labor Library/NYU Bobst Library, NY, NY, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire
1997: National Transportation Safety Board, Washington DC
2001 “Asian Americans: At Home in the Galaxy” on view at West Charleston Library, Las Vegas, NV This multi-component exhibition includes Notable Asian Americans who have broken boundaries and have carved unique paths to success in their specialized fields, as well as ordinary women and men of diverse Asian/Pacific ancestry, working in a variety of fields and occupations. The third component of the exhibition is a fabric book art installation piece called “Coming to America” which details her grandmother’s experience of being detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station.
2002 “From Clay Street to Canal: Remembering NY Chinatown in the Wake of Sept. 11th” at Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA) nydailynews.com: Special Events to Mark 9-11 Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), San Francisco, CA
2008: "Actor BD Wong: In Rehearsal with Herringbone at McCarter Theatre", Princeton, NJ
2009: "Chinese New Year in New York Chinatown" at Gouveneur Healthcare Services, New York, NY, presented by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation Art Collection
2010: "Art and Healing-Healthy for the Holidays Features Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, Lia Chang" at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, Staten Island, NY
2011: "IN REHEARSAL" in the Asian Division Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
2011: Portraits of New York Chinatown After 9/11 in the Asian Division Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
2012:"IN REHEARSAL" in the Asian Division Reading Room of the Library of Congress, Washington D.C.
Photos Published in Books
- But Still, Like Air, I'll Rise: New Asian American Plays by Velina Hasu Houston. 1997. ISBN 978-1-56639-538-0.
- Chinese Americans: The Immigrant Experience by Peter Kwong and Dusanka Miscevic. 2000. ISBN 978-0-88363-128-7.
- Italian Americans: The Immigrant Experience by Robert Carola and Ben Morreale. 2000. ISBN 978-0-88363-126-3.
- Playwrights in Rehearsal: The Seduction of Company by Susan Letzler Cole. 2001. ISBN 978-0-415-91970-8.
- Maxine Hong Kingston. Gale Study Guides to Great Literature: Literary Masterpieces, Vol. 9: The Woman Warrior and China Men by Deborah L. Madsen. 2001. ISBN 978-0-7876-5129-9.
- Theatre: a way of seeing by Milly S. Barranger. 2001. ISBN 978-0-534-51482-2.
- Vaccine A: The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers--And Why GI's Are Only The First Victims by Gary Matsumoto. 2004. ISBN 978-0-465-04400-9.
- The East West Quartet by Ping Chong. 2004. ISBN 978-1-55936-229-0.
- Yeohlee: Work: Material Architecture by Yeohlee. 2006. ISBN 978-1-86470-003-9.
- Theater World 2008-2009 by Ben Hodges. 2009. ISBN 978-1-4234-7369-5.
- White Egrets by Derek Walcott. 2011. ISBN 978-0-374-28929-4.
- Chinglish by David Henry Hwang. 2012. ISBN 978-1-5593-6410-2.
- Call Me Waldo by Rob Ackerman. 2012. ISBN 978-0-8222-2663-5.
- Seidel, Mitchell. “Actress and Model Lia Chang finds success behind the camera”, ‘’New Jersey Star Ledger’’, New Jersey, 14, December 2002
- JadeMagazine.com. "Getting Personal with Lia Chang and her Asian American Arts World", JadeMagazine.com, March–April 2014.
- Chang, Lia. " Photos: Traveling through the mouth of the Dragon with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s James Hong, Peter Kwong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, George Cheung, Al Leong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, Gary Goldman, Eric Lee, Joycelyne Lew". BackstagePasswithLiaChang.com, April 10, 2015
- Gussow, Mel (November 3, 1990). "' Review/ Theater; Dark Visions of America In a Modern Depression". The New York Times.
- McCallister, Jared (May 29, 2005). "Caribbean Week Set to Kick Off". nydailynews.com.
- DeCwikiel-Kane, Dawn (July 25, 2013). "National Black Theatre Festival: NC Natives Bring ‘Power Play’ to the Festival". News and Record.
- "Photojournalist’s Exhibit on 'Asian Pacific Americans in the Workforce' on Display: Lia Chang's series is on view at four sites on the East Coast, including the U.S. Department of Justice," Rafu Shimpo, May 18, 1996.
- “Eye Openers: Asian Americans: At Home in the Galaxy,” The Las Vegas Review Journal, May 4, 2001.) Lvrj.com
- Photo Flash: Library of Congress' IN REHEARSAL Exhibit Broadwayworld.com
- "Archives". New York Daily News.[dead link]
- Michael J. Fressola, “Snug Harbor art exhibit features Andy Warhol, other renowned artists”, Staten Island Advance. , New York, 07 December 2010.
- " Photo Flash: Library of Congress' IN REHEARSAL Exhibit", Broadwayworld.com, New York, 26 July 2011.
- Lapid, Robin. "Remembering 9/11: An Events and Resource Guide", hyphenmagazine.com, San Francisco, 9 September 2011.
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