Yootha Wong Sing’s Culture Shock

Love is something we all need to survive. A woman’s perception and identity are something we all experience. Every woman goes through this phase in their life. Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing is a Dutch actress who landed her dream job on an Akil Production and OWN’s Love Is ___.

ATM: Express the distinctions between the States’ film industry vs. in your hometown?

Y: The Netherlands has a much small industry. It is a small country with 17 million people. This is the population of the Netherlands alone. We speak Dutch. If you want to work in the Netherlands, then the natural platform is not that big. This has an impact on black artists like me. You are a part of a Dutch community telling stories at the end of the day from their perspectives. This limits your possibilities. The black population is much bigger in the States. Also, The States’ population itself is bigger. This opens up the possibility. It opens up a lot of doors but at the same time, there is more competition.

ATM: Explain the process of your initial audition for Love Is ___.

Y: It happened really fast. I won Best Actress for the Dutch Awards, which is similar to the Oscars. A lot of people thought things would happen to me. I did not complain. My agent convinced me to come to the United States. I booked a week long ticket to Los Angeles in November 2017. I had no American experience. My agent was able to schedule meetings with casting directors like Kim Coleman. I thought my performance at the audition was horrible. I was nervous and overwhelmed. I thought I could bring something different to the table. This gave me the confidence to get into the room. Everything went so fast once getting into the room. Kim Coleman gave me a note during the last scene in my audition. When someone gives you a note this means they liked it. I took ten seconds to process everything in the note. She said, “okay, thank you” when I did the scene again.

I could not help leaving without knowing whether she liked it or not. This would make a huge difference for me. I needed to know my position in the American market. I did not necessarily need to get the part, but I just wanted to know. I wanted to know whether I was good or if I sucked. Kim Coleman told me she loved it and shook my hand. Then she left. I felt like throwing up when going to my apartment. I thought to myself “why am I here? I am here by myself in Los Angeles. What makes think that am different? I have this thing after auditions where am acting like this. I was far away from home this time and from everything I knew.” This was a very spiritual moment. I felt confronted with every insecurity I had at this moment. It was also a way for me to get closer to God. I had prayed on this day. I said, “whatever had brought me here should manifest.” I felt like booking a ticket right way. I had learned a lot about myself regardless of the results. I learned a lot about what I wanted in life and where my insecurities were positioned. Everything was very valuable. Nothing mattered at this point. I got the phone call that they liked my audition. I had also called a friend after the audition and said, “Oh why did I decided to do this. Why did I put myself through this?” I thought to come back to the States because they actually did not think I had sucked. This is being very dramatic.

They wanted me to come back to the States to do a chemistry read. I was shooting something here in the Netherlands, which made have to do my chemistry read on Skype. You want to be able to look, someone, the eyes, touch, and feel them. You do this to see if there is chemistry. I had a talk with Mara. They were confused with where I was from. They Googled me. We had a talk about what feels like to be a black woman in the States. It was a very interesting talk. William came on and then started the audition. We did three scenes and there was a lot of chemistry. At the end of the read he said, “Whew, someone get Nuri.” I started to laugh. This was a good sign to me. It was a good read. Oprah Winfrey and another executive who only had to give the okay. I waited for three days. This was a Friday, so Monday I waited to get the part. Then I passed out.

ATM: Really?

Y: It is a dream to a part of an Akil Production or even an OWN production. It is amazing to be a part of an American production as a Dutch actress. Especially one that the Akils created. We all know about Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane even though we are miles away. Black people have been living legends. Oprah is a living legend. I damn near passed out. I was in shock. I was like, “What? Are you serious? Does anyone have to see my audition tape again?” I called my dad and started to cry. Everyone has been able to witness me on Love Is___. It might have felt a little awkward. Maybe they liked or did not.

ATM: What elements are represented in your character Ruby?

Y: Ruby tries to be acknowledged for who she is as a person. You see this struggle when she undergoes Liposuction. I can identify with her to a certain extent. I would never undergo Liposuction. She is assimilating to a certain image to fit in. It was daunting and common only in the 90s. We all have a way to see ourselves. She is finding an identity to be successful. Ruby loses Yasir who is a part of her battle. She is not successful in her career or relationship. We have to reach the lowest point in our lives before we can start growing again or see ourselves for who we really are. We really do not know. You need a lot of friction and drama. You need a moment of being on the bathroom floor thinking that your life has ended. This helps you excel to be the best person you can be. She represents a woman who struggles with womanhood. All women can identify with this. Not every woman has a Yasir. This can be the same as losing your job or friends. The transition into womanhood and trying to figure out who you are is something everyone goes through in life.

ATM: We are so stuck on perception which overshadows how we perceive ourselves. Our only moment of this perception is when we look in the mirror. We see ourselves truly. A lot of people put on a front for the outside world. Mirrors are the only true reflection of us. This moment will come for every woman. Crying on the bathroom floor gives you the realization of who you are as a woman.

Y: I completely agree. People search for this love in all type of different directions. These directions could be in another man or it can be Instagram. People tend to look for love and affection based on their amount of likes and followers. There are ways outside of ourselves that we feel will give us this amount of love. It should come within. I thought of myself as corny at 15. I am starting to recognize this is not all true. What happens when Yasir, the likes, the followers, and having the latest fashion goes away?

ATM: What maneuvered through your mind when Americans look at you when coming from a foreign country? Do they look at you like “Why are you here?” What are the ups and downs of fitting in or adapting to this new culture?

Y: This is so interesting. This is a good question. I was skeptical to come to the United States. You can hear my accent. I can talk without an accent and try to assimilate. I was recently to the point where I felt like the world has changed. Black people are going through things. We are owning up to who we are more than ever. We are creating platforms and gateways to express our truth. There are black people not born in the United States but we are all alike. We just got separated from Europe to the Caribbeans. We are all the same. There movement with black people being aware and standing up for their rights. We are going through a revolution. Part of this revolution is feeling like black people are united. My accent adds to this process and making people aware. I am starting to accept being different. This could be an asset instead of a liability. I am learning, seeing, and understanding American culture as am going. Having a background in sociology makes this whole journey so interesting. I am maneuvering as Yootha in a different culture. I love getting to know the culture through acting.

ATM: Talk more about your upcoming film Really Love.

Y: This film is very special to me. We shot it in Baltimore. I am the female lead and Kofi Siriboe plays the male lead. It feels like the show Love Is___ all over again. It is a love story with a black cast. It is a beautiful love story between an aspiring painter and a lawyer. He is trying to make it in the art world. She comes from a different background. They fall deeply in love and figure out if their love can survive different obstacles that come with the unique backgrounds. This shows a different side of Kofi and I. This is artistically, creatively, and commercially unique to the things in our past.

ATM: What does love even mean to you?

Y: Love is the foundation and solution to everything. We need to go to the basics and know this matters. Affecting people with a love bug is important. There is a lot of lack of love going on. I am a sucker for love. I value so much. My brother recently had a baby. I cry just looking at pictures of my nephew. I cry coming home to my friends throwing me a surprise party. I am so sensitive. I am so appreciative of love. Love keeps me going and it can bring me down. It will always keep me going more than keeping me down.

ATM: This is the risk we all take.

Y: It is so worth it. You can have all the money in the world. If you do not feel love, then how can you ever feel you are living life?

ATM: Explain your experience on set.

Y: William and I drove at night playing a Meek Mill song to get us pumped up. We listened to music that made us feel like getting into a boxing ring. We shot scene by scene. You talked to the director to see what they wanted and what we wanted.

ATM: What Meek Mill song was it?

Y: Let me look it up. There is a song of his that I’ve heard on set and at a strip club.

ATM: Dreams and Nightmares?

Y: Yes, this is the one. The purpose of this song aligns with how I feel. There are not a lot of songs that get me hyped up. It’s funny. My friends and I were at a famous strip club in Atlanta. What is the famous strip club in Atlanta?

ATM: Magic.

Y: We thought to experience a strip club. I saw two gorgeous and stunning women. We all have a perception about two women in a strip club. They had the same vibe as my friends. They were spitting rhymes to Dreams and Nightmares. They went crazy when the beat dropped. I was like yooo. I ran to the ATM to get stacks. They were going in. It does not matter if you are a stripper, janitor, politician, or actor. If you do this shit with the same passion they had, then you are good. I feel the same passion for everything that I am passionate about. There should never be any judgment.

People acting have more prestige. It is all the same thing, but with a different passion. I was watching a Denzel interview. He talked about feeling weird being put on a pedal stool. He feels we should talk about people that are taking on the world. He said “We are just having a ball on set. What are we actually doing?” Are we putting out fires? This is about changing lives. People think we are different, but in reality, am actually the same as that stripper or whoever has that same passion.

ATM: How has life socially changed for you?

Y: It is very different socially. I have been in the States more than home in 2018. I have missed out on the festival season during this summer. This is the time when you hang out with your friends. People have to adjust to me not being here. I have to adjust to not being here. People feel some type a way of thinking that am changing. This is not true. The people close to you will always remain close. It is always going to be awkward socially. People have certain projections of you that might not be true. It is fine. I am looking at the bigger picture. I have a bigger responsibility to completely agree with the stories being told. We are trying to add to the change. The social changes in my life are collateral damages. It just happens. People in the Netherlands look at you differently when you are on an American show this it also the same in America.

ATM: How do you feel when people ask for your autograph?

Y: It is the weirdest thing ever. It is so sweet. It takes a lot for someone to ask, “Yo, what is your autograph?” It takes a lot for me to ask. They would say, “Oh my god, its Raph Angel, and Ruby.” It is so weird. They actually see me as Ruby. This is the first time it happened. I have to get used to it. If someone comes up to me to say, “You look so familiar,” then I would never say am Ruby from Love Is ___. I would say, “This is interesting. I would then ask, Do you watch T.V.?” I would never assume they know me. It is interesting to navigate through this.