Nancy Kwan achieved fame back in the 1960's for her portrayal of Suzie Wong, a Chinese prostitute with a proverbial heart of gold. Her film The World of Suzie Wong came out at a time when there were very few good roles for Asians in Hollywood, and most of those roles would be awarded to popular white actors wearing heavy makeup. The spectacular popular success of the film was due in no small part to the strong sexuality of the character she played. Exotically beautiful, seductive yet innocent, wearing the form-fitting thigh-baring cheongsam dress, as Suzie Wong she sashayed her way into America's hearts.
However, the vividness of her performance unfortunately led to the confusion in some moviegoers between Suzie Wong the fictional character and Nancy Kwan the actress. So much so that some viewers attributed Suzie's superficial characteristics (her strong sexuality) to Nancy Kwan herself, or even to all Asian women in general. The patent foolishness of such viewers doesn't merit any discussion. If Nancy Kwan had memorably played a nun, would such people think that all Chinese women were nuns? After watching Pretty Woman, would such viewers logically conclude that all redheads are prostitutes? The problem was compounded by the many copycat films that attempted to cash in on The World of Suzie Wong's commercial success. To her credit, Nancy Kwan went on to star in dozens more films over her career, in a wide variety of roles, but never again did she actually play a prostitute.
So as you watch her famous first film or navigate this website, please remember to act like an adult: don't confuse Suzie for Nancy .
"It's not that I don't like reading about myself. But I get
unhappy with the kind of things that are written about me. For
instance, after Suzie Wong..., I was being written up as a
kind of sex kitten. I'm not really at all like that."