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Jenn Tran Makes Bachelorette History: A List of Notable Asian Firsts

Jenn Tran Makes Bachelorette History: A List of Notable Asian Firsts

Thanks to a reality TV dating competition, Jenn Tran, who is Vietnamese, made history. ABC chose the 26-year-old from Miami, Florida, to lead “The Bachelorette” − the first time an Asian American gets to say the words “will you accept this rose?” since “The Bachelor” spinoff began airing in 2003. Tran’s season, which features 25 eligible bachelors vying for her heart, premieres at 8 p.m. EST Monday, July 8, 2024.

Viewers were introduced to Tran when she competed for Joey Graziadei’s heart in season 22 of “The Bachelor.” (She was sent home right before the hometown episodes).

While she is not the first Asian contestant to appear on Bachelor Nation — which includes “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Bachelor in Paradise,” “The Golden Bachelor” and the newest addition to the franchise, “The Golden Bachelorette” — Tran admits she doesn’t take her role (and the attention it brings) lightly.

“For me, growing up, I never really had Asian representation in the media. … And because of that, I really struggled with my identity in trying to figure out who I was and who I could become,” Tran tells USA TODAY. “To be able to be that role model that I was looking for when I was a kid, it really is surreal.

“I absolutely experienced a lot of pressure being the first Asian American bachelorette,” she says. “And I think that if I didn’t feel that pressure, that would be weird, right? Because this is a very historic moment, being the first in 21 seasons. It’s a moment that a lot of people have been waiting for. And it means a lot because we’re working toward change.”

With Jenn Tran named as the first Asian in ABC’s “Bachelor” franchise, we’ve compiled a list of other “Asian firsts” in (mostly) recent TV, movies and pop culture.

In 2023, Michelle Yeoh made history by becoming the first Asian actress to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Yeoh also won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for her role.

“Thank you, this is for all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight,” the then 60-year-old Malaysian star said in her acceptance speech. “This is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof, that if you dream big, dreams do come true. And, ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are past your prime. Never give up.

“I have to dedicate this to my mom, and all the moms in the world, because they are the superheroes, without them none of us would be here tonight. (My mom) is 84 and I’m taking this home to her, watching in Malaysia. I’m bringing this home to you, and my extended family in Hong Kong where I started in my career. Thank you to the Academy, this is history in the making.”

In 2021, Steven Yeun became the first Asian American to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Jacob in “Minari.” While he did not win the Oscar, Yeun, who was born in South Korea, did win an Emmy Award for Lead Actor in a Limited Series for “Beef.”

In 2021, actor Simu Liu (“Kim’s Convenience”) gained global attention for playing the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” The film also stands out for its mostly Asian cast, which includes Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh, Golden Globe winner Awkwafina, Oscar-nominated actress Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), and nods to Asian culture. Liu was born in China but grew up in Canada. Most recently, he appeared opposite Ryan Gosling’s Ken in “Barbie.”

In 2020, Awkwafina became the first Asian-American to win the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in the musical or comedy category for “The Farewell.” The parents of the actress-comedian-and-rapper Awkwafina, whose real name is Nora Lum, are Korean and Chinese.

In 2019, Sandra Oh, the actress best known for “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Killing Eve,” co-hosted the Golden Globe Awards with “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” actor Andy Samberg. She referenced the significance of being the first person of Asian descent in such a role in her opening monologue: “I said yes to the fear of being on this stage tonight because I wanted to be here to look out into this audience and witness this moment of change.”

Interestingly, that night the “Quiz Show” actress born to South Korean immigrants also won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Drama for her show “Killing Eve.”

In 2019, Bowen Yang became the first Asian cast member to join “Saturday Night Live.” The scene-stealing Yang, who is Chinese, started writing for SNL in 2018. Previous cast members Rob Schneider (“The Hot Chick,” “Fifty First Dates”) has a Filipino mom, and Fred Armisen (“Portlandia”) has a Korean father.

In 2018, the romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” got a lot of hype for being the first movie with an all-Asian cast. Led by Constance Wu (“Fresh Off the Boat,” “Hustlers”), Henry Golding (Travel Channel, “A Simple Favor”) and Awkwafina (“Ocean’s Eight,” “Kung Fu Panda 4”), the film also features comedian Ken Jeong (“The Hangover” films, “Community”), Gemma Chan (Marvel’s “Captain Marvel”) and Michelle Yeoh (“Supercop,” “Tomorrow Never Dies”). It’s based on the book series by Kevin Kwan.

In 1994, comedian Margaret Cho made history when she starred in ABC’s “All-American Girl,” the first network sitcom to have a predominantly Asian-American cast. Cho, who is Korean, starred in the show during its one-season run. It would be decades later before another predominantly Asian-American cast would star in another network sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” which made its debut in 2015 on ABC. Starring Randall Park and Constance Wu, “Fresh Off the Boat” − which is based on the book by Eddie Huang − aired for six seasons.

In 1993, Connie Chung became the first Asian to anchor a network newscast, “CBS Evening News.” The veteran journalist, who is Chinese, also appeared on NBC, ABC, CNN and MSNBC news shows. Over the years, Chung has made cameos as herself on TV shows like “Murphy Brown” and “House of Cards,” according to IMDB.