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Anna May Wong will become the first Asian American featured on U.S. currency

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On Monday, a star of the silver screen will be reflected on the shiny surface of American coins.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The actress Anna May Wong is the first Asian American to be depicted on U.S. currency. She goes on the quarter.

LEILANI NISHIME: A lot of us today have kind of forgotten about her, but she was a big deal in her time, and she was one of the few Asian American stars.

INSKEEP: LeiLani Nishime is a professor at the University of Washington.

NISHIME: When she's on the screen, even when she's in a supporting role, it's hard to take your eyes off of her.

FADEL: Wong was born in Los Angeles in 1905. She was a third-generation Chinese American who rose to international fame as a Hollywood star and fashion icon.

INSKEEP: Even though the roles that she was offered were stereotypes - Asian women depicted as dangerous or exotic - she wasn't satisfied and left Hollywood to film movies in Europe and also dabbled in vaudeville, radio and theater.

NISHIME: She was one of the people who had a voice. And she would talk about discrimination in Hollywood, and she would talk about how difficult it was to get a role that didn't just cast her as the evil villain.

FADEL: By the end of her career, she'd starred in over 50 films. In 1960, she became the first Asian American actress to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

INSKEEP: Shirley Lim wrote a biography of Wong.

SHIRLEY LIM: It feels like this is a long time coming. These are stories that, you know, reflect who we are as a nation.

INSKEEP: Anna May Wong's quarter represents change in Hollywood - change you can hold in your hand.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADRIAN YOUNGE SONG, "ANNA MAY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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