Anna May Wong: A Life in Pictures

Hollywood’s first Chinese-American star today also becomes the first Asian-American to appear on the U.S. currency. Sixth Tone looks back at her trail-blazing career.

In the 1920s, Anna May Wong rose to fame as Hollywood’s first Chinese-American movie star. A century later, she has broken through another barrier by becoming the first Asian-American to appear on the U.S. currency: the U.S. Mint is due to begin issuing a new quarter bearing her likeness today.

Wong, whose parents migrated from south China’s Guangdong province to California during the 19th century, was born in Los Angeles in 1905. She was infatuated with film from childhood: at age 9, she was reportedly already badgering filmmakers for roles; by 14, she’d won her first screen role as an extra on the 1919 movie “The Red Lantern.”

During the 1920s, Wong rose to become an international star, landing leading roles in hit movies such as “The Thief of Baghdad” (1924). But she also had to battle deep-seated prejudice in Hollywood, where she was continually offered typecast supporting roles.