By Tate Luckey
“When I found out that Sherry Cola was going to be our Pride keynote speaker, I felt overwhelming excited, and starstruck. Representation matters,” Savanna White said.
And that cannot be more true.
In an era where it can be to be confident in yourself, there is none more true to themselves than actor Sherry Cola. Cola, who is queer, Asian-American, a comedian/actor and star on Good Trouble, spoke at the 2021 Belknap Pride Keynote on topics ranging from her life experiences, professional work, and even which co-star was the best to kiss.
The moderator of this event, Jaison Gardner (co-host of NPR’s “Strange Fruit: Musings On Politics, Culture, and Black Gay Life“), started off by asking Cola (who joined via Zoom) about the #StopAAPIHate movement, and what she’s dealt with in terms of any anti-Asian sentiments.
“[The Asian community] was so undefined by people, and it didn’t help that society brainwashed us into these people that didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’. It’s why the Atlanta shooting was so heartbreaking. It’s a constant reminder that we’re not silent. To be honest, we owe a lot to the black community,’ she said. She noted that the protests from last summer, combined with the ongoing efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement helped others in the AAPI find their voice.
“I think at the end of the day it’s about recognizing that while the experiences aren’t exactly the same, they’re worth fighting for. The things that we touch on [Good Trouble] from trans rights to equal pay… it’s really just taught me to show up,” she said. “Speak up for your AAPI friends, check in with them. Asian people are not represented nearly as much as they should be [in media].”
Cola, who was born in China and immigrated to the Americas as a young teen, noted her idols growing up included Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Lucy Liu.
“That’s pretty much it in terms of Asian role models in media. It was so discouraging as someone who wanted to be a performer of some sort; it felt like a gamble, especially as in immigrant,” Cola said.
Margaret Cho, who shares the screen with Cola on Good Trouble, was huge in helping her overcome her limitations and recognizing what she’s capable of.
Cola identifies as bisexual and explained that being on Good Trouble helped her with her queerness. “I was so passionate about the character and about the representation that was happening,” she said.
She never really addressed her feelings about her sexuality until 2010, when she remembers she first had feelings for a woman. “I was so confused, to be honest. I remember telling my best friend and I was shook by this. It was the first time I admitted this version of myself.” Despite how supportive and proud she is, Cola didn’t have the conversation with her mom until after she got the part in Good Trouble.
She elaborated, saying that, “queerness wasn’t a conversation topic growing up. But we’re out here living our life despite no one rooting for us. It’s really special.”
Sherry Cola’s experiences are one of many being shared during U of L’s Month, which kicked off on October 6th. On Thursday, October 21st, the LGBT Center is hosting Chance Krempasky, an APRN. If you’d like to know more, you can click here.
Photos by Anthony Riley // The Louisville Cardinal