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11 AAPI celebrities who are changing Hollywood

Gabbi Shaw   

11 AAPI celebrities who are changing Hollywood
Dwayne Johnson is one of the most famous AAPI celebrities in Hollywood.Sam Hodde/Getty Images
  • As AAPI Heritage Month draws to a close, these are some of the most famous AAPI celebrities today.
  • Dwayne Johnson, who is Samoan, has been the highest-earning actor in Hollywood multiple times.

May is AAPI Heritage Month. AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islanders, a population that encompasses millions of people throughout the US from all over Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific Islands, such as Samoa, Hawaii, and other Polynesian islands.

As AAPI Heritage Month concludes, we took a look at some of the most influential AAPI celebrities in Hollywood, including actors, directors, producers, and musicians. All have broken records and broken boundaries in terms of AAPI representation on-screen, behind the scenes, and on the radio.

Here are some of the most famous AAPI celebrities who are changing the entertainment industry.

Dwayne Johnson has been the highest-paid actor in Hollywood four separate times.

Dwayne Johnson has been the highest-paid actor in Hollywood four separate times.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.      Sean Gardner/Getty Images

As reported by Forbes, Dwayne Johnson was the highest-paid actor in 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2021 for his roles in films such as "Central Intelligence," "Moana," "Jumanji: The Next Level," "Hobbs & Shaw," "Jungle Cruise," and "Red Notice."

The former pro wrestler is now one of the most famous people in the world and a face of the Samoan community in mainstream entertainment.

In addition to Johnson's movie roles, he is also a producer of many of his films, and he co-created a sitcom about his life growing up in Hawaii, his time at high school in Pennsylvania, and as a college student in Miami. Fittingly, it was called "Young Rock" and aired from 2021 to 2023.

Mindy Kaling has created multiple successful shows.

Mindy Kaling has created multiple successful shows.
Mindy Kaling attends the 2024 Met Gala.      Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images

Mindy Kaling is one of the most influential showrunners in streaming right now. After starring on "The Office" (which she also wrote for), Kaling co-created and starred in her own sitcom, "The Mindy Project," which aired for six seasons.

Since, Kaling has somewhat stepped back from acting and is now focused on developing TV. Her Netflix series "Never Have I Ever" was a huge hit until it wrapped up in 2023. Her next hit, the Max series "The Sex Lives of College Girls," was responsible for introducing audiences to Renee Rapp, now a star in her own right.

Kaling also co-created the animated series "Velma," which was almost universally hated … but got enough people hate-watching to greenlight a second season.

Two more shows created by Kaling are set to hit streamers soon: A comedy on Hulu called "Murray Hill" about 20-somethings in NYC and "Running Point," a Netflix comedy series starring Kate Hudson as the new president of a fictional Los Angeles NBA team.

Olivia Rodrigo is currently on a mega-successful world tour for her second album, "Guts."

Olivia Rodrigo is currently on a mega-successful world tour for her second album, "Guts."
Olivia Rodrigo performs during the Guts World Tour in New York City.      Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

Rodrigo, who is just 21 years old, has been hailed as the future of pop music after her stratospheric rise in 2021 due to her debut single, "Drivers License."

Since then, Rodrigo has released two chart-topping albums, won three Grammys, was named Time's entertainer of the year, and gracefully exited the Disney+ series that gave her a platform,
"High School Musical: The Musical: The Series."

She also became the first Filipino-American to be featured on the cover of US Vogue in July 2023, according to Next Shark.

Director Jon M. Chu is gearing up for the release of "Wicked" this fall.

Director Jon M. Chu is gearing up for the release of "Wicked" this fall.
Jon M. Chu      Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP

Chu is a high-profile director who has helmed multiple big-budget productions — besides the two-part "Wicked" adaptation, Chu directed Justin Bieber's concert film "Never Say Never," "In the Heights," "Now You See Me 2," and most famously, 2018's "Crazy Rich Asians," the first modern-day major studio film featuring an Asian cast since "The Joy Luck Club" 25 years prior.

"Crazy Rich Asians" made $239 million worldwide, which is significant for a rom-com considering many consider the genre dead.

Now, he keeps fans hyped for "Wicked" this fall by posting photos from set, engaging with people online, and praising how amazing the cast is.

Steven Yeun is an Oscar nominee and an Emmy winner.

Steven Yeun is an Oscar nominee and an Emmy winner.
Steven Yeun.      Chris Pizzello/AP

It might've taken a bit for Yeun's career to rebound after his character Glenn was killed off "The Walking Dead," but it was worth the wait. Since he exited the show in 2016, his career has only skyrocketed.

Yeun was nominated for an Academy Award (best actor) in 2021 for his performance in "Minari," making him the first Asian-American actor to ever be nominated in that category.

In 2023, he starred in and executive-produced the Netflix series "Beef." He won two Emmys, two Golden Globes, two Critics' Choice Awards, and an Independent Spirit Award for the show.

The Korean-American actor also plays the super-powered teen Mark Grayson on the critically acclaimed Prime Video series "Invincible."

Ali Wong has also won numerous awards for "Beef."

Ali Wong has also won numerous awards for "Beef."
Ali Wong.      Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Wong also won two Emmys and two Golden Globes for "Beef," making her the first Asian woman to win the Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie.

In addition to "Beef," Wong has produced three stand-up comedy specials. In the first one, "Baby Cobra," Wong was 7 ½ months pregnant and making dirtier jokes than almost anyone else, pushing the boundaries of what stand-up comedy can be.

Wong also wrote and starred in her own rom-com, "Always Be My Maybe," and cast Keanu Reeves as her love interest, a true power move.

Priyanka Chopra is the most-followed Indian actor on Instagram.

Priyanka Chopra is the most-followed Indian actor on Instagram.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas attends the 2023 DKMS Gala.      Taylor Hill/Contributor/WireImage

Chopra, who won Miss World in 2000, has become a powerhouse in both India and the US. In 2012, she became first Bollywood star to sign with the American talent agency CAA.

Since then, she's cultivated a massive Instagram following (91.1 million followers and counting), has become a lifestyle figure (with a hair-care line, an NYC restaurant, and a home-goods line), wrote a best-selling memoir, and is a successful actor and producer.

In 2020, Chopra signed a "a two-year multimillion-dollar first-look television deal with Amazon," Variety reported. Her first project after the deal was the 2023 spy thriller series "Citadel," with a second season already on the way.

Bowen Yang is the last true "SNL" breakout we've had in years.

Bowen Yang is the last true "SNL" breakout we
Bowen Yang.      Evan Agostini/AP

Yang, who joined the cast of the sketch show in 2019, is a star. The first Chinese-American comedian to ever join the show, Yang almost immediately cemented himself as an important addition to the cast. He's already been nominated for three Emmys (one for writing, two for acting).

He's also branched out into movies, appearing in "The Lost City," "Fire Island," and "Bros." Later this year, he has a supporting role in "Wicked," and is set to remake the Ang Lee rom-com "The Wedding Banquet" alongside recent Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone.

Chloé Zhao was the first woman of color to win best director at the Oscars (and the second woman ever).

Chloé Zhao was the first woman of color to win best director at the Oscars (and the second woman ever).
Chloe Zhao.      Matt Petit/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Zhao made history in 2021 when she won best director for her film "Nomadland." She was the second woman to ever win that award, behind Kathryn Bigelow in 2010, and the first Asian woman to owin.

Following "Nomadland," Zhao directed the MCU film "Eternals," which made a respectable $402 million at the box office, even though it wasn't a huge hit with critics or fans.

Next up for Zhao is an adaptation of the hit novel "Hamnet," starring Paul Mescal and Jessie Buckley, Deadline reported.

Auli'i Cravalho is the voice of the first Polynesian Disney princess.

Auli
Auli'i Cravalho attends the premiere of "Mean Girls" in 2024.      John Nacion/Stringer/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

Cravalho made her film debut in 2016 as the voice of Moana, the first Polynesian Disney princess, a huge step forward in AAPI representation at Disney. She'll return to the role in 2024 for "Moana 2."

And though she won't play Moana in the live-action film in order to "pass the baton to the next young woman of Pacific Island descent," as she told The Wrap, she will produce the film alongside Dwayne Johnson.

Cravalho is also a live-action star, recently appearing in the musical film adaptation of "Mean Girls" and the Hulu rom-com "Crush."

Dev Patel made his directorial debut in 2024.

Dev Patel made his directorial debut in 2024.
Dev Patel.      Francois Nel/Getty Images

In addition to the internet demanding he be cast as the next James Bond, Patel is a busy guy. After starring in the runaway hit "Slumdog Millionaire," Patel has been one of the most reliable (and charming) stars in Hollywood.

He was nominated for an Oscar in 2017 for his performance in "Lion," starred in the Middle Ages epic "The Green Knight," collaborated with Wes Anderson for the Oscar-winning short film "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," and made his directorial debut with the action film "Monkey Man." He also stars in the film.

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