You may know her as the “loud and crazy” girl from the K-Town reality show. Maybe you know her as the self-proclaimed feminist model who has no problem discussing her ex-stripping days. Or maybe you know her as the badass from the new reality show Roll Models. Regardless of where you recognize her from, one thing is clear- this girl is here to stay. We were lucky enough to get a chance to chat with Scarlet Chan and get to know her past the girl we see on the show. Audrey Magazine talks childhood, feminism, and Roll Models with Scarlet Chan:
AUDREY MAGAZINE: How was it like growing up in Hong Kong and can you tell us a bit more about your childhood?
SCARLET CHAN: I lived there until I was about nine years old. I would say we grew up upper-middle class. Then when we immigrated to the States and its like ‘Oh you’re not upper middle class anymore. You don’t have a car. You don’t have a nanny. You kinda just have to do everything yourself.’ So it was a reality check. We had to grow up really fast. My parents divorced when I was seven so my mom being a single mother added an extra layer of hardship and struggle to deal with, but she did everything she could to make sure rent was paid. Growing up I got to do all kinds of extra curricular activities. She made sure she made enough money to pay for all that stuff so I’m totally grateful for it.
AM: Did young Scarlet have any idea that she would turn to performing or reality television?
SC: No, but I remember wanting to be a model. I wanted to be a model like when I was four. I saw some runway show on TV and I would try to do the catwalk in my house. My mom still teases me about it [laughs]. I remember wanting to be in the limelight at some point, but not reality TV and not in this kind of character either. I feel like the show painted me as a very specific character that I’m suppose to resemble – I didn’t expect that.
[Reality television] was never part of the plan, but I never really had a plan. Some people are like ‘I want to be an astronaut’ or ‘I wanna be a teacher when I grow up’. None of that really solidified for me. I was kinda like ‘Oh I’m really into swimming right now and now I’m really into playing this instrument’. I kinda just went from thing to thing.
AM: So you started exotic dancing while doing research for a college thesis. Can you tell us about that?
SC: I was a Women’s Studies Major and the program that I was in at UC Santa Barbara is super progressive. They make sure to incorporate women and sex work as part of their lecture. Their whole motto is that its about the choice that women can make with their lives. Certain people in sex work were obviously forced into it, but then theres women that chose that type of profession just because they really enjoy the work and they love it. I was always fascinated with it because I’ve always been very sexual. Seriously, growing up I was always kinda like ‘oh sex this, sex that’ and so were the rest of my friends so it was always pretty natural for me to be more drawn to that subject- especially for college.
I would have to say that I was curious about the sex industry and me deciding to write a thesis about it is not like “Oh I want to strip.” Its like “Oh, I’m doing this research paper… but really I wanna strip” [laughs]. That was like my excuse to get into it. It was a good learning experience I would say. Not only did I get to interview other women while I was working as an exotic dancer, but I journaled [my experiences] every night. [I journaled] how I felt, how much money I was making, what I would wear. I just documented everything for the span of three months and then I wrote my paper about it over a year and a half.
AM: You’ve called yourself an “Ethical Feminist” thats very proud of her sexuality. Can you explain that to us?
SC: [Ethical Feminism] is about being ethical about your womanhood and women kinda finding themselves and coming into their own. I always feel like theres that double standard that women can’t be intelligent, smart, and respectable, but at the same time also have this sexuality. You just can’t be both. You can’t be of power and be in charge in the bedroom at the same time.
Growing up, I’ve always been very experimental with doing sexual acts. I feel like in highschool, I was the first to be sexually active among my friends and I got berated for it. There was a lot of slut-bashing during my adolescent years so for me, I’ve always just been fascinated about why people have such strong emotions towards a woman thats in charge; who’s sexual and proud about it and not hiding it. The ethical part is me saying you have to treat all your sexual partners with respect and its always with consent. [You both have to] acknowledge the fears that you have and the concerns that you have. You have to have a good open dialogue about it. I don’t think enough people practice this type of sexual behavior and being a feminist I’m kinda like ‘Alright, I’m a b*tch thats in charge’. Its not so much a power trip, but feeling empowered and being comfortable with who I am.
AM: So you’re in the new reality show called ROLL MODELS. What can you tell us about your character?
SC: They put me in the show because I was actually introduced to go-go dancing and import modeling through Joe. The arch of the show is that I’m interested in it- I don’t wanna go back to stripping, but I want to find some kind of alternative that’s kinda in the middle so I figured go-go dancing and import modeling would be a good introductory step for me to make some extra money without dealing with stripping. I’m introduced, through Joe, to Michelle and Nikita. Both of those ladies have been in the scene for a long time and people actually know them and they’re super famous and popular within the import modeling scene.
AM: You mentioned that in Roll Models you’re trying to pursue go-go dancing and import modeling. Was that something you always thought about pursuing?
SC: I do want to pursue it, forsure. It’s not something I’ve always wanted to do, but the opportunity just kinda presented itself and it makes sense at this time in my life because I definitely don’t want to go back to stripping- I’m too old for that. I’m too old, I’m too tired to deal with all the drama. [laughs]
AM: Is Roll Models anything like your previous reality show, K-Town?
SC: No, not at all. Oh my god, not at all. Its completely different. I thought it was gonna be the same- everything behind the camera is the same, but its a whole different view. The cast is so different. First of all, they’re all girls. Second of all, they’re all nice until you piss them off and then they turn into a raging b*tch. The show is more about girl humor than any other show that I’ve ever seen.
AM: Roll Models is already building up a lot of reactions from the public. How do you respond to the reactions that don’t like how Asians are portrayed on the show?
SC: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but when I first started with the show, I already knew the producers for years and I know their heart is in the right place. Our whole goal is to put more Asian American faces on television or out in the media and I just don’t think there’s enough representation of it. I don’t wanna say bad representation is better than no representation because I don’t necessarily think this is bad representation at all. I feel like this represents a very narrow segment of the Asian-Am community. This is a little glance of what we’re all about. This is just one facet of a whole range of color and different characters out there. I feel like everyone knows that- theres not just one cookie-cutter type of Asian that exists. Theres a whole ring of different people.
So when I read that negative kind of response, I’ll admit that it does get to me, but at the same time I’m like you know what, I’m just gonna do what I gotta do and tune them out. I’m just being myself- I’m not here to represent everyone in the world. If they think another show will be more interesting, they should go produce that f*cking show. They shouldn’t try to criticize us trying to make a difference when they’re sitting back eating cheetos, not doing anything about it and just talking sh*t about the work we’re doing. Thats all I’m saying.
AM: Is the Scarlet Chan that we see on screen the same as the Scarlet Chan in real life? Do you embellish yourself a little or is there a side of you that you maintain private and just for close friends?
SC: It’s pretty much the real Scarlet Chan. The only part I don’t show is when I’m talking baby voice and cute with my boyfriend. That’s really private. “Aww baby, I miss you” and all that sh*t- you don’t see that because no one wants to see that [laughs]. Its gross. Like I want to throw up in my mouth when I do that so I’m not trying to gross everyone out.
I just go balls to the walls. I don’t hold back. There are moments where I think I go too far, especially when I do confessionals. I kinda have this sense of regret after some of my confessionals. I’m like ‘f*ck, maybe I just took that to the next level,’ but not in a good way at all. I think it was episode two or three of K-town when I lifted my shirt and flashed the cameras and I was like “My titties taste like garlic fries!” [laughs] I just said the first thing that came to mind and I immediately regretted it. I was so embarrassed. All my friends were laughing hysterically at me.
And for Roll Models, I acted even more ridiculous in every aspect.
AM: Whats your most favorite and least favorite part about filming for Roll Models?
SC: Okay, my most favorite part would be getting to watch my other cast mates change in and out of their outfits. I’m kinda a pervert. I love watching them change. They don’t know that, but now they’ll know that. [Laughs]
And that’s just one aspect of it. I would say the crew meal in between shootings, that’s probably what I love and miss the most. I feel like towards the end of the show, I realized that these girls are actually all really sweet and really nice. I feel like people pre-judge them a lot because they’re gorgeous and they tend to talk about themselves a lot, but then you peel all the layers back and when they’re just being themselves and when they don’t have to worry about their hair, their make up, and their outfit, then they’re actually really funny girls. They’re all really smart and they’re good at what they do. I feel like that bond that I have with these girls is what I miss.
What I don’t like is dealing with high-maintenance b*tches all day long [laughs]. I remember the initial three days of meeting all these girls, I was annoyed the entire time. I’m high-maintenance, but I keep a lot of those high-maintenance comments to myself. It took me a long time to find a commonality that I have with them. They’re really girly. They go to the gym and do yoga. I don’t f*cking go to the gym. I go surfing and I ride my bike.
AM: What can we expect from the upcoming episodes of Roll Models?
SC: Theres gonna be a lot of T&A (tits and ass). There’s gonna be a lot of catty humor. This is what the show is about and I find it super funny- when girls make passive aggressive jabs at each other like “Oh, before I met you, I didn’t think I was gonna like you, but you’re not that bad.” [Laughs] You know what I’m talking about! There’s a lot of stank eyes being passed at one another then eventually a blow up, but of course there’s a make up session. Its girl bitchiness the whole time and I personally find it hilarious.
Be sure to watch Roll Models here.