In Vogue Singapore’s Nov/Dec issue’s cover story, Gemma Chan speaks passionately about the many social causes she cares about, including championing the East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) community. “Part of why the Asian community is so incredibly important to me comes from a place of pain,” she reveals. “There has been a huge surge in pandemic-related anti-Asian violence seen in many countries across the world. We’ve so many awful attacks, especially on our elders.” Like many, Chan is worried about her own elderly parents—but her concern extends to the community at large. “I want the ESEA community to feel seen and valued, and to be able to advocate for itself. And if I can help in any way just to boost or amplify someone else’s voice, I’m happy to do that.”
To that end (and many others—Chan has a number of other things close to her heart, like girl’s education and the climate crisis), Chan has spent much time and effort raising awareness for the marginalised communities she cares for. From her role as a Unicef ambassador to her hopes for our environment, here are the causes she believes in most. As she shares with Vogue Singapore: “Once I’m gone, I would be grateful if people remembered me at all. Beyond that, I only hope to try and leave the world in a slightly better place than before, and to give a bit more than I take.”
She’s no stranger to countering anti-Asian sentiment
One of the leading faces in the movement to stop East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) hate, Gemma Chan has a track record of speaking up and condemning racially motivated hate crimes. Launching the #StopESEAHate campaign with GoFundMe back in May this year, it is Chan’s hope that the fund will provide greater support to grassroots organisations supporting ESEA and create a lasting social change.
She works to protect children from violence
As a Unicef UK Ambassador, Chan has worked to amplify children’s voices from around the world. Visiting Jamaica in 2019, she was exposed to how children face alarming levels of violence on the streets and how some display post-traumatic stress disorders as a result of their upbringing. Today, she reflects on how the pandemic has further worsened the situation for young women and girls, with COVID-19 restrictions making it difficult for Unicef workers to reach out to these vulnerable communities and provide the support they need.
She lends her voice to keep girls safe from harm
Female empowerment has long been championed by Chan. In 2016, she teamed up with ActionAid to star in ‘Safe From Harm’, a film calling on the British public to sponsor girls at risk of sexual violence. Together with Andrea Riseborough, Jane Horrocks, Jaime Winstone and Laura Carmichael, Chan shared powerful testimonies from survivors of sexual assault in Zanzibar and Bangladesh, who are in such unsafe conditions that they are unable to share their stories themselves.
She loves and protects the environment
It is no secret that Chan is a huge advocate for the environment. She worries that climate change is the biggest threat to our society and that not enough is being done about it. A firm believer that we must all do our part, big or small, Chan recently stepped out on the Eternals red carpet in Sohee Park—a South-Korean born designer whose eco-conscious approach sees her exploring the use of recycled materials and deadstock in her creations. She also spotlights sustainability-focused Asian designers on her Instagram page to place them on a global stage.
She fights for diversity, representation and equality in the film industry
The Eternals star acknowledges that the industry has come a long way since her early acting days with better race, gender, sexuality and disability representation. The cast of her latest movie—Eternals, is as diverse as it comes, with Haaz Sleiman representing the LGBT community and Lauren Ridloff playing Marvel’s first deaf superhero. Yet, despite these positive strides, Chan recognises that the industry’s work is far from done. Calling for greater representation amongst executives and those in decision-making positions, it is clear that for Chan, until systemic imbalances in the film industry are addressed, her work is far from over.
The November/December ‘Eternity’ issue of Vogue Singapore is available for sale online and in-store from 16 November 2021.