The typical characteristics of an Asian American immigrant: the strict family, the accent, and the changes. “Laughing With My Mouth Wide Open,” a one-woman show, delves into Gwendoline Yeo’s life journey. As the writer and star, Yeo incorporated both fictional and biographical elements into the show, marking significant events and stages throughout her life.
Yeo saw herself as a geek before she emigrated from Singapore to the U.S. at the age of 12. Transitioning from an academic-intensive environment, she would blossom into the actress she is today.
“When I moved to the states, suddenly, things started to flip exactly opposite,” said Gwendoline Yeo, “My mind started opening up that there were different possibilities. That I didn’t just have to be a doctor or a lawyer because that was what I was raised with.”
Her first step into the entertainment industry was the 1994-95 Miss Teen Chinatown San Francisco Beauty Pageant. Though her parents thought the pageant inappropriate, going so far as to equate it to prostitution, Yeo became a contestant. Imagine her parents’ surprise when she won the beauty pageant and was in the newspaper.
“My mom thought I was going to go to UCLA and become a gangster,” said Yeo, “But I think that when I won the pageant, it helped them to say OK well maybe she does know what she’s doing ish.”
At UCLA, she chose to major in communication studies, instead of the sciences. She was pursuing her own path.
“I need to follow my heart. I need to follow this, instead of my head or instead of following my parents,” said Yeo, “You know, I respect them. I love them. But, there was something deeper that said that you need to do what you need to do.”
Yeo graduated from UCLA in three years. She pursued an acting career, where she realized that she could use her charm and her humor.
“Gwendoline is very talented at what she does. She’ll nail whatever part is given to her and can make every character very convincing,” said Brian Bobila, Yeo’s friend. “But I know her drive played a big part of where she is right now…I’ve never met anyone as driven as she is!”
Despite being known for her role as a maid in the TV show, “Desperate Housewives,” her roles in period pieces like “Broken Trail” are closer to her heart. In the “Broken Trail,” she played a prostitute brought from China to America to service Chinese men building the railroads.
Audiences can peek into Yeo’s life by watching her show, “Laughing With My Mouth Wide Open.”
“The most important artistic endeavor of my life has been this show,” said Gwendoline Yeo, “You just tell your story. People can receive it however they want.”