Meet Edward Hong "The Cinnabon Actor"
For most of my life, I was an extremely emotional Korean American kid who moved all over from multiple places in the U.S., South Korea, and back again. Throughout this whole time, I had major cultural identity & daddy issues and thus they were just sublime ingredients of a prime candidate to be infected in the world of acting.
I definitely had my fun with it through my time in high school at Seoul Foreign High School but my passion in the arts didn’t become solidified until I attended College of William & Mary. It was here when alongside the only Asian theatre professor in my college, we co-created a diverse performing arts group to put up original and established works written & directed by people of color artists. We also co-created the Asian American Studies major to which I have become the pioneer major. Since I graduated in 2009, it has grown into an official major & minor program with a faculty staff focused on that field.
I didn’t end up going into my next phase of life after graduation until 2010 (during which I got high with my awesome roommate on a daily basis and worked at Chili’s) and it was then I moved straight to Los Angeles to not only pursue an acting career but also simultaneously defending my decision to my parents who wanted me to be a lawyer because they feared I would live & die in a box. Yes, they indeed fulfilled the Asian immigrant tiger parent stereotype.
Over a decade later, I’ve done a gaggle of national commercials, TV shows, indie films, theatre, voiceovers, and have successfully transformed my love of Cinnabon into a profitable acting venture as it was my marketing tactic as an actor.
But all this time, my Asian American Studies major has never made me lose sight in my desire to see meaningful diverse representation in the media, whether it be for myself or others who are equally underrepresented or ignored. For the past few years, I’ve been writing for the pop culture blog THE NERDS OF COLOR which mainly deals with pop culture in the media and diversity. My current focus with them is writing reviews for Los Angeles theatre productions that has PoC artists as the main lead cast members, the director, and/or writer. That is, I was, before the COVID-19 pandemic radically changed all our lives for the time being.
My first six years as an actor had some stereotypical Los Angeles memorable hits: having my 1st car melt in the middle of the 101 highway, having my car broken into in my apartment garage, and getting sued for $45k by a middle-aged lady for psychological & spinal injury when I caused paint damage to her car. You know, typical L.A. checkpoints.
During my 10+ years doing this, I have been broke three times in my decade long pursuit and I have learned that there is no shame in ever needing a daytime job when you achieved financial success as an actor, only to lose it all over again. Sh*t happens.
In this entertainment industry, it is difficult being taken seriously to be seen as a leading type when more often than not, I will more likely to be seen as the quirky/fabulously gay assistant to every main character usually played by a notable white celebrity. Because despite being an Asian actor and everyone raving that Crazy Rich Asians & Parasite has changed the game for folks like me, it hasn’t. That is, unless you’re Henry Golding or Awkwafina or Jimmy O. Yang.
To this day, I have been the only actor in the entertainment industry who uses the Cinnabon pastry product as a marketing tool, whether it be all my social media handles reflecting this gluttonous love to my Cinnabon-designed postcards that will make it impossible for anyone who receives such glorious things to forget. Usually they adore it. And the ones who don’t, they let out an exasperated sigh and go “oh it’s that guy who does that shtick with Cinnabons again”.
But what I’m most proud about is that through my tireless marketing, I have been able to meet the Cinnabon CEO at the time, Kat Cole, had a tour of their HQ in Georgia, and got that sweet corporate voucher to be the Cinnabon Guy in a Dakota Fanning film called “Please Stand By” (now out on Hulu).
I’d say that’s a pretty sweet accomplishment, if I say so myself.
Success is when you can get to a point in your life and truly be happy with who you are and where you are at in your life. My criteria in this lies solely in this question:
Can you truly look at yourself and your work with genuine pride and happiness, without judging yourself to the standards of others and that of society? Or more importantly, if you stripped all away your accomplishments and the need to be busy and need other people’s validation, do you see yourself someone of worth?
If the answer is yes, then that is success.