About

Sunny Chen

My Story

I was born in a small city called Nanjing in China. At three years old, I had memorized all my favourite ancient Chinese poems so I entertained audiences of strangers by reciting them aloud whenever an opportunity arose. I also loved singing karaoke in the middle of our family-owned restaurant on the regular. Starting from that age, my mom signed me up for community piano lessons. Then, after-school English lessons.

 

My parents and I flew across the world to Burnaby, British Columbia, when I was six years old, where they enrolled me in Grade 1. (I would move three more times before finishing elementary school, so I had to learn how to be funny.) Then my sister was born, so my grandparents (my real life guardian angels) moved to Canada as well, to help raise my li'l sis. We didn't have much and lived in a 2-bedroom apartment together, across from Metrotown. My mom invested in my passion for the arts and I started to dance ballet (and danced for four years) but stopped when we moved to Langley to accommodate my mom's new job. We lived in a basement suite the first year, and my mom signed us up for the toy drive so we could celebrate Christmas together. By age 12, I'd written over 10 (bad) pop songs. In high school, in addition to enrolling in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, I rehearsed daily and performed with the concert choir, chamber choir, and the senior vocal jazz group (as well as played flute and piccolo in concert band). I was lucky to be able to travel across North America to compete in various festivals. My first time stepping into a professional studio was with our school concert band at Disneyland's Anaheim Heritage Festival. I was 15. We rehearsed and recorded an excerpt from a Disney film score. I still remember listening back to it and thinking, "Wow, people get to do this for a living." Also: "This sounds like a Disney movie!"

When I was 17, I applied for a student loan, moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia, and escaped the dysfunctional environment at home, which caused me a lot of stress and pain growing up. My absentee dad had finally left my family and there was a lot of tension and stress, as well as my mom's compounding mental and physical health issues. I was also tired of being told I couldn't become a singer or an artist. For fun, I auditioned for a lead in a university production of  Rocky Horror Show and, that fall, debuted as "Janet Weiss". It changed my world. I am forever grateful to the UBC Musical Theatre Troupe for that opportunity to shine.

 

From then on, I knew I wanted to perform for the rest of my life, to weave my part into a bigger tapestry. The truth is, I didn't grow up with a role model who looked like me, who could sing, dance, do gymnastics, play basketball, skateboard, play guitar, or do anything I thought was cool. I did those things anyway, and I continue to try new things, despite the lack of role models in mainstream media. And I hoped my sister could find a Chinese Canadian role model as she grew older. Someday, I want my future children to look around and see well-rounded, intelligent, outspoken, confident girls and gender diverse people who look like them on TV and in movies. People who've been marginalized with unique stories to tell, passion in their hearts, and fire underneath their footsteps.

I've lived in Vancouver, on unceded xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) lands, since moving out here on my own. I still dedicate my life to performing, nurturing community, and sharing stories whenever an opportunity arises. Now I am developing Open Ethnicity dramedy series (IMDbInstagram, Twitter).

I love this rainy seaside city, and continue to do everything I can to make it inclusive and safe for everyone to live/thrive in.

"I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass."

Maya Angelou

Hello, world! I'm a writer, director, actor, and singer (AKA Sad China), but I also create and perform in other mediums as well. I'm a creative consultant for artists. I help artists write/direct/produce their screenplays, coach actors for self-tapes and auditions, help singers find their unique voice in songwriting, collaborate on social media strategies for personal and professional branding, and more.

 

I trained with three choirs, hold a BA in psychology and English literature, and continue to train with various acting coaches.

 

I wrote, directed, and produced the music video for healing anthem "Ocean Girl", an original song I wrote in 2017, working with a cast and crew of women of colour and queer folks. Watch skater girls cruise the seawall and dance in the sunshine to heal, set to an early 2000s vibe. View the daytime teaser below, featuring a remix by Holly BB (Los Angeles).

I wrote the screenplay for Adewolf's "Dynamite" music video, and wrote/directed/produced my sophomore music video "It's Okay". I'm the creator, showrunner, and lead of Open Ethnicity, a dramedy about women and people of colour in the arts, set against the backdrop of "Hollywood North" (Vancouver's film and TV industry). Think Broad City meets GIRLS

and Frances Ha (2012).

My short film "Miracles" (2020) screened at Reel Youth Film Festival and was published in Bloom's digital zine. My written and mixed media work has been featured in SAD Magazine, Contrast Collective, Creep Magazine, the Ubyssey, and the Garden Statuary.

For more information, hit me up.

©2020 by Sunny Chen.

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