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Brenda Song
Brenda Song
Song at the The Cheetah Girls: One World premiere, August 2008
Background information
Birth name Brenda Song[1]
Born March 27, 1988 (1988-03-27) (age 29

)
Carmichael, California, U.S.

Genre(s) Music: Pop, Teen pop
Acting: Comedy, Drama
Occupation(s) Actress, Singer, Spokesperson, model
Years active 1994–present (actress)
2005–present (singer)
Label(s) Walt Disney Records (2005–present)
Associated acts Disney Channel Circle of Stars
Dylan and Cole Sprouse
Ashley Tisdale
Raven-Symoné
Mark Jackson
Website http://www.brendasongsite.com/

Brenda Song (born March 27, 1988) is an American actress, model, voice actor, host, and singer. Song started in show business as a child fashion model. After many commercials and television roles during the late 1990s, Song won a Young Artist Award for her work in The Ultimate Christmas Present (2000).

She went on to appear in feature films aimed at teenagers, including Like Mike (2002) and College Road Trip (2008). Her movies on the Disney Channel include Get a Clue (2002) and Stuck in the Suburbs (2004).

In 2005, Song was selected for a role in the Emmy-nominated Disney series, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, in which she played hotel heiress London Tipton. Song earned an Asian Excellence Award nomination for her part in the series. Song continues portraying the character in The Suite Life on Deck. The Suite Life series is one of Disney Channel's most successful and top rated series.

Her fame increased after she played the title role in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.[2][3] Song connected emotionally with the lead character struggling to keep her heritage. The film was one of the top rated Disney Channel Original Movies with over 5.7 million viewers on the night of its premiere,[4] and Song will reprise her role as Wendy Wu in the film's sequel. TV Guide listed her in its 2008 "13 Hottest Young Stars to Watch".[5] In December 2008, Song was cast as the female lead in the 2009 science fiction feature film, Boogie Town in which she portrays Natalie. The film's release date has been postponed due to Song's schedule.[6]

Early life

Song was born in Carmichael, California, a suburb of Sacramento, to a Hmong father and a Thai mother who had been adopted by a Hmong family.[1] Her paternal grandparents were from the Xiong clan but changed their last name to Song when the family immigrated to the United States.[1] Her parents were born in Asia and met as adults in Sacramento. Her father works as a schoolteacher and her mother is a homemaker. She has two younger brothers, Timmy and Nathan.[7][8]

When she was six years old, Song moved with her mother to Los Angeles to support her acting career; the rest of the family followed two years later. As a young girl, Song wanted to do ballet, while her younger brother wanted to take taekwondo. She said, "my mom only wanted to take us to one place" so they settled on taekwondo. Although Song cried all the way through her first class,[9] she now holds a black belt in taekwondo. Song was named an All-American Scholar in ninth grade. She was homeschooled and earned a high school diploma at age 16,[1][7] then took courses at a community college and online from the University of California, Berkeley[7] with a major in psychology[1] and a minor in business.[10]

Acting

Early work

Brenda Song started in show business as a child fashion model in San Francisco after being spotted in a shopping mall by an agent from a modeling school.[11] She began acting at age five or six in a Little Caesars commercial,[7][12] and then a Barbie commercial.[7] She had a small role in two episodes of the television program Thunder Alley. She also had a small role on Fudge, where she played Jenny. She was in the 1995 Requiem, an AFI student short film by actress Elizabeth Sung. "She came in confident [at the auditions]. She was very focused, and it was very obvious that she loved what she was doing," said Sung.[9] The seven-year-old Song played a young version of "Fong", who is portrayed as an adult by Tamlyn Tomita. The film won a CINE Golden Eagle award.[13]

Following this, she was in another short film directed by Elizabeth Sung called The White Fox.[1] Her theatrical film debut was in Santa with Muscles, a 1996 independent film starring professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. After a small role in Leave It to Beaver (1997), she acted in television, appearing in Nickelodeon's 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd (1999) as Sariffa Chung. After this she had a number of small parts in series such as 7th Heaven, Judging Amy, ER, Once and Again and Bette, where she met Ashley Tisdale.

Two of Song's early roles led to recognition in the Young Artist Awards. She starred in the 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie The Ultimate Christmas Present, which won her the award for "Best Performance in a TV Movie Comedy, Supporting Young Actress".[14] Her 2002 appearance on The Bernie Mac Show led to a nomination for "Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series, Guest Starring Young Actress".[15] In the same year, she was in the family film Like Mike, which grossed over $50 million.[16] The film stars rapper Bow Wow as an orphan who can suddenly play NBA-level basketball. Song plays the character Reg Stevens. Although the film was criticized for its "frightening myths about adoption",[17] it was successful enough to spawn a sequel, although Song was not in it.

In 2002, Song signed a contract with Disney[9] and appeared in Get a Clue. After 2002, Song continued to make guest appearances in Disney Channel shows such as That's So Raven, and play minor roles in many American sitcoms. She played a recurring role as Tia in the Disney Channel's Phil of the Future, appearing in seven episodes in 2004 and 2005. In late 2004, Song co-starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Stuck in the Suburbs, portraying Natasha Kwon-Schwartz.[18] The TV premiere received 3.7 million viewers.[19] She said later: "When Stuck came out it was crazy 'cause we went to Six Flags and we were there and so many kids recognized us from Stuck in the Suburbs, I'm like wow that movie must have done really well."[20] That year, Song posed for the cover of Teen People with Get a Clue co-star Lindsay Lohan.

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

In 2005, Song got the role of the spoiled heiress London Tipton in Disney Channel's The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. The role was named "Paris" in an early script and is an allusion to "Paris Hilton" (London spoofing Paris, and Tipton is the name of the hotel her father owns in the show).[7][21][22] She got the role without an audition,[23] and was surprised to find her friend Ashley Tisdale working in the show.[18] Song says "London is my fantasy person, I wish I could be her. I wish I had her closet."[7]

The show premiered on the Disney Channel on March 18, 2005, receiving 4 million viewers, making it the most successful premiere for the Disney Channel in 2005.[24] In 2007, the show was the top rated television program among children aged 6 to 11 and was the second top rated television program for children aged 9 to 14.[25] Song's participation in the show led to her becoming highly popular among children between the ages of seven and ten.[26]

The series eventually earned a 2007 Young Artist Award for "Best Family Television Series (comedy)",[27] Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Children's Program" (twice)[28] and "Outstanding Choreography",[29] and three Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award nominations for "Favorite TV show" in 2007, 2008 and 2009.[30] In 2006, Song earned an Asian Excellence Award nomination for "Outstanding Newcomer" for her part in the series.[31]

After she started on the Suite Life series, Song became a regular on the Disney Channel and had a voice role in Disney's American Dragon: Jake Long series. In 2006, Song had a voice-over role in Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen, which also featured the voices of fellow Disney stars Dylan and Cole Sprouse and Emily Osment. She later starred in an online series called London Tipton's Yay Me! based on the episode "Tiptonline" on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.

Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior

Song's first starring role as the title character was in the 2006 Disney Channel Original Movie Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior,[32] which had over 5.7 million viewers at its premiere.[11] At first, Wendy Wu was planned to be a comedy, but the directors of the film were having trouble finding a suitable actor with both the comedic presence and taekwondo ability to play the main character, originally named Kenny Lu. Lydia Cook, one of the films's directors said, "Brenda was originally brought in to play the [supporting] monk’s role. We started training with her in martial arts, and that’s when we realized that she should be Kenny Lu. They quickly switched things around and offered Brenda the lead in the movie. She had the perfect combination of wit and martial arts."[9]

According to The New York Times, the film became a "star vehicle" for Song.[7] The film was about an average, popular Chinese-American teenager whose life is turned upside down by a visit from a young Chinese monk (Shin Koyamada). The monk claims she is the reincarnation of a powerful female warrior and the only person who can prevent an ancient evil spirit from destroying the world. In a second story line, Wendy and most of her family struggle with keeping their culture and heritage.[33] Song felt she could relate to the message since she knew little about her own people before making the film.[7] She said: "I really identified with Wendy because I don’t want to not know where I came from".[34] To promote the film, she posed for the cover of Seventeen, Teen People, Teen, Seventeen Malaysia and several other magazines,[35] and traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, and Costa Rica.[36]

UltimateDisney.com called the role "a strong departure from her flaky London Tipton character in The Suite Life of Zack & Cody", adding that Song "shows in this movie that she no longer has to restrict herself to playing the dumb one."[32] Allmovie described Song as a "charming and appealing personality, even when playing a shallow airhead".[37]

While commending Disney for the strong Asian cast, a BellaOnline review noted that that it is rare to see a female martial arts star with a black belt.[38] Song did most of her own stunt work for the film with guidance from Koichi Sakamoto, executive producer for the Power Rangers series. Song was inspired to endure the stunt training by the way her mother dealt with breast cancer in 2005.[11] Disney Channel executive vice president Gary Marsh called the film "Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" and said of Song: "She's incredibly talented, she's smart. She adds diversity to our network, and she's a real kid."[33]

Theatrical films and Suite Life spin-off

BrendaSongMay09

Song at the premiere for Up in May 2009.

Following her role in Wendy Wu, Song had a small role in the Walt Disney Pictures film College Road Trip with Raven-Symoné and Martin Lawrence. In its opening weekend in March 2008, the film grossed $13.6 million, ranking #2 at the box office.[39] The film grossed $45 million in the United States and $6 million outside the United States.[40] Although it earned a Teen Choice Award nomination for "choice movie comedy",[41] the acting was panned and the film mainly received negative reviews. A Daily Mail review said the film was "one of those churn-'em-out Disney comedies in which every performer seems to be competing to give the most annoying performance in cinematic history."[42]

After being a captain for three years in the Disney Channel Games, she was featured in Studio DC: Almost Live with other Disney stars. Song had a cameo in the Disney Channel Original Movie Camp Rock credited as "Girl near lake".[43] She also had minor voice roles in Phineas & Ferb and The Emperor's New School. She starred in the Lifetime Movie Network telefilm Special Delivery,[44] a film about bonded courier, Maxine (Lisa Edelstein), who is forced to take care of a 14-year old troubled teen, Alice (Song). The Daily Record called it a "likeable comedy".[45]

She returned as London Tipton in a 2008 Suite Life spin-off called The Suite Life on Deck.[46] The show's premiere on the Disney Channel drew 5.7 million viewers,[47] and it became the most-watched series premiere on Canada's Family channel.[48] The show became 2008's highest-rated scripted series among children aged 6 to 11 and among tweens.[49] Disney ordered a second season for the series.[50]

A Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior sequel, starring Song and Koyamada, started filming in 2008.[51] Song starred as Paige in a December 2008 animated TV special for NBC, "Macy's Presents Little Spirit: Christmas in New York".[52] The animated TV special is about a friendly New York cab driver (Danny DeVito) who tells a magical story to two sisters (Song and Rachel Shier).[53] The TV special received 5 million viewers.[54] In late 2008, Song made a special appearance at the grand opening of the RTA HealthLine in Cleveland.[55]

Song started filming Boogie Town with Marques Houston and Vanessa Simmons. The film is a modern day West Side Story and is set in a futuristic New York City, where dancing battles have been strictly prohibited. The film is about Micah (Houston) who falls in love with Natalie (Song) and the two become a modern Romeo and Juliet. The film is distributed by Vivendi Entertainment and was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009 but the film's shooting and release date have been postponed due to Song's schedule.[56][6] The film was shot in Downtown Los Angeles.

Song has been represented by the International Creative Management and Richard Konigsberg Management.[44]

Music

Template:Also Song was part of the Disney Channel Circle of Stars, a group of performers from several different Disney Channel television series. She took part in the recording and music video of a version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes". The recording was included on both the special edition Cinderella DVD and on the DisneyMania 4 CD. The album CD was released in April 2005 under the Walt Disney Records label and peaked at #15 on the Billboard 200, and #2 on the Top Kids Audio chart[57] and Top Compilation Albums chart.[58]

In 2004, Song appeared in Jesse McCartney's music video for "Good Life". Film clips from Stuck in the Suburbs, which included Song, appeared in music videos for Anneliese van der Pol's song "Over It" and Taran Killam's "More Than Me", "On Top of the World" and "Make a Wish". In 2007, Song filmed a music video for "Open Up Your Eyes" which was featured in her movie, Holidaze. She recorded a song for Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior called "I'm Not That Girl", which aired on Radio Disney and was on the Wendy Wu DVD. In the Suite Life High School Musical themed episode, Song performed "Bop To The Top" and "Really Great". "Really Great" became the theme song for the online series, London Tipton's Yay Me!. She also sang "Bling Is My Favourite Thing" on another Suite Life episode.

Ian Scott wrote and produced demo songs for her.[59] The songs are credited to Mark Jackson Productions, which is associated with Warner Bros. Records.

Public image

In 2006, Song was hostess for the "A World Of Change" annual charity fashion show to benefit Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services.[60] She supported the 10th Annual L.A. Cancer Challenge, and was part of the Disney Channel Games which supported various charities including Make-a-Wish Foundation and UNICEF.[61] In 2008, Song was part of the "Power of Youth carnival", a benefit for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.[62] In 2006 and 2007, she participated in the YMCA Healthy Kids Day in Chicago.[63] She began hosting a Disney special daily segment called Pass the Plate in 2007, in which she helps children and their families learn more about nutrition and healthy food.[64] The series is produced in ten countries in association with Disney Channel.[65] Song returned for the second season of the miniseries.

In 2006, a series of articles by Scholastic included facts about Song and mathematical guidance from her. The first article in the series was "Maths Spotlight on... Brenda Song".

Song also appeared alongside Paula Abdul and several other celebrities in a "Our Time to Vote" commercial which aimed to encourage American citizens to vote during the 2008 presidential election.[66] In 2009, Song participated in the "Diet Pepsi Easter Holiday House" event. She decorated an egg at the event which was sold in an online auction benefiting Feeding America.[67]

According to Time, Song is one of the three Disney starlets who have not been involved in the Hollywood party girl scene, along with Hilary Duff and Raven-Symoné. Asiance Magazine calls her a "great role model" for young girls.[68] She said in 2005: "Besides Hollywood grand-openings and award shows, I try to stay away from the parties. It’s so easy to be swept away from that whole scene because it’s expected of you. I’ve never drank or smoked in my entire life, but I’ve seen 15-year-olds drinking and smoking and I just think that’s gross."[1] On being a young role model to kids, Song said: "Oh goodness, I hope I can set a good example. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m living my dream every single day."[9]

In 2006, Song was named the "Queen of Disney" by Cosmogirl Magazine due to her major contributions on the Disney Channel.[69] Song ranked ninth in Netscape's 2007 "Top 10 Pretty Petites in Entertainment",[70] was voted one of AOL's "Top 20 Tween (and Teen) TV Stars",[71] and was ranked #3 on Maxim's Asian Hot 100 of 2008 list.[72] Song was also ranked #45 in AIM's "Top 100 Celebs Under 25" list.[73] TV Guide listed her in its 2008 list of "13 Hottest Young Stars to Watch".[5] In 2009, Song was featured in Celebuzz's "Rising Stars" list,[74] and has been described as one of "young Hollywood’s most promising rising stars".[75]

In June 2009, Song underwent LASIK eye surgery.[76] Song is a spokesperson for Disney's environmental campaign, Disney's Friends for Change.[77] Song was featured in several commercials for the campaign on the Disney Channel. The charity's aim is to explain how children can help preserve the Earth and invites them to go to the Friends for Change website to register and pledge, offering them the chance to help choose how Disney will invest $1 million in environmental programs.[78]

Lawsuit

Brenda-song-escord-ad

The original image from Song's website, which was used in the LA Weekly escort ad.

On April 18, 2008, a picture of Song was used in an ad for an escort agency in the back of that week's LA Weekly. Disney lawyers were not pleased with the use of Song's copyrighted image for advertising adult activities. A rep from Disney told TMZ: "This is an unauthorized use of Brenda Song's image and her personal attorney has issued a cease and desist to the advertiser."[79] Song filed a libel suit against the Vibe Media Inc. seeking at least $100,000 in damages.[80] Song said: "As a role model to millions of young people, I feel I have to take a stand against this company in regard to its exploitation of my image."[81]

Song's attorney said the photo used in the advertisement was taken when Song was 16 years old. Song's attorney later found that an individual, and not Vibe Media, was responsible for the use of the photo. He told Back Stage:

I'm not sure if they were trying to just find a picture of a pretty girl or an Asian-looking girl or whether they expected that Brenda would be recognized.... Brenda's demographic is a lot different from what I would suppose the clients of this business are. If you're the sort of person who would use the services of a business like this, it is quite possible that you have never heard of Brenda Song.[82]

Song's attorney said that it may be hard to show how much the misuse of the photo hurt her career, but that a lawsuit was needed. "Brenda's public image is very important to her. Brenda has been careful to not accept roles that would taint her in the way that some other young actors have been."[82]

In January 2009, a tentative settlement was reached, although the terms were still being finalized.[83] In March 2009, Radar reported Song won the lawsuit.[84]

Filmography

Films

Television

Online series

Guest appearances

Awards and nominations

Further reading

References

External links

Commons-logo Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Brenda Song

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