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APA Spotlight

Gina Hiraizumi, Actress/Singer

Gina Hiraizumi is one of the hardest working people in Hollywood. I’ve been a big fan of her from afar but recently we were both invited to Japan for a conference and I found out that not only is she a super talented actor/singer, but also one of the most down to earth and funny people I know.

Gina has been in countless television shows, sung the national anthem all around the country, and is currently working on her first music album.

I sat down with Gina for a few moments and asked her 8Questions:

Tell us a little about yourself… Who are you? Where are you from? What do you do?

I work as an actress, and launching my secondary career as a singer. I grew up in Torrance, CA but split my childhood years and summers in Japan and Hawaii. We were well traveled since we were little. That is, me and my 2 sisters.

You’re a double threat, an actor and a singer, how did you get into both and which do you love more?

In high school, I was focused mainly on basketball. I guess growing up as a Yonsei (a fourth generation Japanese American) in Torrance meant your life revolved around the FOR leagues and all the out of town tournaments. Well, that tomboy stage slowly shifted gears when I joined Pep Squad Songs, and then the performer in me emerged. I became involved in theatre, acting classes, and there it began. Singing was something I’ve always loved—but my first professional training started when I got into Juilliard in New York in ’05. Love both equally the same.

What is your happiest/proudest moment as a performer/actor?

Probably doing meaningful films that represents who I am—as a Japanese American and my history, such as Day of Independence directed by Chris Tashima, and Only the Brave which I was opposite Jason Scott Lee. And, having my parents, grandparents there at the premiere to see such films, and they being so touched by it. Also, singing for 50,000 people at Staples Center for a NBA game without an ounce of stage fright is also one of my proudest ones.

What is your most embarrassing moment as a performer/actor?

I suppose, when you have those days when things are not particularly going well…“just one of those days”—and you may say things you don’t mean. I have snapped at one of the production assistants on set of something I was working on, and I didn’t mean it toward her. I was just having the worst day ever, and it came at the wrong time. I went out of my way to apologize later, but I felt really small.

I noticed that you travel around the country singing the national anthem at various events. What is the hardest part about singing the national anthem in front of a huge crowd?

The way I see it is—if there’s something hard about it, you shouldn’t be doing it! The way performers train, and practice—repetition after repetition, it just comes second nature. It’s what performers live, eat, breathe for—to ultimately be on that stage singing. But if I had to pick “one” hard thing, I guess it’s finding that line of being nice, yet professional at the same time prior to the performance. You don’t have time to lend to the chitter-chatter. There’s a mental preparation that goes into it, and I have to zone out, including breathing & visualization exercises—all taught when I was at Juilliard. You can’t expect others to understand all the time, but that’s when you have to say “Ok, no offense but don’t talk to me now. We can chat after the show.”

If you could read the diary of one person you don’t know personally, whose would it be? (Besides mine, of course.)

Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes—I listen to their sermons everyday, and I am a strong believer in the Lord. I find them incredibly fascinating and I’d love to see how they deal with stuff outside of the church setting. As a Christian woman, there are so many challenges to be faced in Hollywood, and if I met them, I’d have a list of questions ready for them.

What advice do you have for young Asian American actors and singers?

I get asked this all the time, and I never know how to answer. I suppose if you’re willing to dedicate your life to the craft of acting, and truly do it because you love to act, not because of “Hollywood” and fame, then dive right in. Otherwise, you’re due for a rude awakening. This business is not a joke. Very hard core, very cut throat. It’s not for the weak minded at all—financially, mentally, emotionally. I have put in nearly 10 years of myself into this, and finally am I seeing consistency now. But I always say, you know what’s in your heart—so listen and follow it.

What are you working on now?

In the studio full time, working on my record under Grammy-winning producers, Hitclub and was offered my own show, under a new network, which should launch in February. I am under an endorsement, as the face of Kileauea Fire, which is in the Hawaiian Airlines’ Hana Hou Magazine. Just looking forward to a lot more projects, and have been getting in on some good roles for next TV season.

* This article was originally published on on January 26, 2011.

© 2011 Koji Steven Sakai

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About this series

"APA Spotlight" is a regular interview series on by Koji Steven Sakai interviewing Asian American community leaders from around the country.
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