When Yulree Tio (nee Chun) hopped on a Starline Hollywood tour bus on Sunday, she didn’t expect that she would find herself in the middle of the Oscars ceremony — and a resulting race controversy.
The Orange County resident and her husband, Patrick Tio, who had just returned from their honeymoon, were just two of several tourists who were the subjects of a carefully planned television bit. The tourists were told that they would be viewing a special Oscars fashion exhibit typically closed off to the public. They found themselves in the front of the Dolby Theater in front of nominees including Nicole Kidman, Ryan Gosling, and Denzel Washington.
Yulree and Patrick were just one of two couples who conversed with Kimmel during the live telecast. This is how their exchange unfolded:
Kimmel (shaking hands): “Hi, how are you? What is your name?”
Yulree: “My name’s Yulree. Rhymes with jewelry.”
Kimmel (in disbelief): What? Your name is Yulree?
Yulree: “It rhymes with jewelry.”
Kimmel (incredulously): “Well, I know it rhymes with jewelry. Wow, that’s some name.”
Kimmel (to Patrick): “What’s your name?”
Patrick: “My name is Patrick.”
Kimmel: “See, that’s some name.”
Cultural blogger Phil Yu, who runs the site Angry Asian Man, accused Kimmel of casual racism. He also singled out Kimmel’s joke about best supporting actor Mahershala Ali’s name as another troubling moment. Other tweeters agreed.
At the time, Yulree didn’t think anything of Kimmel’s comments — she was in a daze. “Everything was such a big blur,” she recalled about meeting the host. “I really wasn’t thinking. I was just reacting and responding.”
She later Instagrammed a selfie of herself, her husband, Ryan Gosling, and Gosling’s sister Mandi.
But after re-watching the footage, seeing the reaction, and giving it more thought, she gained perspective.
“I’m the type of person who likes to look at all different perspectives: whether it be Jimmy Kimmel’s perspective or his team, the audience there, or my friends who are Asian American activists,” she explained. “Whether or not Jimmy Kimmel meant to be offensive, the reaction to what he did say reflects upon how tense our society is right now. How political everything is. I just hope the exposure my name is getting and how ethnic and unique it is, that it’s a positive thing. We should be proud of our unique backgrounds and names.” (Yulree is Korean American.)
“I’m really glad I was able to pronounce my name to millions of viewers because every day people get it wrong,” Yulree added. “I’m glad I was able to start a conversation.”
She also posted a photo of herself in the audience with Dev Patel, writing “Happiness is: Jimmy Kimmel knowing my name, Ryan Gosling’s body close against mine (close your eyes, Patrick), and personally thanking Dev Patel for repping Asians well in Hollywood.”
Happiness is: Jimmy Kimmel knowing my name, Ryan Gosling's body close against mine (close your eyes, patrick) and personally thanking Dev Patel for repping Asians well in Hollywood. Sorry I couldn't get a better picture, Dev! Day 80 of #100daysofhappiness @jimmykimmel @starlinetours #amidreaming #cityofstars