Brenda Song Biography
Brenda Song born in March 27, 1988 is an American actress, film producer, and model. Song started in show business as a child fashion model. Her early television work included roles in the shows Fudge (1995) and 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd (1999). After many commercials and television roles in the late 1990s, Song won a Young Artist Award for her performance in The Ultimate Christmas Present (2000). She made her screen debut in Santa with Muscles (1996) and appeared in 20th Century Fox's Like Mike (2002). Her movies on the Disney Channel include Get a Clue (2002) and Stuck in the Suburbs (2004).
In 2005, Song began playing the lead female role of London Tipton in the Disney series The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and The Suite Life on Deck. The character was noted as Disney's longest continuous female character in October 2009. Song gained more fame after she played the title role in the Disney Channel Original Movie, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, which received over 5.7 million viewers on the night of its premiere. In 2006, Song was named the "Queen of Disney" by Cosmogirl Magazine.
In the late 2000s, she starred in the coming-of-age drama Special Delivery, Walt Disney Pictures' College Road Trip, and The Social Network (2010). She was the celebrity endorser of Disney Cruise Lines in 2010. Song has been described as one of "young Hollywood’s most promising rising stars" and a "young phenomenon on the rise" by media outlets. TV Guide listed her in its 2008 list of "13 Hottest Young Stars to Watch".
Brenda 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. Her paternal grandparents were from the Xiong clan but changed their last name to Song when the family immigrated to the United States. 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.
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, she now holds a black belt in taekwondo. Song was named an All-American Scholar in the ninth grade. She was homeschooled and earned a high school diploma at age 16, then took courses at a community college and online from the University of California, Berkeley with a major in psychology and a minor in business.
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. She began acting at the age of five or six in a Little Caesars commercial, and then a Barbie commercial. Her first film role 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. The short film is about a waitress/dancer named Fong who remembers her loving brother and their bittersweet childhood in Hong Kong. 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. She appeared in another short film directed by Elizabeth Sung called The White Fox.
Song appeared in two episodes of the television program Thunder Alley and was a season regular in the children's television series, Fudge where she portrayed Jenny. 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 appeared in the Nickelodeon television series, 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd where she played Sariffa Chung in thirteen episodes. After 100 Deeds, she had a number of small parts in television shows 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. Her role in the 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie The Ultimate Christmas Present won her the award for "Best Performance in a TV Movie Comedy, Supporting Young Actress". The film centers two teenage girls, Allison Thompson (Hallee Hirsh) and Samantha Kwan (Song) who find a weather machine and make it snow in Los Angeles. Her 2002 appearance on The Bernie Mac Show led to a nomination for "Best Performance in a TV Comedy Series, Guest Starring Young Actress". In the same year, she was in the 20th Century Fox family film Like Mike, which grossed over $60 million. The film starred rapper Bow Wow as an orphan who can suddenly play NBA-level basketball. Song portrayed the character Reg Stevens, a thirteen-year old orphan. Although the film was criticized for its "frightening myths about adoption", it was successful enough to spawn a sequel. Song did not participate in the sequel.
In 2002, Song signed a contract with Disney and appeared in the Disney Channel movie, Get a Clue. After 2002, Song continued to make guest appearances in American situation comedies such as That's So Raven and One on One. She had a recurring role as Tia in the Disney Channel series Phil of the Future, appearing in seven episodes of the series in 2004 and 2005.
In late 2004, Song starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie Stuck in the Suburbs, portraying Natasha Kwon-Schwartz. The television premiere received 3.7 million viewers. The film is about two teenage girls living in suburbia who accidentally exchange cell phones with a famous teen musician. 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." That year, Song posed for the cover of Teen People with her Get a Clue co-star Lindsay Lohan.
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
In 2005, Song received the role of the spoiled heiress London Tipton in the Disney Channel Original Series, 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). She got the role without an audition, and was surprised to find her friend Ashley Tisdale working in the show. Song says "London is my fantasy person, I wish I could be her. I wish I had her closet."
The series is about the residents and workers at the fictional Tipton Hotel in Boston and mainly centers the trouble-making twins Zack and Cody Martin (Dylan and Cole Sprouse) and London Tipton (Song). The series premiered on the Disney Channel on March 18, 2005, receiving four million viewers, making it the most successful premiere for the Disney Channel in 2005.In 2007, the series 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. Song's participation in the series led to her becoming highly popular among children between the ages of seven and ten. In 2006, Song was featured in Teen People's "Young Hollywood" issue which described her role in the Suite Life as her breakout role.
Song's performance in the Suite Life series was often praised by critics. An April 2009 andPOP.com article stated that as London Tipton, "Song is the One to Steal the Spotlight" on the Disney Channel. They said: "if you ever watched an episode of ‘The Suite Life with Zack & Cody’ you should realize that show is watchable because of one character: London Tipton. Brenda plays the ditzy spoiled hotel heiress London (yup, an allusion to Paris Hilton) and, if I could say so myself, she does quite an excellent job doing so." While commenting on Song, MSN's 2009 cover story on the series stated, "Song is one of the main reasons why the "Suite Life" franchise remains one of the most successful and highly rated series in the Disney stable." In a 2009 People magazine article, the character was described as a "melodramatic high-seas diva."
The series eventually earned a 2007 Young Artist Award for "Best Family Television Series (comedy)", Emmy nominations for "Outstanding Children's Program" (twice) and "Outstanding Choreography", and three Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Award nominations for "Favorite TV show" in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2006, Song earned an Asian Excellence Award nomination for "Outstanding Newcomer" for her part in the series.
After her debut on the Suite Life series, Song became a regular on the Disney Channel and had a voice role in Disney Channel's American Dragon: Jake Long series. In 2006, Song had a voice-over role in Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen. 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, which had over 5.7 million viewers at its premiere. 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."Song had to break a brick with her hand in a screen test before landing the title role.
According to The New York Times, the film became a "star vehicle" for Song. 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. Song felt she could relate to the message since she knew little about her own people before making the film. She said: "I really identified with Wendy because I don’t want to not know where I came from". To promote the film, she posed for the cover of Seventeen, Teen People, Teen, Seventeen Malaysia and several other magazines, and traveled to Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico and Costa Rica. A Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior sequel, starring Song and Koyamada, was also announced in the end of 2007.
The film received positive reviews from critics. 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." The site also praised the film stating, "Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior is an enjoyable little telefilm, rife with killer action sequences (for a DCOM), and a great showcase of talent in both acting and martial for Brenda Song. Aside from a few totally cliched characters and situations, it's worth 91 minutes of your time." Allmovie described Song as a "charming and appealing personality, even when playing a shallow airhead".
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. 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.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."
Theatrical films and Suite Life spin-off
In 2008, Song appeared 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. The family film centers on college-bound teen Melanie Porter (Symoné), who goes on a road trip to different colleges with her father, while her college-bound friends Nancy Carter (Song) and Katie (Margo Harshman) surprise Melanie on her road trip. The film grossed $45 million in the United States and $6 million outside the United States. Although it earned a Teen Choice Award nomination for "choice movie comedy", 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."
After being a captain for three years in the Disney Channel Games, she was featured in Studio DC: Almost Live with other Disney stars. She also had guest voice roles in Phineas & Ferb and The Emperor's New School. She starred in the Lifetime Movie Network telefilm Special Delivery, 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". The Australian publication, Urban CineFilm gave Song a positive review for her performance in the film.
Song reprised her role as London Tipton in the 2008 Suite Life spin-off/sequel, The Suite Life on Deck. The show's premiere on the Disney Channel drew 5.7 million viewers, and it became the most-watched series premiere on Canada's Family Channel. The show became the most-watched scripted series among children aged 6 to 11 and among tweens in 2008. In 2009, the show was the most-watched scripted series among children and the second most-watched scripted series among pre-teens. Disney ordered a second season for the series which aired in August 2009. In May 2009, Disney Channel's executive vice president Gary Marsh issued a press release where he said: "with this second-season extension, the cast of ‘The Suite Life’ makes Disney Channel history by becoming the longest running continuous characters on our air - 138 half-hour episodes. We are thrilled for them, and for the brilliant, inspired production team that made this extraordinary run possible." Song's character, London Tipton, is Disney Channel's longest continuous female character.
Song starred as Paige in a December 2008 animated TV special for NBC, "Macy's Presents Little Spirit: Christmas in New York". 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). The television special received five million viewers. In late 2008, Song made a special appearance at the grand opening of the RTA HealthLine in Cleveland.
In early 2009, Song started filming Boogie Town with Marques Houston and Vanessa Simmons. The film is compared to West Side Story; it is set in a future New York City where dancing battles occur in "Boogie Town". In the film Micah (Houston) falls in love with Natalie (Song), the sister of the head of a rival dance group, and the two become a modern Romeo and Juliet. The film was shot in Downtown Los Angeles. It will be distributed by Vivendi Entertainment and was scheduled to be released in the summer of 2009 but was postponed and was expected to be released theatrically in 2010.
In October 2009, Song joined the main cast of Columbia Pictures' The Social Network alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake. The film was about the founders of the popular social networking site, Facebook, and Song portrayed Eduardo Saverin's unbalanced girlfriend. Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay adapted from the novel The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, while David Fincher directed the film which began filming in October 2009. The film won the "Hollywood Ensemble Award" from the Hollywood Awards and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Another theatrical film, Little Sister, was announced at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival in May 2010. The film is an independent film distributed by Goalpost Film and Goalpost Productions.
Song has been represented by the International Creative Management and Richard Konigsberg Management.
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 and Top Compilation Albums chart.
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. The songs are credited to Mark Jackson Productions, which is associated with Warner Bros. Records.
In 2006, Song was hostess for the "A World Of Change" annual charity fashion show to benefit Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services. 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. In 2008, Song was part of the "Power of Youth carnival", a benefit for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. In 2006 and 2007, she participated in the YMCA Healthy Kids Day in Chicago. 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. The series is produced in ten countries in association with Disney Channel. 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. 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.
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. 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." 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."
In 2006, Song was named the "Queen of Disney" by Cosmogirl Magazine due to her major contributions on the Disney Channel. Song ranked ninth in Netscape's 2007 "Top 10 Pretty Petites in Entertainment", was voted one of AOL's "Top 20 Tween (and Teen) TV Stars", and was ranked #3 on Maxim's Asian Hot 100 of 2008 list. Song was also ranked #45 in AIM's "Top 100 Celebs Under 25" list. TV Guide listed her in its 2008 list of "13 Hottest Young Stars to Watch". In 2009, Song was featured in Celebuzz's "Rising Stars" list, and was described as one of "young Hollywood’s most promising rising stars". In addition in 2009, she was named one of the most influential Asian Americans under the age of 30 by the blog Angry Asian Man.
Song was subsequently a spokesperson for Disney's environmental campaign, Disney's Friends for Change. She was featured in several commercials for the campaign on the Disney Channel. The charity's aim was to explain how children can help preserve the Earth and invited 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. In 2010, she was the celebrity endorser of the Walt Disney Company's Disney Cruise Line.
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." Song filed a libel suit against the Vibe Media Inc. seeking at least $100,000 in damages. 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."
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.
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."
In January 2009, a tentative settlement was reached, although the terms were still being finalized. In March 2009, Radar reported Song won the lawsuit.