Elle Estanol 「Spotlight on Ethan Le Phong」

Posted on October 03, 2012
Photo credit: Nareth Chuon

Our first spotlight for October’s LGBT History Month is my twinsie, Ethan Le Phong. I interviewed the Broadway triple threat on his life as a GLAM (good-looking Asian man), coming out story, and experience as an out actor in the industry. We need more role models like him in both the gay and Asian communities. Continue living the dream, Phong, I’ll see you at auditions!

Ethan has made quite the illustrious career for himself performing in 「The King & I」, 「Thoroughly Modern Millie」, and 「South Pacific」 with the London West End Theatre as well as the Hollywood Bowl’s 「Les Misérables」 and 「Rent」. He also starred in the 2007 musical-comedy film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical 「Naked Boys Singing!」 Ethan also just retired his role as Pepper in the second North American national tour of the Broadway musical 「Mamma Mia!」

We both believe visibility is an extremely powerful tool in regards to inspiring and encouraging the younger generations to pursue their dreams. As Mahatma Gandhi eloquent stated, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.” Neither of us growing up had very many, if any, gay or Asian roll models to look up to so it was and continues to be very important to follow that teaching.

What was your experience with coming out of the closet?
Among my friends, it was pretty easy. Rumors were circulating by my sophomore year of college and I wasn’t too stressed about it. I can’t say that for my boyfriend at the time. I kind of wanted it to happen because I went to a private Baptist college — oh, the scandal! My siblings were pretty much just waiting for me to say something and when I did they just said, “DUH!” Now with my parents, I waited until I was 27 to tell them. I was so nervous that I couldn’t tell them in person so I wrote them a letter. Once they read it, they called to tell me that they loved me. My dad laughed and my mom cried and they still love me today; although I’m sure they are still waiting for a grandchild from me.

How have you dealt with being a minority in the entertainment industry?

In the theatre world, I haven’t really faced any discrimination. I think I try to audition with the utmost respect [for] my characters and never let my sexuality get involved or be part of the decision. As for television and film, my first movie was a gay musical review and my first television gig I was a gay student who was called a ladyboy — it was a comedy. Who knows what my next role will be.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self to help him get through those awkward years?

Stand up for your beliefs and respect who you are and always follow your dreams because those who care will stand with you and those who don’t, well, let them eat chicken.