May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month, and we want to celebrate! We’re recognizing famous Asians and Pacific Islanders in recovery.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that Asian Americans have a lower rate of substance use disorder than other ethnic groups in the country. However, a “lower rate” doesn’t mean that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don’t struggle with addiction. 8% of them still do! And when they do, they are often hesitant to seek treatment. The same survey tells us that Asian Americans with substance use disorders were the least likely to have received treatment in the past year. This makes it especially important for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to see representation of others in recovery who have similar backgrounds.
These Asian and Pacific Islander celebrities have all publicly shared about their experiences with alcohol and substance use disorders. We hope their courage and openness encourage others to seek the help they deserve. (Note that some of these celebrities are not American, but all have a cultural impact in the U.S.)
Comedian and actress Margaret Cho struggled with alcohol and opioid addiction for more than 10 years before an intervention in 2016 gave her the push to enter treatment. After a year and a half in rehab, she’s been outspoken about her substance use disorders and the trauma that they were covering. Despite common myths that sobriety isn’t fun, Cho retains her brash, irreverent sense of humor in recovery.
Hong Kong martial artist and actor Jackie Chan is an icon in the U.S. for his stunts, martial arts skills, and comedic performances. What is less well known is that the actor struggled with alcohol use disorder, His drinking may have contributed to anger management issues and mistreatment of his significant others and family. Now sober, Chan is staunchly—perhaps militantly—opposed to substance use.
Model and dancer Cheryl Burke was a dance champion from a young age, and became a celebrity through her 25 seasons on Dancing With the Stars, winning in her first two seasons on the show. Burke has been public about her alcohol use disorder, even sharing in interviews and podcasts when she was struggling in her recovery. She’s been sober since 2018, and her recovery involves 12-step programs.
Model, speaker, and Bling Empire star Kevin Kreider has been in recovery for alcohol use disorder since 2015. He’s open about his journey, talking about his sobriety and 12-step journey on Instagram. He launched SANS by Taejin Beverage Inc, a non-alcoholic beverage company, to help others like him to avoid feeling like they’re missing out at parties.
Hawaiian-born singer, dancer, and actress Nicole Scherzinger is best known as the leading member of the Pussycat Dolls. Depression, social anxiety, and an eating disorder led her to self-medicate with alcohol. She got into recovery in her 30s through therapy and clinical help, and now speaks out to encourage those with anorexia and bulimia to get help.
Actor Steven Yeun has been on the rise since he joined The Walking Dead in 2010. During that time, Yeun used drugs to quiet his mind, a common theme among many of us with substance use disorder. Yeun does not ascribe to any labels of substance use disorder or addiction, but has stopped using drugs.
In the U.S., Maori actor Temuera Morrison is best known for his work on Star Wars as Jango Fett and all of his clones (including Boba Fett). He’s also played the fathers of both Moana and Aquaman. After years of hard drinking and wild partying, Morrison’s attempt at Dry January in 2012 was a wake-up call. In 2013, he became the face of Dry January in New Zealand. His story is not one of rock bottom and then a treatment program, but of moderation and mindful recovery.
By sharing their stories of substance use and recovery, these Asian and Pacific Islander celebrities are bringing inspiration and hope to others.