Irene Choi Is Just Beginning

Photographer:  Leslie Alejandro

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro

Some people are born into their life calling. We praise the young musical prodigy that came out of the womb with perfect pitch. We give NBA contracts to the 7-foot 8th grader betting that he’ll have the inherent skill to go with his physique. But this story isn’t about that. It’s not the story of a young tech billionaire who dropped out of Harvard and made a mega-successful app. This story is about someone who found their calling later in life, who tried the 9-5 but wasn’t satisfied with it, someone who got where they are by passion and grit. This story is Irene Choi’s story.

Irene dabbled in theatre class when she was a child, but never seriously, and it certainly wasn’t to pursue professionally. Her main extracurricular activity growing up was the violin. But whether it was by fate, destiny or just chance, Irene found herself walking into an acting class in her last semester of college, right before graduating. “I took what was basically a drama 101 class because I thought it was going to be an easy ‘A’. I was actually the only person who got a ‘B’ and it was really embarrassing.” Although she didn’t get the ‘A’ she was hoping for, she got something she wasn’t expecting; she caught the acting bug. And while she realized she loved acting, she wasn’t in a place where she felt she could pursue it professionally. Instead, she moved to LA with a corporate job offer. But once again life would prove to have different plans for Irene. “I worked in an office and I realized that setting and lifestyle weren’t for me and I quit with nothing in my back pocket. I figured ‘why not pursue acting now, why not try?’

With no formal acting training besides that single college course, Irene dove in head first. “I started from nothing really, I literally googled ‘How to become an actor’ or something.

It said, ‘start with extra work then take some acting classes and ask people how to find an agent.’ With googles advice in hand, Irene went all in. “I went to central casting and I went for extra work. I actually got my SAG card through extra work. I took an acting class and met people in the acting class”

Success didn’t come right away for Irene. She signed with a handful of agents, most of whom are not in the industry anymore. The process to get where she wanted to be was slow going but the Insatiable star was in it for the long haul.

Years removed from those early days starting out, Irene can now reflect on that period of her life and draw out lessons she learned. “One thing that I heard that is always important but was especially important early in my career, was to know your worth and stick up for yourself. It’s easy to think you’re not worth anything and you say to yourself ‘I’m not famous’ or ‘I don’t have a name.’ But you’re still a human being.”

Photographer:  Leslie Alejandro

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro

Irene plays Dixie Sinclair on the hit Netflix show Insatiable. Dixie is the villain you love to hate and who will stop at nothing to win! In actuality Irene is more than pleasant, she has an effervescence about her. But that didn’t stop her from stealing scenes is Dixie Sinclair. “Personally I love playing a villain. It’s kind of funny because people always say that the best acting they do is playing a version of themselves. I would like to think that I’m not as bad as her. She’s a pretty bad person, she says some pretty awful words that I would never say in real life. Maybe that’s why it’s easy for me to play her, she’s so different from me in real life that I can make as many zany choices as I want.”

Initially when the trailer first came out the show took a lot of heat. Critics passed judgment on it for fat-shaming. After its debut, however, the voices have been seemingly silenced. And with an Audience review of 83% “fresh” on, the people have spoken.

“I’ve heard a lot of people take something from the show that they relate to. Whether it’s a weight issue that they’ve dealt with or it’s coming to terms with their sexuality. The characters are all so different and I know every one of them is a caricature, but I think It’s important to realize the characters’ decisions come from a basic degree of human emotion.

When Irene is not acting on screen, you can find her playing with her two adopted cats.

“I was actually really allergic to cats and my neighbor/friend at the time happened to foster these kittens and I would go downstairs and play with them. I would come back with completely red eyes and a completely stuffed nose and with my throat closing up. She was looking for adopters and people just didn’t want to adopt them as a pair. It was just so clear that they were incredibly attached to one another and I couldn’t see them separated. I sent in an application and I was like ‘I’ll adopt them!’

Adopting the kittens would prove to be highly beneficial to Irene. “The happy ending to the story is that I built up a tolerance to cats through this process, which is kind of crazy because I had done ten years of allergy immunotherapy which never worked. It turns out the answer was just owning kittens.” Along with curing her allergies, owning cats put an itch in her to give back. “I’ve been really involved in foster work and fostering kittens as well as volunteering at shelters if I can.”

Photographer:  Leslie Alejandro

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro

As far as acting goes Irene looks up to the icons who came before her but not just for their talent and skill but for their wisdom drive and ingenuity. “Not only is Meryl Streep very magnetic to watch on screen, but she is also consistently giving very sage advice, especially for actors in the industry. I’m always listening to what she is saying. Otherwise, I love people who create their own content. I’m a huge fan of Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling.

“There are times when I’ve thought I would love to create my own content, and then there are times when I think that’s not what I want to do. All I can say is that I know right now at this moment, that is not what I am ready for. Perhaps in the future, that will change.”

Irene jumps off the screen in Insatiable and there is no denying her acting chops! The future is only going to get brighter for the star. Though things weren’t always so sunny. “There was a time a couple of years ago when I basically sort of quit. I didn’t focus on acting at all for a good year. I focused on going to grad school for producing. I think throughout that process, I had basically gotten fed up with the industry, it just wasn’t happening for me and didn’t think it was fun anymore. So I took this mental break from it. I thought, maybe I do want to be in the industry but not as an actor, maybe something more development wise.

Irene’s break from acting didn’t last long. “Taking that break made me realize, ‘no, this is what I love to do. This is what I enjoy.’ I’m jealous of people who organically know what their true passion in life is. I feel like I do more of a trial and error kind of thing. I have to try other things to realize that is not what I want to do. I would say that was a big obstacle, this huge moment of self-doubt. Thinking that I was in a place of failure when objectively I wasn’t really in a place of failure at all. That was just my own perception.”

For many of us, life is a winding path of self-discovery on the way to finding one’s passion. Irene is committed to chasing her own passion and not settling for less, demonstrating the rewards that come along the way. This is just the beginning of her story.

Photographer:  Leslie Alejandro

Photographer: Leslie Alejandro

Talent: Irene Choi x Persona PR
Photographer:  Leslie Alejandro
Hair:  Sara Tintari
Makeup:  Aaron Paul
Styling:  Cassy Dittmer