Sunday, March 1, 2009

Guess Who's Asian? (Part 3)

More Asianness where you may not expect it...

Ever since watching the movie Gandhi as a child, I always thought it weird that they would pick a white man to play the Mahatma (although given the film industry's shameful history of blackface and yellowface, perhaps not so weird). Well it turns out Ben Kingsley, one of the history's decorated actors, is actually part Indian. His mother was British, his father a Kenyan-born Muslim of Gujarati descent. Born as Krishna Bhanji, he changed his name early in his career as he feared a foreign name would be an obstacle - and in 1970s Britain, he probably had a point.

Arj Barker is a well-known stand-up comedian, who also features on one of my favourite tv shows, Flight of the Conchords. Born to an Indian father and American mother, his birth name is Arjun Singh.

Valencia winger David Silva is a key member of the Spanish national football team that blitzed all comers at Euro 2008. He's also part Asian on his mother's side; originally I had thought Filipino, but everyone seems to say she's Korean.

Bay Area rapper and Quannum member Lyrics Born (aka Tom Shimura) was born in Tokyo to a Japanese father and Italian mother. His early stage name, Asia Born, reflects his background.

Mutya Buena is a former member of pop/R&B trio Sugababes and solo artist - you may have heard her nifty Lenny Kravitz-sampling "Real Girl" track. Her background is Filipino (the name Mutya comes from the Tagalog language) as well as Spanish and Irish.

Late singer with 70s rock juggernauts Queen, Freddie Mercury has been described as Britain's first Asian rockstar. His real name was Farrokh Bulsara and his background is as complicated as the man himself. He was born on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar to parents from Gujarat, who had moved there as his father worked for the British Colonial Office. His family were Parsi - ethnic Persians who follow the Zoroastrian religion and who had been in India for many generations. Mercury and his family only arrived in England when he was in his teens, fleeing the revolution in Zanzibar.

Actress and all-round hottie Shannyn Sossamon is best known for her performance in movies such as 40 Days and 40 Nights, and A Knight's Tale. Like many people born in Hawaii, her background is diverse - Dutch, English, Irish, German, French, Filipino, and Hawaiian descent.

Want more on this topic? Try "Guess who's Asian?" part 1, part 2 and part 4.


  1. i just remembered someone else: have you included Sean Paul yet?

  2. Thanks Ad, I did in fact mention Sean Paul in the first of the "Guess who's Asian" posts.

  3. err... sorry. i DO generally pay attention though!

  4. well, Arj Barker has probably got an American father instead of an american mother.

    His surname Barker is not Indian but Anglo and unless his mother separated and he took her mother's maiden name, it may not be possible for him to have that name.

  5. Thanks Mr H, I'm not sure that is correct though. In truth I don't actually know which of his parents is Indian.
    Obviously the surname Barker is not Indian, but that's irrelevant because it's not his real name, just an adopted one. I assumed that because his real name is actually Arjun Singh, then it must be his father who is Indian, but assumptions can often be wrong.

    So you may be correct, but not for the reason you say!

  6. I think this is the most surprising post on 'Guess Who's Asian' that you've done... Well researched I'd say... haha... Benkingsley? Wow!