When Yulree Chun stepped off Starline’s tour bus on Sunday, she didn’t expect herself to be in the center of attention at Hollywood’s biggest night — The Oscars. She and her husband, Patrick Tio, who recently returned from their honeymoon, were just planning on enjoying a nice day walking around Hollywood before they were asked by Starline “employees” to try out their new tour for free.
Chun and the other unexpecting tourists were told they would be viewing a special Oscars fashion exhibit but found themselves in front of the Dolby Theater among Hollywood’s elite.
While Chun and Tio were mingling with the celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Ryan Gosling, host Jimmy Kimmel called on Chun and asked for her name. Chun told him, “My name’s Yulree. Rhymes with jewelry.” This followed an exchange that would cause a bit of controversy on Twitter. Chun remained cool as she was too starstruck to think anything of it.
We got to chat with Yulree Chun about the event and how she’s now happy that everyone is able to pronounce her name correctly.
— The Nerds of Color (@TheNerdsofColor) February 27, 2017
Laura: Everyone wants to know… Was this planned?
Yulree: By the Jimmy Kimmel team? Yes! By me and Patrick? No way, we had no idea that our day would turn out like it did.
How did this all happen for you? What made you decide to take a Starline Tour bus?
We were in Hollywood to have lunch with a friend. After lunch, Patrick and I walked around the area. As we were walking around the Pantages theater area, we got approached by some Starline Tour employees, asking us if we’d be interested in taking a new tour they were trying out. They explained to us that this tour would take us around Hollywood and then end at a special exhibit at the Oscars, where we would be able to see old gowns and trophies. The rest of our day was open, and being the spontaneous couple that we are, we said, “Sure, why not?” Little did we know…
What was your initial reaction?
I had an out-of-body experience. My body completely froze, and I had trouble computing what was happening. Where was I? What was happening? Who are these people? Patrick had to grab my hand and gently pull me into the room. If he hadn’t been there to assist, I think I may have kept standing there in that same spot for who knows how long.
With Kimmel going on about names, how did you feel about his joke about your name?
In the moment that he commented about my and Patrick’s names, everything was such a blur and things happened so quickly, I had no idea what he or I had said. It took me a while to regain composure and remember what had unfolded. I also watched the recorded clip to make sure that my memories aligned with what really happened.
In retrospect, is there anything you’d like to comment about the name situation, including ‘Patrick: Now, that’s a name.”
Well, if you watch the clip, Jimmy Kimmel says to me, “That’s quite a name,” and to Patrick, “Now, that’s a name.” I initially took it as Jimmy saying my name was awesome and that Patrick’s name is boring, that it’s just a name. But as I kept receiving comments from friends and strangers about how I felt about Jimmy making fun of my name, I started getting confused. Should I be offended? Was it malicious? Or was it just a really bad joke? Even then, does it reveal some deep-rooted cultural preferences? I then concluded that whether or not Jimmy Kimmel’s comment was racist or not, he or anyone else did not have control over how I felt or thought about it. So how do I feel? I am grateful that we have a community of friends and strangers who agree with me that cultural and ethnic names should not be discounted, but respected. However, I am also apprehensive about the people who easily make character judgments and angrily react with equally if not more offensive words. My final takeaway is this: let this be a reminder that we should all be cognizant of our words, but also understand that words can be interpreted in many different ways.
Which celebrity were you most excited to see?
I was hoping I would see Aziz Ansari — not only am I a big fan of his work, but I also wanted to ask him if he remembered me and Patrick (whole other backstory). Maybe people would expect me to say Nicole Kidman or Ryan Gosling, but I think I was most excited to see Dev Patel and Kate McKinnon. I don’t know what it is — maybe it’s because they seem more relatable? Yes, I think that’s it. I have a deeper emotional connection with them. Kate McKinnon… she’s made me laugh so much, she has brought so much more joy into my life than a lot of the other people in that room.
I saw a photo of you and Dev Patel. What did you guys talk about?
I thanked him for representing Asians so well in Hollywood.
How was it hugging Meryl? Does she smell like sweet cotton candy and happiness?
She smelled sophisticated, warm and rich. Haha. Everyone in that room smelled wonderful!
How was the Dolby Theater experience? Did you get to stay after your meeting of celebrities?
Strangely, the experience felt long and short at the same time. But in actuality, it was quite short. We stayed near the building to get interviewed by the Jimmy Kimmel camera crew. The producers revealed themselves (they were undercover Starline Tour employees) and shared with us what had just happened. We were given swag bags and were bussed back to the Starline Tours office.
Fan question: They wanted to know if you ever got name-snarked, or just with comedians who made the same joke over decades? Also, if you ever wished for a western name?
Actually, even though people have a hard time pronouncing my name, my whole life I’ve only received compliments about it. How pretty and unique it is, and how they wish they had a unique name, too. Oftentimes, my name would be a conversation starter, as it would get people to inquire further. They would ask questions like, “Have you met anyone with the same name,” or “Is there an ethnic background to it?” I actually like that my name gets people to ask and to want to know more about me and my heritage. I encourage it. Because I am proud of my name and where it originated, and I wouldn’t want any other name! If anyone has ever made fun of my name, I don’t remember. If they did, and did it in a malicious way, it reflects more on what type of person they are. And me? I just let it glide off me like water.
Thank you, Yulree.