You know Brenda Song from the hit Disney series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and their spin-off, The Suite Life On Deck. She plays the lovable, crazy and always silly character London Tipton, the hotel heiress with too much money, too many ideas that never seemed to work out and a personality that makes her impossible to dislike. Her character was perfectly clueless and sweet, and people fell in love with the actress in this role. It wasn’t her first; she’d already been cast in a commercial for Little Caesar’s Pizza, several other commercials and a few role in made for television movies, including a few on the Disney Channel, but this was her first breakout role as an actress, and a successful one on the Disney Channel, at that.
Born March 28, 1988, the actress is a California native. The actress was born in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento. Her mother was adopted and her father was from the Xiong clan. However, the family decided to come to the United States before Song was born and change their last name to Song to better fit into the American lifestyle. Her mother was a homemaker and her father a teacher, and Song only lived with both her parents for a while. They did not divorce when she was a child, but her mother moved her to Los Angeles when she was only 6 because she wanted to become an actress and her mother wanted to support her decision. The rest of her family came to Los Angeles within the next two years. She began her career when she was shopping in San Francisco and was spotted by a modeling agent who thought she’d make a great model. She was only five at the time. It was this discovery that precipitated her family’s decision to move her to Los Angeles to pursue fame.
Brenda Song’s Career
At six, she was cast in a pizza commercial. A Barbie commercial was next. A short film by Elizabeth Sung was next, and then it was a series of appearances on television shows and even some other comedies and children’s shows on famous networks. In 2000, she was cast in a Disney Channel original movie, “The Ultimate Christmas Present,” which won her an award. She later had a guest appearance on The Bernie Mac Show, which won her another award for best actress. She starred in another movie, Like Mike, alongside Bow Wow that did really well in theaters, as well. It wasn’t until 2002, however, that her career really began to take off when Song signed a contract with the Disney Channel to appear in a movie called Get A Clue, which led to more Disney Channel spin-off appearances on shows such as That’s So Raven, One on One and Phil of the Future. It was in 2005 she finally began her role as London Tipton and became a household name in America.
The role was meant as a spoof of Paris Hilton, and her name in the show was originally supposed to be Paris, but ultimately Disney decided to call her London and make her the heiress of a hotel fortune. Her agent secured the position on the show on her behalf, and she wasn’t even asked to audition for it. To make matters even better for Song, she appeared on set for the first day of filming to see her friend, Ashley Tisdale, was also a part of the show. On March 18, 2005 the show premiered on the Disney Channel with more than 4 million viewers. This made it – at the time – of the biggest debuts for any show on the network. It was also named the highest-rated program for children from 6 to 11 in 2007 and it was second highest-rated for kids from age 9 to 14. Song’s role was often talked about in the media as one of the best. Critics loved her portrayal of London Tipton and often wrote that she was the star to watch and the one to tune in to see.
It was in 2006 that the actress finally had her starring role as the main character in a film, which was a Disney film called Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior. The movie was supposed to be about a boy homecoming warrior, but once the network realized that Song was trained in Taekwondo and was good at it, she was given the title role and the entire plot was twisted and changed so that a female could play the role.
It was 2008 when the Suite Life spin-off went live and was watched by 5.7 million viewers and became the number one rated show in Canada. It was the most watched show for kids and the second most watched show for teens only a year later. Additionally, the second season of the spin-off made it possible for the cast of the Suite Life series to be the longest-running cast of any Disney channel series in history. The typical length of time for any given Disney channel is four years or so, and this one was more than four years and 138 episodes in. Additionally, Song’s character became the longest-running female character on the Disney channel at that point in time.
Brenda Song as a Person
She’s done much more than star as a teenager on the Disney Channel, but it’s here that most people know her most. When she was on set for the spin-off of the Suite Life, she was the oldest and most seasoned actress on set. She took over the role as caregiver for the younger actors and actresses, particularly the actress by the name of Debby Ryan (who later starred on the Disney Channel as Jessie in her own show). The younger actors describe Song as someone who is calm and professional and relaxed, and makes it possible for them to stop being so nervous when they are on set.
She doesn’t have much free time because her acting schedule is so hectic, but when Song does have some time to unwind, she likes to do the same things as the rest of us. She enjoys reading and she loves to cook and bake. She has two younger brothers and she’s very close to her family. She’s been known to stay primarily out of the spotlight in Hollywood because she prefers quiet nights at home with her parents and younger brothers over nights out at clubs or with her friends.
She met Danielle Panabaker on the set of Stuck in the Suburbs. Panabaker discussed the fact that she’d taken some college courses in psychology and thought that Song would enjoy the same, so she went ahead and enrolled in those classes at UC Berkeley. She loves the subject and has since enrolled in several more psychology courses. She says of the classes, “It works hand-in-hand with my acting. It teaches you why people do certain things, and it helps me get into character,” she said of her classes and studies. Of course, her father is a teacher so a love of education and an understanding of the importance of education is something she grew up with, so it only makes sense she would want to enroll in college to further her education.
“It’s a personal endeavor for me. Education is the one thing that no one can take away from you. It’s what you learn, and what you take from it,” she said of her college career. It’s a bright outlook for a girl who was only 20 at the time, and it’s something she’s carried with her in the 7 years since she made that particular statement.
Brenda Song’s Culture
Even though she’s American, born and raised in the great state of California, Song knows what it’s like to feel like an outcast. She may be as American as anyone else, but she is half Hmong and half Thai, and many people ostracize her and assume she’s not American. From the time she was a child she embraced her parents’ cultures and her own heritage. She learned to speak Hmong since that’s all her father speaks when they are home, and she does it with her California accent. Song understands that it’s difficult to grow up looking different in a country where you’re expected to look a certain way to make it in a certain industry.
“Being an actress is difficult. Sometimes they won’t look at you because you don’t have blue eyes and blonde hair, and it’s 10 times harder to get through the door,” she says of the difficulties she faces in getting roles as an actress. However, she’s not one to blame her heritage on the fact that she’s not always cast in the roles she wants.
“Sometimes they’re just not looking for an Asian actress. That was difficult when I was younger, but it’s all a part of the job. At the end of the day, it makes you a better person. You can think of yourself as an Asian American actress. It’s not about what you look like, it’s about what you do…and who you are as a person,” she says with understanding that’s wise beyond her years. Despite the fact that the actress has been passed over for her fair share of roles, she does not feel she’s been discriminated against in her career. She feels that each role she did not get was just not a role that was made for her.
The 27-year-old actress believes she is living her dream each day. She’s pursued an education, she’s acting in shows, movies and films she loves, and she’s remained close to her family.
Brenda Song as a Role Model
If there is one thing that Song has accomplished that many young actresses have not accomplished, it’s the fact that she’s been in the spotlight for more than half her life, from the time she was a small child, and she’s never been in trouble. She’s managed to continue acting, working hard, and going to school while remaining close to her family and not getting in trouble. In fact, she was recently in an article by Time Magazine that stated she’s only one of three young actresses from Disney her age that have not been in trouble with the law, involved in controversy or involved in the party scene – Hilary Duff and Raven Symone are the other controversy-less actresses that got their start on Disney.
“Besides Hollywood Grand-Openings and award shows, I try to stay away from parties. It’s so easy to be swept away from that whole scene because it’s expected of you. I’ve never drank or smoked in my entire life, but I’ve seen 15-year-old drinking and something and I just think that’s gross,” she said of her desire to stay out of the spotlight and out of trouble.
For that reason, many people look to her as a role model. It’s the reputation she’s created for herself, and it’s one that works for her. She doesn’t think of herself as a role model, but the idea doesn’t bother Song. “Oh goodness, I hope I can set a good example. If I can do it, anyone can. I’m living my dream every single day,” she’s said in the past.
When she’s not acting, she does like to give back to the community. She was a spokesperson for Disney’s Friends for Change, and she also participates in a number of other environmental campaigns that help the environment.
Brenda Song and Romance
The actress might not like to be in the spotlight much, but that doesn’t stop her from becoming romantically involved with men she admires. Since she became a famous actress, she’s been in three high-profile relationships. She’s been romantically linked to rapper Flo-Rida, singer Joe Jonas of The Jonas Brothers and she was engaged to Miley Cyrus’ brother, Trace. The couple announced their engagement in October 2011 and then announced their breakup in June 2012. She’s never been married, doesn’t have any children and has not been involved in any scandal other than some failed relationships – which happens to everyone.
All in all, Brenda Song is one of the very few young Hollywood celebrities that children have to look up to. She’s been chasing her dreams since childhood and making them a reality almost as long. She’s managed to do this while still keeping her cool and remaining close to her family and her friends.
(Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)