I’m a periodontal and dental implant surgeon (Stephy Steph) in private practice with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (Bobby). We run a YouTube channel called Between Two Teeth that highlights the balance of life, adventure and patient care. When we got the call to host the American Dental Association’s SmileCon, both of us were ecstatic and frankly surprised!
It wasn’t too long after the news that we also found out we would be interviewing one of the biggest modern-day stars to represent the Asian American community: Ms. Constance Wu.
Constance is the real deal. She has starred in major motion pictures such as “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Hustlers.” She has also starred in the groundbreaking ABC sitcom “Fresh Off the Boat.” Constance experienced backlash from fans and critics after posting a negative tweet towards the sixth season renewal of “Fresh Off the Boat.”
In her book, “Making a Scene,” Constance described an onslaught of negative remarks regarding her tweet and specifically related the piling-on of the broader social media network after the Asian American community started the negative backlash. In the aftermath, Constance sank to a low point, typified by the condemning messages of an Asian actress on social media. At that point, Constance contemplated suicide and was saved by a friend one night from a balcony ledge in her apartment.
(Enter Bobby and Stephy Steph in scene.) As a woman who has struggled with isolation and judgment, I felt connected immediately to Constance. As a health care professional, we experience plenty of negativity from co-workers, peers and patients. I immediately wanted to absorb the wisdom that Constance had gleaned through her experiences. The ADA was happy to provide copies of her book, and Bobby and I got to work learning as much about her as we could. This included listening to interviews on podcasts and late-night shows, as well as interacting with questions from her team to best prepare us for our interview in front of thousands of ADA member dentists.
In Constance’s book, she talks about “making a scene” and the impact of “girl,” one of the first roles she ever played. She talks about how growing up, she was taught never to “make a scene” or have “big feelings.” Oftentimes, theater was the only place she could be commended for having emotion. After reading Constance’s book, I realized the unique challenges women face, in that sometimes you have to have big emotions to be seen. Although Constance has been victimized by her emotions at times (referring to her tweet and the backlash that ensued, including a slew of mental health challenges), she continues to evolve (referencing the lessons in her book) in utilizing her emotions — controlling them to her advantage. I’m in awe of Constance, and meeting her in person was the highlight of my SmileCon experience — to be honest, it was the highlight of my year!
On stage, she gave Bobby and me huge hugs and encouraged us to ask her anything. She wants to connect with others and share her experiences so that they may help anyone struggling. I was in awe as she opened up about young women thinking it was “their fault” for men’s unwanted advances, and then the applause that followed from the men and women in the audience — I could feel change happening in that moment. Constance has impacted my life in more ways than one. I’m encouraged to “make a scene” in life — have big emotions and look beyond the surface of another human being.
Constance has shown our ADA member dentists and me the value of community, coupled with internal affirmations and not relying solely on the opinions of others for your self-worth. Bobby and I recently interviewed ADA President-Elect Brett Kessler, D.D.S., who leans into big emotions as a way to work through the various challenges in life.
I’ve been humbled by the dentists who are Asian American describing the significance that Constance has had on the Asian American community. So many are deeply appreciative of the ADA for highlighting the Asian American community via Constance. She is truly a remarkable individual who has been through the trials of Hollywood and the pressure of representing an entire culture. One of her goals is to talk about racial stereotypes and destigmatize getting help early.
The ADA’s Council on Dental Practice and Dental Team Wellness Advisory Committee continue the conversation of provider well-being. Part of this change is to remove barriers for a provider to seek mental health services and may include removing stigmatizing questions from licensure applications. The ADA hosted its first Health and Well-Being Summit this year and will continue to prioritize the mental health of dentists by collaborating with wellness stakeholders across dentistry and medicine to advance the work started at the summit. To learn more about the ADA’s wellness-related efforts and resources, visit ADA.org/Wellness.