Kelly Hu was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Kelly's ethnic
background is a mixture of Chinese, Hawaiian, and English.
Kelly has had a lifelong interest in singing and dancing. Hu has also been interested in martial arts since her early childhood, when her older brother would arrange for her to fight neighborhood boys. Hu's cousin was a successful model in Japan and Hu decided to follow her example. To gain publicity, she entered the Miss Teen USA contest in 1985. Kelly has mentioned in interviews that her mother had told her America was not ready for an Asian as such a prominent role model. However, Kelly became the first Asian American to win the title. Ironically enough, she found out after winning that she was prohibited from appearing in non-contest related activities for the year of her reign.
Kelly worked in Japan and Italy, the later in which she became well-known as the star of a series of ads for Philadelphia brand cream cheese. Kelly moved to Los Angeles and began her acting career in 1987 with a guest starring role on the sitcom Growing Pains. Hu followed this with appearances on series such as Night Court, Tour of Duty, 21 Jump Street, and Melrose Place and her first movie role in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Hu also won the title of Miss Hawaii USA in 1993 and was a finalist at the 1993 Miss USA pageant held in Wichita, Kansas.
In 1995, Kelly played an undercover police officer in the movie No Way Back. While the movie was not a major success it opened a new career direction for Hu in action adventure roles. Kelly Hu was then cast as Dr. Rae Chang on Sunset Beach for six months in 1997. Afterwards, Kelly was cast as police officers Michelle Chan in the television series Nash Bridges (1997-1998) and Pei Pei "Grace" Chen on Martial Law (1998-2000). Her subsequent movie appearances include The Scorpion King (2002), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003) and X2 (2003). Kelly Huprovided voice talents for the popular video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords as Visas Marr, the Sith woman who joins the Exile's party.
Kelly has been twice featured in Maxim magazine, once in May 2002 and again in May 2005.
Kelly, a member of CAUSE USA, an organization which encourages Asian-Americans to participate in the democratic process, was instrumental in creating the innovative PSA The Least Likely. This clip purports to be a promo for a typical fantasy-adventure movie, only to reveal its message at the end. It aired on MTV and other networks with appeal to young people and Asian-Americans.
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