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[HERALD INTERVIEW]Biracial star sheds light on mixed-race kids

Hines Ward, the mixed-race American football star, was Korea's new found hero last year. The American football player, son to an African-American soldier and a Korean mother, captivated Koreans not only because he was the MVP title in the Super Bowl but also because he tried to help mixed-race people in Korea.

Support for multiracial people in Korea is likely to continue as another biracial star is on a visit to the country to meet underprivileged children suffering from invisible discrimination due to their "unique" looks.

Ursula Mayes, Korean-American model and actress, came to Seoul with her mother Lee Mi-heui on Sunday to help support biracial children.

"Because I understand the hardship, I can give ten times more to people who are going through the hardship", said Mayes in an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday at a hotel in Seoul.

"I will do a lot of charity work while I am here for mixed-blood children. I feel so close to them", she said. During her five-day visit, the 26-year-old model plans to join hands with Pearl Buck International to assist mixed-race children and to appear on a number of local TV shows. Mayes also promised to donate part of her future earnings in Korea to charity organizations supporting multiracial kids.

Mayes said she came to understand how cruel it was to be a mixed-race kid in Korea while sharing a bitter experience with her step dad, who is also a Korean American.

"My step dad said although he can't remember how to speak Korean, he still has a clear memory of Korean kids bullying him and throwing stones at him. It touched me a lot because I am also a mixed-blood person", she said.

The biracial model and actress has done something other than just doing charity work.

At a news conference held earlier in the week, Mayes made a successful debut as the next-biracial-star in Korea by showcasing her exotic looks to local reporters.

"Since an opportunity has come my way. I would like to do acting and modeling work here", she said.

Mayes has also made a strong appeal to Koreans by saying she is proud to be a Korean. "I was born here and raised here. I feel so proud of being here because this is my mother's country. I love Korea".

Mayes added that she finds her Korean quality when she cooks.

"When I was a child, I saw my mom cooking, staying in the kitchen for a long time. I think I am following in her footsteps and learning how to cook Korean dishes a lot from her. I feel comfortable doing so", she said.

Experts say that she can possibly make a success here as a multinational entertainer because of changes in social perceptions.

"In the past, mixed-race entertainers were given roles like scoundrels when filming a movie or a TV drama because it was the role that they actually were in the society where they were not accepted as Korean then. Things have changed now. As they began to stand high socially in and out of the country, their roles have changed as well. Biracial actors now are given attractive roles like CEO of a multinational company or an expert on international issues" said Choi Jin-tech, an industry insider.

"The successful cases of Daniel Henney and Dennis Oh'neil demonstrate how Korean society is paying attention to mixed-blood stars. The case of Ursula Mayes will also be successful".

Mayes has appeared in U.S. television shows like "Lost", "CIS" and "24" and is currently on the hit American game show "Deal or No Deal". She was selected as one of People Magazine's "100 Most Beautiful People" last year.

She grew up in Korea until she was six.

She made her debut in entertainment after coming in third in a cover model competition for men's magazine MAXIM.

She is a single mother with a 5-year-old daughter. Mayes' father was a German-American U.S. soldier stationed in Korea in 1970s.

By Cho Chung-un


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