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You may recognize Ella Jay Basco as Harley Quinn's accomplice, Cassandra Cain, in Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). What you might not know about the 14-year-old is that she's also a singer-songwriter and activist for the AAPI Community. Ella also hailed from a family of actors — her father is Derek Basco and her uncle is Dante Basco.
Ella just released her new single, "GOLD," featuring Filipino-American rapper Ruby Ibarra to kick off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The song is a self-love anthem for the AAPI community, with lyrics like "When you learn to love your true reflection, then you’ll always be rich with a gold complexion."
From directors, photographers, stylists, makeup artists and more, the music video was put together by members of the AAPI community.
This isn't the first time Ella's released music. In 2020, she dropped an EP called Middle School featuring "The Ballad of Cassandra Cain (Bird of Prey)," a song inspired by the film that she dedicated to Margot Robbie.
Ella has embraced using her platform for good — during the presidential election last year, she wrote a song about the tumultuous events of 2020, including the last presidential term. She's a member of Chloe Bennett and Brad Jenkin’s organization, RUN AAPI, and participated in their election season campaign called #TheNew alongside Lana Condor, Taika Waititi and other celebs to spotlight the diversity of the culture, personalities and force of the AAPI community.
She is constantly doing her part in highlighting the work of AAPI designers on red carpets, including Jason Wu, Phillip Lim and Opening Ceremony. At the Birds Of Prey world premiere in London, Ella donned a custom gown that looked like a hybrid of a traditional Korean hanbok and a customary Filipino dress known as a baro’t saya.
Read on to see how Ella continuously embraces her Asian heritage and makes a mark on the AAPI community through her fashion, music and activism.
17: Just last year, you starred as Cassandra Cain in Birds of Prey. This film did something that most have yet to do — it portrayed a young Asian without depending on false stereotypes. How does it feel knowing that this role not only opened doors for you but other AAPI actors in the industry?
Ella Jay Basco: I'm super honored that I was able to play Cassandra Cain. You know, she was one of the first Asian-American characters portrayed in the DC universe. So I was super happy to take on that role and it definitely did open up a lot of opportunities for me now with my music and with more different opportunities. So yeah, I feel like Birds Of Prey itself was such an amazing project along with all of the amazing people that really helped further my career.
17: What inspired you to write "GOLD" and what do you hope listeners take away from it?
EJB: Well, we wanted to write an anthem that really empowered ethnic people and the Asian-American community. Gold is really about taking pride and ownership in our beautiful brown golden skin. I write all of my music with my brother, so we were writing and we wanted to bring along Ruby [Ibarra], which we wanted to collab for a while. Ultimately, I really hope that people feel empowered when watching or listening to this and just really feel a good sense of pride in their identity.
17: You’ve worn pieces by Asian designers like Jason Wu and Phillip Lim for red carpets and events, including that gorgeous hanbok for the Birds of Prey premiere in London. This is one of your many efforts in bringing the AAPI community to the forefront. What are your favorite ways to highlight Asian culture and talent?
EJB: Throughout the whole Birds Of Prey press tour, I actually wore, for the majority of it, Asian-American-designed clothing. With the hanbok, it was cool because some people actually thought that the over-thing was a barong, which is like a traditional Filipino shirt. I think throughout the course of my career, I really want to make sure that I incorporate my community. I even was part of the RUN AAPI organization with Chloe Bennett, which advocates for not only Asian-Americans but for that whole community in general, to be able to vote. I really want to make sure that I include my community and my culture in my platform and make sure that our voices are heard.
17: In 2020, you wrote “VOTE,” a song about the tumultuous and crazy events that went on last year. You’re not old enough to vote yet. What advice do you have for people your age who want to be involved?
EJB: I really think that we are definitely the generation to really help with the future. My advice is to just educate yourselves and talk to your community. I'm a part of an association at my school, which is actually advocating for Asian-Americans. We were talking about what's been going on with the Asian-American community and how much hate we've been receiving. We kind of talked about that with the school and we're having events and stuff. So really just making sure that, you know, you're volunteering and doing your part.
Parts of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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