Last fall, actress Jamie Chung and her husband announced they were the proud parents of twin boys. Fans were equally delighted and surprised, as Chung hadn't shared any sort of pregnancy news prior to their arrival.
Now Chung, most recognizable from her role in the reboot of Dexter, is opening up about her decision to use a surrogate to carry her twins, and how her career played a huge role in her choice. In an interview with Today Parents, she gets candid about pregnancy discrimination in Hollywood.
“I was terrified of becoming pregnant. I was terrified of putting my life on hold for two-plus years. In my industry, it feels like you’re easily forgotten if you don’t work within the next month of your last job. Things are so quickly paced in what we do,” Chung said. “So it’s a compromise that we made together as a couple.”
The show biz industry is hardly the only industry where pregnant people have to worry about being judged at work. Think of all the time off you have to take simply for all the regular doctor's office visits alone—I know I felt judged every time I had to duck out for an appointment when I was working full-time in the corporate advertising world. You know, the appointments that help keep the health and life of the pregnant parent and the baby in check. I remember thinking, "God forbid I miss a meeting that could have been an email to make sure my baby's heart is still beating."
And that's just one facet of being pregnant at work. Outside of that, the reality of pregnancy is that it can be a life-threatening condition for a lot of people. It's a very serious medical condition that takes a toll on your body unlike most other things. There are many jobs that are far from pregnancy-friendly. It's not for everybody, even people who want to be parents to their own biological child.
Chung also talked about the stigma surrounding surrogacy—one reason why she kept the fact that she was expecting twins private and didn't post about it on social media.
“I think there’s a little bit of shame. It’s still not a very common thing and we weren’t ready for judgment,” she explained. “We really just did it to protect ourselves. We announced things when we were ready to."
Pregnancy discrimination in Hollywood
Another reality, particularly for women in Hollywood, is that while there are ways to shoot around pregnancy and whatnot, pregnancy discrimination is a very real thing.
Back in the 90s, a very well-publicized instance of maternity discrimination in the entertainment industry was the case of Tylo v. Spelling Entertainment Group. In 1996, soap opera star Hunter Tylo filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against her employer, the Spelling Entertainment Group, for pregnancy discrimination. She maintained she was fired from the show solely because of her pregnancy.
The Spelling Entertainment Group's lawyers argued Tylo breached her contract, which stipulated she could be let go for any “material change in her appearance.” They also claimed the part she was cast to play in the hit soap, Melrose Place, couldn't be altered to accommodate her pregnancy.
Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978 to protect child-bearing women from losing their jobs, but there have been many cases (especially in Hollywood) where this law fell short from doing just that. The aforementioned case is just one of them.
Related: My journey to using a surrogate
As for Chung, she already anticipates the criticism she's going to receive for opening up about her choice to have children via surrogate. And while everyone is entitled to their own opinion, her story is, at the very least, an eye-opening reminder that even wealthy, successful women with the means to choose surrogacy aren't free from workplace discrimination.
Think about what that means for disenfranchised mothers and parents who regularly endure notably worse at work and don't have the privilege or means to combat it.
“People probably think, 'Oh, she's so vain. She didn't want to get pregnant,' and it's much more complicated than that. For me, personally, and I will leave it at this, it’s like, I worked my a*s off my entire life to get where I am,” Chung said. “I don’t want to lose opportunities. I don’t want to be resentful.”