Emily in Paris Star Ashley Park Reflects On Surviving Cancer as a Teen

Emily in Paris star Ashley Park got personal about how having cancer in high school has shaped who she is today. Read on to hear her story.

Ashley Park is talking about something she doesn't often talk about: her battle with cancer.

The Broadway star gave us wanderlust when she played the ever-up-beat BFF, Mindy, in Netflix's heavily dissected show Emily in Paris. But what her Francophile fans didn't see onscreen is that Ashley has been on another journey in her personal life, after she was diagnosed with leukemia at age 15.

"Many times people bring up my cancer experience," she told Cosmopolitan on Friday, Oct. 23. "I totally don't mind talking about it. I think it's very important to talk about, but I also appreciate when I'm not asked to talk about the experience, or about how it's informed how I've lived my life."

She explained that one of her biggest fears about cancer is allowing the illness to forever define her career or identity.

Ashley said, "I never wanted to be just the Asian girl, just the ‘whatever' girl, and then I got to 16 and was the bald girl and the sick girl."

The high schooler simply looked forward to having long luscious hair, while wanting to ignore any harmful side-effects of her chemotherapy treatment.

"I didn't want to know that I might be infertile or that my heart might stop working or any of that stuff because once you say it, you're thinking about it," Ashley added. "Even though my body beat the disease, if I let it change anything, it's won."

It's shaped her into an empathic person, as the 29-year-old believes that "when you've been through a really hard time you don't want somebody else to go through it." 

Theater has been one way of helping her heal. She told Playbill in 2016, "Everything is taken away, and that is the most human thing that you can ever go through… I remember people, right after I was done being sick, said, ‘You should go to therapy,' [but] my therapy is theater."

The actress and singer, who played Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls on Broadway, went on to talk about another life changing experience: her dreamy life on the set of Emily in Paris and the friendships she forged with her co-stars.

In fact, her connection with on-screen bestie Lily Collins (AKA Emily) was so immediate that cast members thought they were long-time pals. 

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Ashley gushed, "We met at this part of our lives where we were ready to become the versions of ourselves we were always wanting to be." She explained that they had both watched romantic comedies growing up and thought, "That will be me."

Ashley also keeps in touch with co-star Lucas Bravo, who portrayed the heartthrob slash chef Gabriel. "He's this white Frenchman who's grown up in Europe, with a completely different experience from mine," said Ashley, who Cosmo noted is Korean-American and from Michigan. 

She continued, "But I've never met someone else who has the exact same core as me, who relates to people the same way and has the same perspective. We're both very positive."

The Grammy nominee then revealed how one of the funniest lines of the show came to be. In Gabriel's restaurant, Mindy proclaimed about the cook, "I'd bon appetit him!" And apparently she thought of that one-liner in the spur of the moment. Ashley and Lily broke character and broke out into laughter, which also made it into the final scene.

Next up for Ash is the Peacock show Girls5Eva, which will see her reunite with Mean Girls producer Tina Fey.

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