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Actress Lauren Tom In The Spotlight
Young students get some inspiring direction from one of the stars of one of TV's biggest shows
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  HIGHLAND PARK native Lauren Tom has come a long way since, at 17, she first dabbled in show business as a dancer in A Chorus Line, a performance that prompted her to study acting. 
   That decision has helped her climb the Hollywood ladder and become one of the industry’s most respected entertainers, carving out a 30-year career that has highlighted her multiple skills on Broadway, television and movies. Currently, she is one of the lead characters in the Disney Channel’s No. 1 series Andi Mack, where Tom stars as a Chinese-American grandmother who is the family’s matriarch.
​   Recently, the former co-star of “Facts of Life,” “The Middle” and “Grey’s Anatomy” returned to Chicago to motivate nearly 400 students in association with the U.S. Asia Institute’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, a period of recognition to pay tribute to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success. Her message to the students? “It’s OK to be who you are, and you’re not alone,” she said. “At the end of the day, what people want is to connect and belong.”
   It didn’t take long for the Obie Award-winning actress to prove that she belonged in Hollywood, and her résumé has included films such as The Joy Luck ClubBad SantaWhen A Man Loves A Woman and Mr. Jones, with TV roles from "The Newsroom" to "Supernatural" to "Pretty Little Liars." But perhaps her most notable TV role has been a brief stint as
​Ross’ (David Schwimmer) girlfriend on “Friends.” During seven episodes on the show, Tom was kind of a lightning rod for fans of the show, some who didn’t like the fact that she had taken Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) place in Ross’ heart. “Fans still get angry about that,” she says. “There was a live audience [during filming of the show], and they would boo me when I came on because they really wanted Ross to be with Rachel.”
   Not to be discouraged, Tom moved on and exhibited even more of her talents, using her voice in popular animated series such as "Futurama," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill," "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness," "Pound Puppies," "Teacher’s Pet," "Batman Beyond" and "Mulan 2." 
   Now, it’s all about Andi Mack, the much talked-about series, where Andi, played by 13-year-old Peyton Elizabeth Lee, was abandoned by her teenaged mother. Enter Lauren Tom as Celia Mack, Andi’s grandmother who made her believe that she and Andi’s grandfather were her parents––and her real mom was her sister.
   There will be more to this continuing story when Andi Mack returns to the Disney Channel on Mondays in June.
Photography courtesy of Disney Channel