Fei Ren is an actor who stars in Netflix’s feature film “Polar” (released in January 2019) opposite Katheryn Winnick, Vanessa Hudgens, and Mads Mikkelsen.
Fei was born and raised in Zhengzhou, China. She later moved to Canada, where she has worked internationally as a model and stage director, and has directed multiple plays in the theatre. We asked Fei to share some of the things that has impacted her life — and her answers were golden.
What are some of your “top tools” for life? (In other words, what pieces of advice or tips have helped you through life?)
FR: Growing up, there used to be so much discrimination towards girls. My grandparents on my father’s side were very upset when I was born as a girl. Luckily, my maternal grandparents compensated that discrimination with intense love. My grandma used to tell me all the time, “You are no less, if not better than boys. If boys are good at math, you can be better.” It was instilled in me that especially as a woman, we have to work more to earn the same, so whenever life hasn’t turn out the way I wanted, it has made me tougher and I’ve worked harder.
I had my mom support me as an international student when I came to UBC to study. It was extremely expensive, and considerably mission impossible for her. She worked seven days a week, and for six years before I moved to Canada, she just saved, invested, and worked hard. She never gave up. She was my first example of how nothing is impossible. If you put your will to it, there will be a way.
My modeling agent in Montreal once held my face when I was feeling really down. She told me with so much love and positivity that life is magical. Her belief in me shifted my modeling career in such a positive way, that I learned how to turn cant’s into cans. I remind myself to this day that life is magical, and surround yourself with people who believe in me! My partner is a feminist. He taught me how to love myself unconditionally. He also made me realize my worth is not attached to external conditions. I am who I am, and I love how I can be authentic with him. He pointed out my highly self critical thoughts. I realized self-love changes my life, and you can make your life joyful.
I have a bunch of amazing women and men in my life as friends. They truly love me as a person and they inspire me in so many ways. I keep a tight circle of good people around me. I learned that choosing who you spend your energy with is crucial. If someone is toxic to you, cut them out, and shift the time you spent on those people to those who actually deserve it.
In acting, I learned to grow into my power, embrace it, and be a woman! I learned to deprogram some of the social conditioning that expects women to be a certain way. It’s part of the ongoing process to align with my own truth and grow spiritually, and figure out what I want to be, and what I want and to fight for it. Taking on acting at a relatively late stage was challenging. But I saw a quote– “Be bad until you are good, good until you are great.” It made me accept the process of growing pains and that when you work on things, things will get better. It’s also been rewarding and I’ve learned to follow my passion and really work for it. Then things just start happening for you.
How do you practice self-care while also hustling and following your passion?
FR: I learned to ask for help, seek professional help, and build self care tools and routines to ground me on a daily basis. I am grateful I got burnt out and made mistakes in life. Those moments taught me that I have limits, and I need to care for myself. That includes cutting out toxic people in my life, whether it’s business or personal relationships, and building a supportive team around. I have my closest friends in life, who are very beautiful humans who genuinely love me. I meditate and do yoga, as well as things that bring me joy, such as eating out with friends, and hiking in the summer.
I seek for spiritual and emotional support from professionals; I check in with my psychologist a couple times a year to help me reprogram my way of thinking that doesn’t serve me. I go to acupuncture when I have very traumatic roles and characters. I also have started to celebrate my achievements.
What are some of your top tools for caring for your mental health?
Meditate with calm music
Have a ground of solid beautiful human beings in my life
Seek professional guidance and support from my life coach, psychologist, yoga teacher, and sex coach. I also read self-help books
Do things that bring you joy
Marie Kondo my apartment
Exercise and eat well
Sleep a lot if I need it
If there’s one thing you could tell your past self, what would it be?
FR: Be gentle to yourself. Don’t worry. Trust your instinct. You are beautiful. You are smart. You are strong. You are you. Have some fun! Embrace and own your sexuality. Ask and speak for what you want. Follow your heart. Know you are worth it! I know it’s not one thing, but it all sums up to love and respect yourself for whomever you are in that moment!
What advice would you share with people who don’t know what they want in life and/or their career?
FR: Try new things. If you don’t know what you want now, it’s okay. Just keep exploring and figuring out what you don’t want. Keep asking what brings you joy. Is there a quiet whisper your gut is saying to you? When you were a child, is there something you dreamt of doing? If you wanted to try something, try it.
When I was in university, I didn’t know what I wanted. I was clouded with my parents’ needs and wants for my life. I chose the faculty and major based on their wants, but all my electives were in arts and fine art. I think that shows what I already knew I wanted to explore, but I just thought it was impossible. Life sometimes throws us curve balls, then we have to confront our truth.
After graduation, in the midst of an identity crisis, I was, in a way, forced to confront what would make me feel happy and life worth living for. Now I am continuously working on hearing and trusting my instinct! It’s gonna be a constant work in progress to seek our own truth, I think.
What’s a lesson you learned because of a “failure”?
FR: There are no “mistakes” or “failures,” only lessons. I know it’s easier said than done, but we should constantly remind ourselves. We have to accept there are different stages of mastering something. When you learn, you go through unconscious of incompetents, conscious of incompetents, and conscious of competences, and unconscious of competences. With each stage you can feel like a failure at times, but really, it’s there to inform you what you need to work on to overcome and evolve from this stage. “Failure” also doesn’t really exist, because it’s not definitive if we are looking at the long-term goal. The fear around failure is real, but it doesn’t have to stop us, it can motivate us and keep us grounded. Be willing to fail — and fail on your own terms — so the fear won’t have power over you and when you do your best and overcome that failure, it will feel so good!
What’s one message you think the world needs to hear right now?
FR: Embrace womanly power, and embrace diversity. It makes the whole race and culture strong. It’s like evolution: without the mix of genes, we wouldn’t be able to evolve into such a strong species. Also, we should all practice more meditation and be more connected with each other’s humanity.
What’s your favorite quote/saying?
FR: My current one: “To become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do, that your talent cannot be dismissed.”