Glee actress Jenna Ushkowitz writes about her experience as an adopted child in Singapore book

Glee actress Jenna Ushkowitz writes about her experience as an adopted child in Singapore book
(From left) Chris Colfer, Amber Riley and Jenna Ushkowitz.
PHOTO: SingTel

Actress Jenna Ushkowitz, 29, best known for her role in the hit TV series Glee as the feisty teenager Tina Cohen-Chang, is brave enough to admit she is "a little scared" about contacting her birth parents.

She was born in Seoul and adopted by a New York family when she was three months old. She "hadn't had questions" about her biological parents growing up because she felt a strong sense of belonging in her adopted family, she says in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.

She writes about her positive adoption experience in an essay for the children's story book The Adventures Of Squirky The Alien #5: How Do You Get To The Garden Galaxy? by Singapore author Melanie Lee.

Published last month, the penultimate book in a series of six sees an alien named Squirky, who was adopted by a Chinese family, face difficult decisions regarding his birth parents. A section of the book is dedicated to real-life adoption experiences.

Lee, 37, the adoptive mother of a four-year-old boy, had reached out to Ushkowitz last year through the adoption foundation Kindred, which the actress helped to establish in the United States. The foundation's services include helping adoptees reunite with their birth parents.

Lee, a Glee fan, says she approached Ushkowitz because she was a "recognisable name". "And I liked that her story was about going on a search (for her birth parents) only when she was ready."

Ushkowitz writes in her essay: "My parents Judi and Brad always told me that I was their little gift from God and I've always felt that with their unconditional love."

Her father is a transportation sales manager and her mother a housewife who later managed her career when she started performing on Broadway at the age of nine. Her involvement in theatre and TV from young also allowed her to feel part of "another family", she says.

"I decided to share my story because it is so positive and I feel that a lot of adoption stories can be negative, with the adoptees feeling that something was missing."

She was also the executive producer of a heart-warming adoption documentary released last year about identical twins separated at birth who found each other through Facebook.

The film, Twinsters, tells the story of how Ushkowitz's childhood friend Samantha Futerman, also a Korean-American adoptee and actress, was reunited with her twin sister after the latter, Anais Bordier, a French designer raised in Paris, chanced upon a video of Futerman on YouTube.

Besides working on the documentary together, the actresses also co-founded Kindred in 2014. It was then that Ushkowitz found herself thinking about contacting her biological parents.

She says: "It was starting Kindred and having adoptees reach out (regarding their birth parents) that sparked something." She has contacted the agency that facilitated her adoption, but has not yet "filled in the forms" to process the search.

With a full and busy life - she just finished filming for two movies and is working on a podcast - she is unsure what would happen should her biological family enter the picture now.

It may take "a couple of years" before she is emotionally ready to meet her birth parents, she says candidly. "It's not something that I'm ready to do just yet."

The Adventures Of Squirky The Alien #5: How Do You Get To The Garden Galaxy? is priced at $10.70 and available at Books Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores,MPH Bookstores and Books Ahoy.

This article was first published on March 28, 2016.
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