The Untold Truth Of Kelsey Asbille

This article contains references to sexual assault and issues affecting Indigenous women. 

There's something about "Yellowstone" star Kelsey Asbille that draws audiences in and mesmerizes them. From her ethereal beauty and flawless skin (hey, her dad's a dermatologist after all) to the way she heaps praise on her co-stars, Asbille is a one-of-kind thespian and, thanks to her limited social media engagement, remains an enigmatic figure. As such, she is fast becoming one of the most recognized faces on TV. Her impressive IMDb profile showcases her talent and vast experience in the industry, as she continuously lands high-profile roles in well-known projects. The actor, who was born in 1991, has already starred in breakout shows such as "One Tree Hill," "Pair of Kings," "Teen Wolf," and season 4 of "Fargo."

Even though she's an experienced actor, Asbille remains humble and hungry to learn. She's repeatedly gushed about "Yellowstone" co-star Kevin Costner, revealing a lesson that he once taught her and the rest of the cast. In 2021, she told U Interview that he'd reminded the actors, "We're all here in service of the story." She came away with the inspiring notion that every actor, no matter the size of their role, was there in support of one another. "I thought that was really beautiful and something that has kind of stuck in my mind," she stated. 

Her unique outlook, striking looks, and ability to fly under the radar have captivated fans across the globe. Unsurprisingly, the untold truth of Kelsey Asbille reveals that she's as complex and multi-layered as you would expect.

Dispute surrounding Kelsey's cultural heritage

Kelsey Asbille sparked controversy when it appeared there was some ambiguity about her cultural heritage. In 2017, The New York Times reported that the actor has British, Taiwanese, and Eastern Band Cherokee roots. Although she clarified that she wasn't raised in a native community, she nonetheless told the outlet, "This role [in 'Wind River,'] more than any other, it's in my blood." 

Asbille's words sparked outrage after the Eastern Band Cherokee tribe released a statement, declaring, "Kelsey Asbille (Chow) is not now nor has she ever been an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. No documentation was found in our records to support any claim that she descends from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians," per Pechanga. In response, one "Yellowstone" viewer tweeted, "I'm so sick of Hollywood casting non-Indigenous folx to play us. It's erasure."

Despite the Native American tribe refuting her claims, Asbille still has a diverse background. Her dad, Jim Chow, is of Chinese descent, as she confirmed in a LA Teen Festival interview. Meanwhile, she claims to be Cherokee on her mom's side of the family, per The Last Magazine. She subsequently identifies as coming from a mixed raced heritage, which has not always been easy for the actor. "It feels really alienating at times. You have this permanent identity crisis going on in your head," she told Esquire in January. 

She was in 7th grade when the acting bug bit

Kelsey Asbille found her destiny at a young age. While others may struggle to choose a career path, it seems as if opportunity struck at the right time for the "Yellowstone" star. Her acting career started rather organically, as she was a dancer before she decided to give drama a shot. She told Smashing Interviews magazine, "I think what really sealed the deal was my first community theater play, 'Ragtime.' It just really blew my mind ... I was a little 7th grader at that point and I had so much fun." 

It seems that even at that stage she realized that she would need to make some sacrifices for her passion. The star noted, "But it was a long show. I'd leave school to do the show and it would end around midnight. Then I would stay up until 2:00 doing my homework, but I didn't regret it at all." Talk about dedication! 

Luckily, Asbille's hard work paid off and her talent was soon recognized. In fact, it was only a year later that she was tapped for her breakthrough role of Gigi Silveri in "One Tree Hill." As she explained to the outlet, her agent had her put together an audition tape and the casting process flew by from there. "I found out my first day of high school," she told Hammond Sentinel. Per Smashing Interviews Magazine, the next week she was on set and shooting her first episodes.

Kelsey Asbille studied and worked concurrently

Kelsey Asbille wants to realize her full potential. While many actors find it hard to juggle their studies and career in the limelight, the "Yellowstone" star recognizes the importance of furthering one's studies, telling Moves, "I see the value in education ... I think that's what fuels me." In 2017, she revealed her educational aspirations to Town & Country, sharing that she was majoring in Human Rights as a student at Columbia University. Asbille also confirmed that she was still a full-time actor while completing her studies. 

The actor explained that the Ivy League college agreed to let her complete her semesters at her own pace since she already had a full-time job. Asbille was able to take breaks from school if she needed to work and was still able to continue her studies. The "Pair of Kings" star shared that her family often teased that she and her sister, who is eight years her junior, would probably graduate together. Asbille noted, "Being a college student and a working actress isn't the simplest thing I've ever done, but I've managed to find a way to make both work for me — whether or not my sister gets her cap and gown first."

A year later, aged 27, Asbille spoke to Marie Claire and revealed some other additional challenges to her studies. "I'm the old kid in class in a room full of 18-year-olds," she groaned.

How she prepared for Wind River's most shocking scene

One of Kelsey Asbille's most memorable roles is that of Natalie in the 2018 flick "Wind River." In the film, a local game tracker and FBI agent team up to investigate a murder of a Native American woman who lives on a reservation. The movie deals with hard-hitting themes such as lawlessness and how women in reservations are treated. In an interview with Mulderville at the film's Los Angeles premiere, Asbille said, "It's such an important story ... It sheds light on the ever-increasing crimes against native women and how there's really not a lot being done about it." 

Per Nylon, the film featured a harrowing scene where Asbille's character is brutally gang raped. "It was a challenge, and I didn't want to back away from it," she explained. Instead, she prepared by watching the graphic rape sequence in Gasper Noé's "Irreversible," and the more suggestive scenes of abuse in David Lean's "Oliver Twist." Understandably anxious about shooting the scene, she received a great deal of support. "[I]t was a closed set, everyone was incredibly respectful," she said. "Everyone did their best to make the set feel like a comfortable environment, and everyone shared a desire to really do it right." It seems the cast and crew's sensitivity in dealing with the subject matter helped her to focus on the job at hand. The result was rave reviews at Sundance and Cannes, per the outlet. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Kelsey Asbille was formerly Kelsey Chow

Kelsey Asbille has also rebranded herself in her career. From 2008 to 2016, Asbille used her father's last name, with her credits as Kelsey Chow including "Teen Wolf," "Pair of Kings," and "One Tree Hill." Thereafter, she used the name Asbille, and used the moniker as a star of "Yellowstone." Of course, there was a reason that the actor decided to give herself a new identity.

In an interview with TMZ, she said, "You feel like people put you in a box a little bit ... " When questioned, the actor agreed that Hollywood could be tricky to navigate and that she felt liable to be typecast by her traditional Chinese surname. Asbille continued, "It was a nice way to give me a blank slate." The actor seemingly wanted to be judged on her own merits and decided to gift herself with a new identity. After all, as William Shakespeare once astutely put it in "Romeo and Juliet," "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Play on Kelsey! Talent cannot be diminished by a name change.

She's an advocate for Indigenous women's rights

As a Human Rights student, Kelsey Asbille is passionate about defending the rights of women. As of August 2022, her Instagram profile bio even linked to the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center, an organization that seeks to end violence against native women. As the actor explained to Columbia Metropolitan, on top of her studies, Asbille and her mother, Jean Chow, also work with the Indigenous Women's Alliance of South Carolina. "Indigenous women and girls face disproportionate levels of violence and murder that span generations," she explained to the outlet regarding her passion for providing support to the community. 

As she suggested to V Magazine, there's also often an overlap between her human rights work and acting career. With projects like "Wind River," "Yellowstone," and "Fargo," the actor was able to raise awareness of issues affecting Indigenous women within a story or character arc. For example, her season of the anthology TV show "Fargo" featured a plot line derived directly from history — how Indigenous children were taken from reservations and forced into white boarding schools from 1860 to 1978. It was a topic close to Asbille's heart as she claimed to know real-life survivors of this practice. "It was a cultural genocide, in a way," she told the outlet. "You weren't allowed to speak your language or wear your own clothes." Clearly, Asbille not only preaches her message about human rights, she actively participates in aiding the cause too.

Kelsey is learning two languages

Kelsey Asbille enjoys exploring her cultural heritage and in 2010, the actor revealed that she was learning Mandarin Chinese. She spoke to LA Teen Festival about her reasons for wanting to learn the language, saying, "My dad is Chinese and I'm not fluent in Chinese, it's a very very hard language, but I'm very happy to be learning it." However, she'd seemingly caught some criticism for her linguistic skills. "My dad thinks, of course, that I speak it all wrong," she laughed. 

Eight years later, the actor confirmed to The Last Magazine that she was still learning Mandarin with the help of a tutor. She added that she had connected with her Chinese roots at a later stage in life. "I just went to China for the first time at twenty-five and meeting some of my family there was a learning experience," she said. "... The exploration can be painful, but in the end, I think it's a blessing."

She also revealed to the outlet that she was studying Cherokee as part of a structured online course. At the time of the interview, she had been playing the role of "Yellowstone's" Monica Dutton, a granddaughter of the Native American elder Felix Long. Responding to the controversy regarding the questions of her heritage within the role, she told the outlet, "In terms of identity, mixed race identity, and talking about identity that falls outside traditions, it's a confusing process and at least I'm in good company."

She had a very public first kiss

Kelsey Asbille was just 13 years old when she landed the role of Gigi Silveri in "One Tree Hill," per Smashing Interviews magazine. The series was her debut on television, and up until that point, she was an ordinary schoolgoing kid who had only appeared in a community theater production of "Ragtime." However, the star experienced many firsts in the series, telling the outlet that she shared her first kiss with the actor who played Nathan Scott in the series. Asbille relayed, "It was with James Lafferty and I was a 13-year-old girl. I was just head over heels for him because I thought he was so cute." 

She prepared for the moment by chewing cinnamon gum and practicing on her hand, per a Tigerbeat TV interview. Reality struck when they had to shoot the scene and she realized she had no idea what to do. "I was extremely nervous, excited, and embarrassed," she told Smashing Interviews magazine. To add to her mortification, she shared that it was hardly a one-take-and-done scene, either. "It was funny because we had to do it over and over again because I wasn't holding the kiss long enough. I don't know what I was thinking there, but it was just a fun experience," she said.

Kelsey has an emotional relationship with food

Food played an important part in Kelsey Asbille's life growing up. With her American and Asian roots, she experienced both cultures' cuisine regularly. And she was also lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents around to introduce her palate to diverse flavors. Asbille grew up in South Carolina, and she confessed that southern cuisine was special to her, telling Esquire, "It's so sentimental and emotional." Her paternal grandmother and her parents were neighbors, and the matriarch would spoil her family with food. "On Mondays and Wednesdays, we'd have her food. It was like Northern Chinese home-cooked meals," she shared. "Alongside like my maw maw's [her American maternal grandmother's] fried catfish, you'd have this beautiful Chinese dish." It sounds as if Asbille was spoiled for choice and lucked out in the food department.

That's probably for the best considering that the "Yellowstone" star told Marie Claire that she was not the best cook and preferred to order Chinese take-out, instead. She confirmed her love for Chinese food to Columbia Metropolitan, stating, "When I was a kid, I would follow [my grandmother] around the kitchen and write down her recipes, which we still use, especially in quarantine!" As she told Esquire, food remained something nostalgic and comforting for the actor. No matter where she is in the world, a meal is a way to serve up a slice of home to the star. 

Her role models reveal strong roots

Kelsey Asbille was shaped by role models as she was growing up. She was also privileged that those closest to her were already chasing their dreams, and they embodied the values that she would later pursue. She told Columbia Metropolitan that her grandparents' humanitarian work in the public health sphere, specifically with the World Health Organization, inspired her human rights studies. "My grandmother ... has lived one of the most exciting and courageous lives, especially when it comes to helping others," she told Writer Rebelle when asked about the role models who had most inspired her. She also noted to the blog the important lesson that she'd learned from her parents, sharing, "If you work hard and really keep your focus, you can accomplish anything."

Per Columbia Metropolitan, Asbille's father, Dr. Jim Chow, is a surgeon with Columbia Skin Clinic, while her mother's legal and clinical psychology background aids her in the human rights field. The actor sang the praises of her parents to Moves where she gushed, "My dad is an incredible man. He was an F-16 fighter pilot and became a general in the U.S. Air Force ... He's also a skin cancer surgeon, [and] a dermatologist. He's really an overachiever!" Naturally, she and her siblings were raised to understand the importance of diligence alongside ambition. With roots as deep as Asbille has, it's no wonder she's managed to grow into the strong, successful woman she is today. 

She works hard to give back

Given that Kelsey Asbille's acting career spans from 2008 onwards and includes both movies and television roles, it's unsurprising that she's worth a pretty penny. On the small screen, she's flaunted her acting skills on shows such as "Pair of Kings" and "Teen Wolf." Meanwhile, she's impressed viewers on the big screen with performances in films like "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Wind River." It's little wonder then that she has accumulated an impressive sum of $3 million for herself, per Celebrity Net Worth.

While her takings might be tasty, Asbille also believes in giving back. While she advocates for the National Indigenous Women's Resource Center and works with the Indigenous Women's Alliance of South Carolina, Asbille finds ways to be altruistic within her career too. In 2022, she was named an ambassador of David Yurman's "Come Closer" campaign, which encourages social reconnection. Per Cision, the philanthropic jewelry brand's Unity Fund will continue to collaborate with the Robin Hood Foundation in donating a percentage of profits from selected items toward fighting poverty in New York City.  According to Women's Wear Daily, Asbille shared how the brand aligned with her values. "I am forever inspired by the strength of community, especially in these challenging times," she said. "David Yurman is a New York City institution, their craftsmanship matched only by their dedication to the city and its collective spirit."

Kelsey's dad set the bar high for future beaus

Evidently, Kelsey Asbille is still daddy's little girl. In 2022, she dedicated a sweet Instagram post to him, sharing how the retired U.S. Air Force general and F-16 fighter had been a "Top Gun" fan for a very long time. She posted a pic showing her uniformed father holding her as a little girl in front of a jet alongside a carousel depicting how her father met Tom Cruise at the "Top Gun: Maverick" premiere. "My pops has been waiting 30 years for this moment," she wrote in the caption. "YALL HE MADE TOM LAUGH." The doctor's adorable celebratory moment after meeting his hero was also shared in the post.

Her dad apparently knows how to create memories, and Asbille may have some high expectations for future dates. In an interview with Sharp Magazine, she dished about her parent's love story, and said, "He took my mom flying in his plane on their very first date! I don't know how you follow that up on the second date, but I don't know that you really need to after something that amazing."

Still, she's clearly enjoyed some sweet romance of her own. In 2018, she told Marie Claire that her favorite piece of art was a gift from her boyfriend, former "Run" co-star William Moseley. "[It''s] a beautiful, peaceful black-and-white photograph of the full moon over Half Dome in Yosemite, by Ansel Adams," she explained. That'll do it, alright.