Susan Chew was born in 1927 in Victoria, British Columbia. Growing up on a farm just outside the city, she and her ten siblings helped their parents, Chew Dang and Yee C. Loo Chew, with the family’s vegetable garden business. She later moved to New Westminster, British Columbia, where she was a successful business owner. In 1956, Susan made headlines in New Westminster, British Columbia, and across the country when she was denied tenancy in an apartment when American buyers of the building found out that she was Chinese. The community rallied around Susan, so the original owners cancelled the sale of the building. Susan was able to move in without further incident. Over the years, Susan has taken on a number of work, community and entrepreneurial roles: as a Cub Scout leader, journalist, hula dance performer, travel agent and tour guide, model, designer, actress, radio host, boutique owner, public speaker and real estate agent. After spending many years in Toronto, Ontario, she now resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Here, Susan Chew models a traditional high-collared dress called a cheongsam. She learned to sew at a young age, and began creating her own fashion designs as a teenager. This branched into modeling classes and professional modeling work. Susan recalls experiencing discrimination at a fashion show at the Hotel Vancouver in the early 1960s when some of her fellow models asked the show director 'How come you're hiring a Chinese model?'