This Actress Can’t Conceal Her Age. Can Anyone?

Junie Hoang wanted IMDb to remove her age from her profile

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Gene Johnson / AP Photo

Actress Junie Hoang poses for a photo at the federal courthouse in Seattle on Apr. 11, 2013

How old is Junie Hoang? A glance at her IMDb profile reveals that the Vietnamese-American actress, who has nearly 100 small parts under her belt (like Ghetto Girl Three in Hoodrats 2), was born on July 16, 1971, which means that she’s 41—a fact that Hoang has long tried to keep secret.

Now, thanks to a decision by a federal jury in Seattle, her age is a secret no more. Hoang had sued IMDb for refusing to comply with her request to have her age removed from the site—yesterday, the verdict came down against her.

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The always-excellent legal coverage provided by The Hollywood Reporter provides a detailed look at the ins and outs of a legal proceeding that began in October 2011, but here’s a quick run down: The case began when a Jane Doe sued the database in court in Seattle—where IMDb parent company is based—alleging that the site had gathered personal information she provided when signing up for a “Pro” account, and misused it by posting her age and legal name on her public profile. In her lawsuit, in which she requested damages north of $1 million, she claimed that the site’s decision to post her difficult-to-spell Asian name, rather than her Americanized stage name, and the site’s decision to post her age, which was nearly 40 at the time, were detrimental to her career. A few months later, it became known that the Jane Doe was Huang Hoang, who goes by the name Junie Hoang.

This month, when the trial began, the world also learned that Hoang’s income from acting was modest prior to her age becoming public, that she had initially lied to IMDb about her age (claiming a 1978 birthday) and supported that lie with a fake ID. It was further revealed that Hoang had broken the site’s user agreement by using other members’ accounts—and that the website’s policy is to correct information but never to delete it. In what was perhaps a turning point in the case, IMDb presented an email in which Hoang demanded that they prove how they knew her age, which was when the company looked at her billing information. In the end, the jury agreed with IMDb that she could not prove they had damaged her career by publishing the information and that the website had not breached its contract with her by doing so.

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Although Hoang lost her own case, she told the Associated Press that she hoped the lawsuit would bring attention to age discrimination and might perhaps inspire the database to change their policies. And, as Jezebel points out, she has a point: Hollywood doesn’t exactly offer a wide range of roles for 41-year-old women. But more and more it seems that the solution to that problem is not for every actress to pretend to be 29 forever, as it is becoming increasingly difficult for anyone to conceal such basic information. It may still be considered rude to ask a woman how old she is, but nobody needs to deal with that etiquette guideline or the sexism behind it when you can just ask Google—or IMDb, in this case—instead of the woman herself. Hoang’s case may well be the death knell of fake ages in Hollywood.

In the end, one person Hoang’s lawsuit will probably not end up helping is Hoang herself. Yes, her name is being talked about more than it was before she made news in court, but it’s a perfect example of the Streisand Effect: the one surefire way to make people care about a piece of information is to try to keep it hidden.

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