In a Facebook video created for the Edmonds School District in May 2020, Kyoko Matsumoto Wright sets up her camera selfie-style and looks confidently into the camera.
“Hello! My name is Kyoko Matsumoto Wright, and I’m the mayor of Mountlake Terrace, Washington. Yes. You can be an Asian woman. And still be a mayor—and have purple hair” she says with a hint of mischief.
Long before her vibrant, cropped hairdo, Matsumoto Wright was an undergraduate student at the UW School of Drama. In the late '60s and early '70s, a few of her peers included Jean Smart (future Emmy-award-winner), Daryl Anderson (future star of the TV show Lou Grant), and Mark Mukai (who would go on to tour in the musical Hair). Mukai, Bea Kiyohara (co-founder of Seattle’s Northwest Asian American Theatre), and Matsumoto Wright were among the first Asian Americans to attend the University of Washington School of Drama.
Being among "the first" brings the mayor great pride. Yet, as one of few People of Color at the school, it was an experience that came with often painful challenges. When cast as the ingénue in the play Shelley, she remembers receiving racist comments from white classmates. Her fonder memories include getting to study with fabulous faculty such as Ted D'arms, Robert Loper, Eve Roberts. A regular at the school library, she studied the play intently before every school audition.
Today, Matsumoto Wright is a mother, a realtor, a champion for the arts—and one of only two Asian American women mayors in Washington State. She’s stayed involved in the school throughout the years, serving on the UW Drama Advisory Board and Arena Group to help raise funds for UW Drama scholarships. She was also on the Board of Trustees with the ACT Theatre.
Matsumoto Wright says her degree in drama helped give her the skills to be more authentically herself.
“When I give speeches today, I am not at all nervous.”