Mei Chang (portrayed by Lori Tan Chinn) was elected in season one to represent the Golden Girls in the Women’s Advisory Council. She works in the commissary, and is also part of the “Other” group of inmates. She is not very active in prison life and is very clipped in her thick-accented speech. In season two, she became the “judge” for Nicky Nichols and Big Boo‘s orgasm-collection contest. Despite her quirky behavior (like the ability to sleep standing up, her paranoia about the aspartame used in Diet Coke, and asking a kid at the Mother’s Day celebration “what are you in for?”), we can always count on her to deliver killer lines.
Season three provided us with Chang’s backstory, which we have all been desperately waiting for. As a young woman, her brother hired a matchmaker in hopes of marrying her off; however, the man leaves angrily because she is an ugly “peasant” immigrant from China. Her brother, furious about the man’s rejection, threatens to send her back to China; however, Mei manages to work at her brother’s store in the city, which leads to her involvement in the trafficking of rare animal parts (that are bought for special “potions” that ensure male potency) because she is virtually “invisible.”
“You will always be an ugly girl who nobody wants.”
Mei eventually advances and becomes more forward and assertive. When waiting with another gang member to pick up turtle eggs, which supposedly help with male impotency, she discovers that she and her brother are being ripped off. In accusing the man of ripping them off, her brother nearly gets a bullet in the head when Mei springs into action and kills the man.
This incident gains Chang further respect and power, leading her brother and another man to find the suitor who so harshly rejected her and drag him before her to enact her revenge. Through the play she orchestrates for Berdie Rogers‘ drama class, we learn that she ordered the men to cut out his gall bladder. When performed, someone had an issue with the violence, to which Chang illuminates that everyone’s plays were all concerned with fake things, “all showbiz.”
Chang makes the most of what she is given in prison. She requests all peas at some meal times and empties her milk carton in the garbage to use it to transport her peas. She then crushes fritos, adds water, adds peas, and then mixes it all together and microwaves it to make herself some pea cakes.
Surprisingly, we see that someone delivers a bag of oranges to her through a hole in the prison yard’s fence and she has set up a private hang out for herself in the shed, in which she has hidden a smart phone that allows her to watch her soap operas.
In season 4, Chang decides that when all of the women are enjoying the lake, she will take the opportunity to enjoy the vacant bathrooms. Encountering Piper before her “deep conditioning” day, she makes fun of the younger woman’s disillusionment that she’s a “gangsta with an ‘A.'” When asked why she isn’t going in the lake with everyone else, Chang points out that the lake isn’t maintained:
“That lake probably another Crestwood project. Storage for fracked gas or crude oil, full of salt brine run-off. Who’s going to complain?”
Chang even suggests that Miss Rosa got her cancer from that lake. Despite the seriousness of the situation, she’d rather risk everyone else’s health for a nice hot shower.