Kelly won the Miss Hawaii Teen USA 1985 title and competed in the Miss Teen USA 1985 pageant, becoming the third Miss Teen USA titleholder.
Kelly Hu worked in Japan and Italy, the latter in which she became well-known as the star of a series of ads for Philadelphia brand cream cheese (she played a young Japanese college student named Kaori). Hu moved to Los Angeles and began her acting career in 1987 with a guest starring role on the sitcom Growing Pains. Hu followed this with appearances on TV series such as Night Court, Tour of Duty, 21 Jump Street, and Melrose Place and her first movie role in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Hu also won the title of Miss Hawaii USA in 1993 and was a finalist at the 1993 Miss USA pageant held in Wichita, Kansas