Lucy Liu doesn’t want to look like a Filipino

Recently, on Late Night with David Letterman, the beautiful and talented actress Lucy Liu made a comment that some people are saying is racist: that she doesn’t like to get to tan or dark because then she would look like a Filipino.

You can watch her make the comment in the first minute or so in the clip above. Letterman rightfully responded to her question, “You know what I mean?” by saying, “No, I don’t” and “There’s nothing there that I can comment on.”

As many readers know, I have a Filipino heritage, so I am especially attuned to such statements, especially since what Liu says seems to be trying to specify a single look for all the tens of millions of Filipinos who come from all sorts of different backgrounds, including Spain, Portugal, Malaysia and China.

Of course, Liu was just talking about not running outside because she would get really dark, and then it wouldn’t look right for the character she plays, Dr. Watson, on the TV show “Elementary,” which she could’ve said without mentioning Filipinos.

By mentioning Filipinos, however, she was recasting a kind of traditional attitude throughout Asia — that the whiter the skin the more beautiful the woman — and that attitude has everything to do with issues of race and class, and who gets to define beauty.

Liu’s statement seems disappointing and unfortunate, but it reflects a truth about the the broad — and ever growing — category of person in America, the Asian American; namely, that Asian America isn’t monolithic, but is filled with divisions and prejudicial attitudes.

Below are some photos of Filipinos and of Lucy Liu. What is she talking about?

[nggallery id=7902]

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36 thoughts on “Lucy Liu doesn’t want to look like a Filipino

  1. Oh, give me a f*cking break.

    “the whiter the skin the more beautiful the woman” — This couldn’t be truer in any other country than the Philippines. Why do you think we have aisles upon aisles of whitening products in our supermarkets?

    Millions of Filipinos don’t want to have dark skin, and they’re doing everything they can to change it. So, why are we crucifying someone for saying the same thing? This is hypocrisy.

  2. @jeff:

    If Lucy Liu does not want to be dark, then she should just say so. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to be dark. Why she even included the Filipino race into the discussion is beyond me.

    I agree that many Filipinos are doing everything to achieve whiter skin. So is it considered hypocrisy to react to Lucy’s comments?

    Many Chinese have bad breath. Almost every Chinese who I have talked to has halitosis. But do you consider it as hypocrisy when they brush their teeth, use mouthwash, or go to a dentist to prevent bad breath?

    You never want anything that you think is bad. So when Lucy said she does not want to look like a Filipino, it implies she considers something ugly about Filipinos.

  3. @Leslie Schultz: Worse than the common bad breath that MOST Chinese have is their unbearable body odor that emannates forn their armpits.
    I’d rather have dark skin than having those horrible smell.

  4. So what if she considers Filipinos ugly. Big deal, she is entitled to her opinion. It’s not racist because she isn’t implying that she is of a superior breed of human. Everyone needs to grow thicker skin and stop saying that everything is “racist”.

    Lucy Liu isn’t even that attractive to begin with.

  5. I am glad that with people like Lucy Liu, Chinese racism against Filipinos and people with dark skin is out in the open. Chinese even in shows in Hong Kong have made fun of Filipinos because of what Chinese perceive as the darker skin of Filipinos. With the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over the Spratly Islands, racism of Chinese against Filipinos is increasing. Lucy Liu made an honest slip, since she said what she truly had in her mind. She would find it degrading to be thought of as Filipino. Chinese are the most racist people in Asia today.

  6. Well, the awkward silence after her statement says it all. Thank god for canned laughter.

    And yeah. She shouldn’t have included the race. People spend hundreds on tanning machines to get darker.

    It’s called “kayumanggi” yes it’s a Pinoy trademark to have that beautiful color yet retain the Malay Chinese features.

    To each their own but hey, a lil sensitivity always helps

  7. She doesn’t say anything against being dark or Filipinos. She just says it wouldn’t match on camera. Actors are often required in their contracts to keep their look consistent. It would look really weird if she was light in one scene & dark in the next.

  8. Take a look at the photo link above.. Her name is Marietta Subong, a Filipina comedian known as “Pokwang”. Yeah right! Lucy doesn’t look filipino, or even want to look like one.. =))

  9. The funny thing is, at 2:33 in the video she mentions (by name) taking Eskrima classes – the Filipino martial art using knives and sticks!

  10. Mitsunari:

    There is no ‘canned laughter’ used on the Letterman Show.

    If you think Lucy Liu is a Racist, check out some of the
    Warner Brothers cartoons put into theaters during World
    War II. The blatant propaganda and Japanese ethnic hatred
    is most disturbing, Today. This was sanctioned behavior in
    the United States of America. They were not laughing in
    any of the Internment Camps in this Country, however. Lucy
    is entitled to her preferences. What do you care?

  11. so she also mentioned Escrima.. Knife/stick fighting which is Filipino.. Just sayin…….. She didn’t mean the comment in a bad way. Americans are Americans, you have to count on how ignorant they are.

  12. Lucy Liu’s comment is blatant and raw racism. She meant exactly what she said. She meant that a darker skin is inferior and that’s why she does not want to look a “little Filipino” after a longer exposure to sun. Her ignorance is not excusable considering Asians in the USA fought hard against discrimination by people of lighter skin than her.

  13. Please. Germans and Japanese were mocked more than this for things that are much graver. ALL actors/celebrities implying anything negative about the Filipinos apologized. Is that how it is–that no one is allowed to say something negative about Filipinos and yet criticizing Americans, Europeans and other ASEAN ethnicities is ok? If citizens react to this then it’s just as shallow. And this is in the front page of the newspaper. Please.

    Lucy Liu is great and she wears Monique Lhullier clothes. Do you think she’d offend as much? Some people are too touchy. And most Asians have insecurities about their looks, and Filipinos, always compare and then tell themselves how great they are. A typical form of insecurity. Anyways, I still find Lucy Liu sexy and sensual and if this is a form of whatchamacallit treason, fine.

  14. Lucy Liu IS one of my favorite actors but the comment about “being dark and looking like a Filipino” was very ignorant specially in these days and age – when beauty comes from all ethnic backgrounds. Light or dark…tall or short and AGELESS.

  15. Here we go again. Lucy Liu trying to scream the arrogance of her Chinese ancestry to the word. What she calls, “little Filipino” is half of me. I remember my father being belittled by my mother’s Chinese side, while growing as a young man in the Philippines. Now, as a doctor, and very good at what I do, I detest my Mom’s ancestry, that I wished she was never Chinese, even in an ounce of her blood. My father was an honorable man but he spent every once of his FILIPINO blood to send me to become a doctor. While my mother’s Chinese side belittled us for years, now that every child in my family is more successful than their PURE Chinese siblings, they speak highly of my dad. I am a product of the Chinese arrogance and racial look-down on Filipinos and up to this time, it still hurts. As an Filipino- American, I teach my children NOT to be prejudice against others. Lucy’s comments might sound ignorant but she does make herself sound like an “idiot” trying to use Filipino, or anyone, to make her point across. But thank you for the apology. It would have mattered more, if Lucy did NOT make the apology on general terms, “I would never hurt any ethnic group.?” Why not say…”Filipinos” who you specifically targeted, you idiot!

  16. First time I ever fast forwarded Dave Letterman’s interview…..after Ms Liu remarks not wanting to look like Filipino, I knew better not to waste my time listening to this character who is in dire need of grace and tact. Dave had the kind judgement not to say anything about that because he knew a racist remark when he hears one. Irony is, Dave admits to being the jerk most of the time. This time around he was the wise man and the jerk was in the guest’s sit. This is how not to promote a new show

  17. We should pray for Lucy Liu to hopefully she can overcome her nasty attributes of being racist, idiot, mean, ugly, a wanna be actress, bad manner, and ego driven b#$%&! Her apology is very insincere, so I don’t buy it! Lucy…you have demonstrated how bad your parents brought you up! I am just glad that you don’t want to look like little Filipinos because we don’t want you!

  18. Proud of my brown skin and proud to be a Filipino. To Lucy Liu and to all the racist out there-you must not have accepted who you really are.You can’t even look at the mirror and see yourself in your OWN skin, what a pity..PATHETIC !!

  19. I saw that episode of Letterman, and Lucy Liu came across as an idiot. It was embarrassing. I was embarrassed for Dave, not her. She constantly cut Letterman off when he spoke, and he couldn’t get a word in because she would step all over him, and she made a series of idiotic comments just like the “Filipino” remark, and constantly blabbered on and on about herself. She gives actresses a bad name. They’re not all that stupid.

  20. I started replaying the episode of David Lettermen’s Tonight Show with Lucy as one of the guests…thanks to the FAST FORWARD function of the DVR. Lucy…your offensive look is only surpassed by your abrasive character and lack of measurable IQ! If your skin tone (although NOT natural) is the only part of your body with any value…then hide and stay in the dark like a cave. You are a disgrace to Arts and Entertainment. Majority of actors and actresses better than you are have integrity and golden characters. SHAME on you, Lucy!

  21. I so agree that this wanna-be crossed-eyed actress/character lucy liu is not attractive. She is a disgrace to us if she were to be called a Filipino for obvious reasons that she does NOT belong to the category of the Filipino beauties!

  22. Well the Chinese are racist against filipinos anyways. EVERY FILIPINO IS NOT BROWN ANYWAYS I HAVE SEEN MANY FILIPINOS WITH WHITE ASIAN YELLOW SKIN. Lucy Liu is a pretty girl I’m sure she wouldnt look pretty if she was brown but that doesn’t mean she has to use filipinos as an example. EVERYONE IN THE CROUD REALIZED IT WAS A BAD JOKE NO ONE LAUGHED. She also said she practices stick fighting on the same show which is a filipino born sport.

  23. Chinese here and wow. Seriously? I find Lucy Liu to be pretty ugly, honestly. The average FIlipina is definitely prettier than Lucy– and no offense but I don’t find the average Filipina that attractive. (And no surprise, Lucy has an old white dude for a boyfriend :/). Actresses like Zhang Ziyi are way prettier than Lucy IMO.

  24. What the heck is she talking about, even if she was tan, she would still look like Chinese because of her eyes…no offense

  25. first off, david letterman had a picture before, holding a sign saying “10 reasons why a FILIPINO should not be the presisent of US” i know its photoshop. maybe he saw that photoshop picture and doesn’t want to discuss it and that’s why he keeps on saying NO. —

    second, when lucy said “a little filipino” i think what she meant is having a mix blood of filipino like half blood, 1/4, 1/8 blood because she is asian obviously and TRUE filipino skin is “kayumanggi” like a sun kissed tan/medium skin tone/mix. (its hard to explain ok? lol) i get her point. i’m filipino but i’m not offended by it. sometimes people thought i’m chinese but i usually say “i have a little chinese in me” because of my facial features.. you guys get the point? so get over it. don’t judge right away and dont be a cray cray!

  26. I think Lucy Lui is attractive but not as much as many Filipinas I have known… maganda (beautiful)

  27. Ha ha Lucy Liu is completely caught up in herself that she doesn’t even know the real story, HISTORY and what’s in front of her eyes. The Philippines is unique because it’s one of the ex-Spanish colonies (almost 400 years long) at the exact same time as the Latin American ex-colonies that are known as “latino”. The difference was that the Philippines was not in the Americas. This is why there was less migration from Spain, because of distance, though the culture was heavily shaped by Spain and New Spain (Mexico), which combined with the indigenous culture, became THE Filipino culture and people. Similar to what happened to latin countries. Because of this, there are a good number “latino Filpinos” as in naturally “mestizo” due to colonization (though due to distance never in the numbers like mestizos in Latin America), and there is a sizable number of Filipinos today who even who have more direct or recent Spanish heritages in their family.
    Finally, Lucy Liu and everyone else must remember that it’s not just Chinese that are racist or putting down Filipinos (among others), but that many Filipinos – mestizo types or even those who are basic malay/polynesian everyday Filipinos – have looked down on or even mistrusted Chinese people. They just don’t open their mouths about it to the PRESS, and they don’t get coverage like Liu types. Lucy Liu should also read up on Intramuros, which is the site of Old Manila, where Chinese people where totally mistrusted and looked as inferior by the Spanish, mestizos and locals (natives) of the Philippines during that colonial time, that they forced these Chinese settlers/merchants to live in a certain district, which is still there today. And two times in history, the Philippines was the booming, happening place of eastern Asia and Pacific. One period was during the Spanish colonial times; the other was during the more modern period post-World Wars and even meeting the Marcos period. The Philippines was ranked near Japan in Asia for that time. That is why Lucy Liu and people like her must not open their mouths but instead read a history book, and to realize that the Philippines is technically a latin country and that it is worlds apart from China. Incomparable. If she must open her mouth to criticize, then it must be countries and people closer ethnically and culturally to her Chinese.

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