Asian Inspiration: Lucy Liu

Hello Generasian! I am here today to introduce a new column, Asian Inspiration. My goal with this column is to simply name a few notable Asian or Asian-American people, so that anyone reading my articles may find someone to identify with. I want to help individuals experiencing lower self-esteem or identity issues by helping them realize that they are not alone in this fight, and that fame/fortune is not exclusive to the types of people commonly seen on screen. This project is super important to me and if you are interested, you can read more about it on my personal blog. Enjoy!

You might recognize her from her key roles in Kill BillCharlie’s Angels, or even Kung-Fu Panda. Or you might know her as the face of Joan Watson in the American adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, Elementary. But did you know that Lucy Liu, 45, is also an accomplished painter and photographer?


Let me be honest with you guys: I love Lucy Liu. She’s such an inspiration to me because even though she’s an actress, she also makes time for other hobbies and pursuits, like painting, or playing the accordion. She’s a UNICEF ambassador, and has raised over $267,000 at once by auctioning off one of her paintings. I could go on and on.

But another reason I love her is because I can identify with her. As an Asian-American actress, she’s obviously had to fight against being typecast. In a 2013 interview with, she said:

I wish people wouldn’t just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me. You add race to it, and it became, ‘Well, she’s too Asian’, or, ‘She’s too American’. I kind of got pushed out of both categories. It’s a very strange place to be. You’re not Asian enough and then you’re not American enough, so it gets really frustrating. (emphasis mine)

Growing up as a Taiwanese girl in a white-dominated society, I have often felt this way. Like Liu, I attended Mandarin school on Sundays, but I still struggled (and continue to struggle) with my identity. If I’m Taiwanese-American, am I Taiwanese, or American? Can I be both? What if I’m neither? When I look at Liu, I can see beyond that and recognize that there is a place for me out there–even if I have to carve it out for my own.

And that’s exactly what Liu is doing. She’s careful about the on-screen roles that she picks, and when she does agree, Liu makes sure the role is just right for her. A perfect example of this is a 2013 interview with Watch magazine, where she shared her take on the classic character of John (now Joan!) Watson:

If you read the literature itself, Watson is so unlike what he became, which was the comedic one who got his foot caught in the bucket. When I signed on, I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be a sidekick.

Regardless of who she plays in the future, Liu has proven that she’ll never be a sidekick. She is an Asian-American actress, artist, photographer, musician, and philanthropist, but she is also herself, boasting a unique and fiery personality that deserves all her accolades and more.

You can keep up with Lucy Liu online by visiting her Instagram here.

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