Lucy Liu racism vs Filipinos in the Letterman Show?

Lucy Liu racism vs Filipinos in the Letterman Show?

Did Charlie’s Angels actress Lucy Liu insult Filipinos in her appearance in The Late Night Show with David Letterman last October 11? Liu, a Chinese-American Hollywood celebrity, appeared on the said comedy talk show to promote Elementary, her new TV series that also airs in CBS. Based on the 30-second episode clip posted by, Liu told Letterman: “If I get really dark, I’ll start to look like a little Filipino. It wouldn’t match.”

A longer version of Liu’s interview with Letterman has been uploaded in the YouTube channel of CBS. Although the two-minute snippet omits the part where Liu mentioned “Filipino,” it nevertheless provides context as to what she is talking about.

Lucy Liu on the David Letterman Show (credits: Yahoo TV)

Liu is narrating to Letterman her fitness regimen which includes exercise and certain sports. It can be remembered that in May 2009, Letterman and actor Alec Baldwin caused uproar when they joked on the show about getting mail order brides from the Philippines.

In the field of literary criticism, the concept of “the author is dead” says that “an author’s intentions and biographical facts should hold no weight when coming to an interpretation of his or her writing.” Said in another way, this means that writers (and speakers, for that matter) have little control with how their audiences perceive their statements. Liu’s tongue-in-cheek quip was immediately framed negatively by and as evidenced by this video grab:

“Lucy Liu doesn’t want to be mistaken for Filipino” (credits:

Both (which is the entertainment blog of New York Magazine) and did not put the quote in its proper context. By doing so, it seems that they are merely trying to unnecessarily stoke anger from Filipinos, which probably won’t happen this time unlike in past cases (remember Teri Hatcher and her ‘med schools from the Philippines’ line?).

Liu did not say anything negative directly against Filipinos. Nevertheless, Liu’s remarks are similar to Serbian fashion designer Lara Bohinc’s controversial statement last year in The Telegraph. Bohinc said she wanted to make sure that supermodel Kate Moss will be the one wearing the belt she gave her because “I (she) didn’t want to see it on her Filipina maid.” Liu probably has no intention at all to offend “little Filipinos,” but come to think about it, she could have still made the same point (ergo, her desire not to be dark) without mentioning any nationality at all.

UPDATE: Lucy Liu has apologized for this incident, telling Ruben Napales of Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I am so sorry that my comment was taken out of context, as I would never insult another group or ethnicity.”

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Mark Pere Madrona

The Filipino Scribe (TFS) is managed by Mark Pere Madrona, a multi-awarded writer and licensed professional teacher from the Philippines. Mr. Madrona earned his master’s degree in history from the University of the Philippines-Diliman last 2020. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism cum laude from the same university back in 2010. His area of interests includes Philippine journalism, history, and politics as well as social media. Know more about him here:

46 thoughts on “Lucy Liu racism vs Filipinos in the Letterman Show?

  1. Does it really matter if she did insult Filipinos?

    There are so many important things to focus on that a celebrity statement shouldn’t exactly rate or be on our radars.

    And, let’s face it, Filipinos practise as much discrimination as every other nationality. (Please note that I did not mention race: we’re all of the human race, right?)

    My favourite episode occurred earlier this year with the sales agent for our house. She told me how surprised she was that my wife was beautiful because “foreigners normally marry ugly Filipinas with dark skin.” She was very surprised when I tore strips off her for such a stupid remark.

    How can a nation which judges people on the basis of the shade of their skin colour ever believe other nations are more “racist”?

    1. maybe because she doesnt want to look more like a Filipino star named Pokwang… if she does get darker skin. she might be mistaken for Pokwang. And resemblance would likely be the next to discuss.

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

    The Philippines has always — ALWAYS — acted under the philosophy that the whiter the skin, the more beautiful the woman. Why do you think we have aisles upon aisles of whitening products in our supermarkets? Why do you think all the really popular celebrities have whiter skin than the rest?

    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.

  3. Why would she want to look like a Filipino? We all know she’s not! Filipinos are obsessed with whitening their skin because they want to look like Americans ( or at least get whiter skin like Americans).

  4. what if she said she would look a little black or african? would that make it racist or more racist? people shouldn’t compare them selves with other race period. she was making the impression that all Filipino are dark and that being dark is a bad thing since she herself doesn’t want to be darker. she should have said she likes to be lighter skinned and not compare with any race.

    1. well then, that wouldn’t make any sense.. I’m guessing she said Filipinos, because it’s one of the more “popular” Asian ethnicity with darker skin color.

    2. being a Chinese, her comment is not really surprising considering most Asians do not want to have darker skin because majority believe being dark is a bad thing. i don’t know but perhaps the color of the skin is like a “status symbol” for some.

      1. Hi, Felina. For us Filipinos, it can be said that the color of one’s skin is really a status symbol. Just look at the commercials being aired everyday. When you’re light skinned, you’re easily described as “kutis artista” and “kutis mayaman.”

  5. As usual, the Philippine media exploits this non-issue just so they can get attention. Lucy Liu’s character on Elementary is CHINESE. That’s why she can’t allow her skin to darken. Watch the interview — All she said was that she doesn’t want her skin to darken like Filipinos because it wouldn’t match. THAT’S IT. She didn’t say anything offensive or hurtful about Filipinos. Did you hear her say that she hates dark skin or that having dark skin is ugly? NO, YOU DIDN’T. So shut up already.

    All these ignorant Filipinos that are crying racism should take a better look at our very own society. Go to the supermarket and you’ll see AN ENTIRE F*CKING SECTION dedicated to various whitening products. Filipinos continuously idolize all these celebrities with white skin. They see it as something to covet, so they f*ck with nature and try to whiten their own skin as well.

    So, answer me… WHO HATES DARK SKIN NOW???

  6. Oh please.. People are lost in translation here. It wasn’t like she said “Filipinos look ugly”. She was just taken out of context and some Filipinos are overreacting.

  7. well, she still said “doesn’t want to like a dark filipino” she thinks she’s better looking than us because she’s white. she even look like a mongoloid

    how would she feel i say “i don’t want to be white like chinese blah blah blah and stuff” let’s see how would she react with that.

    she should not compare herself with other nationality.

    1. For the record she said, “If I get really dark, I’ll start to look a little Filipino. It wouldn’t match.” Her character in her new series Elementary is Chinese, hence, the context “wouldn’t match”. Some Filipinos will believe any chismis handed down to them it’s pathetic.

      1. She also said later that she doesn’t want to be mistaken for a filipino. Or for a mexican… I don’t believe she’s a racist or that she meant harm, but when she or anyone else for that matter makes a statement like that, she should explain herself.

  8. still she thinks black, dark, brown are ugly cause she doesn’t want to look like one cause she thinks we are ugly. what the…..

  9. “Little Filipino,” is what she said. Why “little” in addition to Filipino? Filipino already denotes a race that is small in stature. It seems to me Lucy Liu harbors something more serious against Filipinos than her just having a bad hair day.

  10. Fuck that chinese woman, you chinese are smugglers, druglords, producers of fake products thats why her skin is also fake

  11. Lucy liu – Trying hard to become one of the Americans, you can change your nationality but not your origin, Lucy Liu – wanna be! asshole!

  12. It’s undeniable that the Philippine Market is filled with skin whitening products, but should that mean that all Filipinos, prefer to be of lighter complexion? You have generalized too much if you think that. Even worse if you think we’d rather look like Caucasians.. I think Lucy Liu is beautiful, but you also can’t deny there’s a hint of disgust for darker skin tone in her statement. Still, she’s an amazing actress.We Asians should be tighter.

  13. Short and cross-eyed, Lucy Liu is not even worthy of looking like a Filipina. She is just lucky she is a Hollywood star. She will not standout against our dark and semi-dark skinned Filipina beauties like Bianca Gonzalez and Bernadette Sembrano.

  14. Had that comment came from Nicole Kidman, I would understand.But coming from an Asian who happens to live in America and acts like Caucasian? Does she really look white? Besides she wouldn’t pass for a Filipino, the fact that she has slanted eyes requires no logic to prolong the determination.

  15. Much to my chagrin, Filipinos are easy targets of offensive jokes cracked by foreigners and most often than not, Filipinos just let them get away with it, to the point of treating them as pushovers. Had Lucy Liu’s comment hurled against the black people, half of the world would react and claim its Racism. But since the same was directed against Filipinos,most would dismiss it as a statement misunderstood by the race which has constantly been the subject of insensitive, rude and racist comments given by Teri Hatcher, Alec Baldwin etc. It’s ironic that they come from a first world country like a America yet they lost tact and sensibility.

    I think we should all learn from a quote given by F. Scott Fitzgerald:”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had”

  16. I think what she meant when she said it wouldn’t match her slanthy eyes if she got darker. Cause chinese have lighter skin than filipinos

    1. You can’t generalize the skin color of any nationality. I know a lot of dark skinned chinese people, just like I know a lot of light skinned filipinos. Every nationality has different skin tones.

  17. I could have accepted her apology earlier but, she only defended herself when she said her statements were taken out of context. It wasn’t a sincere apology. So, Miss Liu what is wrong with being Filipino? Had you said “little African rather than little Filipino” in your statements, you will automatically be labelled “racist” over there in the United States. And who knows what will happen to you next.

  18. 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!

  19. Oh Please how many Filipinos say they hate the way they look all puffy in the morning because they look Chinese? I think Lucy Liu meant it wouldn’t match because Joan Watson is supposed to be half Chinese and half white so it would really look off if she looked Filipino..

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