What Happened: Superstar singer Billie Eilish has landed herself in a controversy. A compilation of clips showing her singing along to a Tyler, the Creator song, using an anti-Asian slur (“Ch*nk”) and mocking Asian accents has surfaced online on TikTok. The 19-year-old singer has since apologized for the video, stating that it was filmed when she was much younger (around 13- or 14-years-old) and was, therefore, unaware of the offensive meaning of the words at that time. The seven-time Grammy winner expressed remorse, writing: “I am appalled and embarrassed and want to barf that I ever mouthed along to that word.”
The news has sparked outcry in the West with internet users accusing her of racism. However, the incident hasn’t reached China yet, where the young star has 554,000 followers on Weibo: at the time of publishing only 35 posts related to the incident had appeared on the platform.
The Jing Take: This video comes at a heightened time of anti-asian sentiment around the world. Hate crimes against Asian communities committed in the Western world, especially in the US, are growing in visibility and in number. In 2020, more than 2,800 cases of hate incidents directed at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been reported in the US.
Given celebrities and idols’ influence, they have tremendous power to set good examples to their millions of followers worldwide. Despite this, stars’ controversies continue to surface online. Yet now, no matter what their age, they are being held accountable for their actions and words amplified by the press and internet.
This growing global backlash is yet another message of caution to brands and people in public roles. China particularly is no stranger to holding figures and brands to account. Fans and consumers expect their stars to be of high moral virtue. If not, they face the consequences of their actions.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.