By The Greater Astoria Historical Society
Born Dec. 2, 1968, to Chinese immigrants, Lucy Alexis Liu skyrocketed to fame in the late 1990s with a role in the TV series “Ally McBeal,” followed by starring spots in the action films “Charlie’s Angels” and “Kill Bill.”
Raised in Jackson Heights by mother Cecilia, a biochemist, and father Tom, an engineer, the actress began pursuing her dream career as a senior at the University of Michigan and supported herself with odd jobs and bit roles before attaining fame. She has also worked beyond the silver screen to advocate for numerous causes, including cancer research, UNICEF and marriage equality.
Liu is the youngest of three siblings. She is single and currently lives in New York City with her brother and his wife.
Following graduation from Stuyvesant High School in 1986, Liu headed to the Midwest to attend the University of Michigan. With Mandarin Chinese as her first language, the future star pursued a degree in Chinese language and culture and took the plunge into acting as a senior by earning the lead role in a production of “Alice in Wonderland.” After finishing college, she continued her westward journey, moving to Los Angeles to pursue her Hollywood dreams.
At first, success did not come easy. Modeling gigs and food service jobs were interspersed with an appearance as a waitress in “Beverly Hills 90210” and small, little-noticed roles in such shows as “ER,” “NYPD Blue” and “The X-Files.”
After catching her first big break in 1997 by landing the role of nasty, ill-tempered lawyer Ling Woo in “Ally McBeal,” Liu’s star began to rise. Larger opportunities soon followed, moving from the Mel Gibson action film “Payback” to her starring roles in box office hits “Charlie’s Angels” (2000) and “Kill Bill” three years later.
Not content with action thrillers and stereotypical Asian female roles, the star has emerged as a mainstream, well-rounded actress with a variety of strong performances. Aside from hosting “Saturday Night Live” with rapper Jay-Z in 2000, Liu has appeared in the television series “Ugly Betty” and “Sex in the City” as well as the long-running cartoon series “The Simpsons.”
When not acting, Liu finds time to pursue numerous other interests and career paths. She is an accordionist who also engages in rock climbing and skiing and an artist who has exhibited her paintings and photography in SoHo.
In 2011, Liu even became a narrator for the British musical group The Bullitts. Looking back on an accomplished career that took her from Jackson Heights to Hollywood stardom, the Queens native sees career satisfaction and finds time to reflect upon her success as an Asian-American in the entertainment industry:
“I’m so proud of my heritage, but yes, I think there’s always a danger when people put you on a pedestal — especially when you’re just trying to live your life and pursue your dreams. The intention is not to represent Asian Americans, but to be an Asian American who is working as an actress.
“People often confuse the two. When you are ‘representing,’ you have the burden of some people projecting their hopes onto you. This can eventually lead to a certain amount of disappointment. I strive to not deny myself experiences that open up to me. I hope to live without looking back in regret. If people want to join me on the ride, then I’m happy to have them along.”
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