Billie Eilish has issued an apology for a video that surfaced last week showing her lip-syncing to a song with an anti-Asian racial slur. The footage, taken when she was “13 or 14,” according to Eilish, also includes her use of a made-up language that some perceived as mocking Asian communities. The pop star denies that interpretation, calling it, “silly gibberish,” and, “in NO way an imitation of anyone or any language, accent or culture.”
The video, posted on TikTok on June 13th, features Eilish mouthing along to the words of Tyler, the Creator’s 2011 song “Fish”. The track opens with, “Slip it in her drink and in the blink/ Of an eye I can make a white girl look c—-.”
Eilish addressed the controversy in a statement on her Instagram stories. “I love you guys, and many of you have been asking me to address this,” she wrote. “And this is something that I WANT to address because I’m being labeled something that I am not.”
“There’s a video edit going around of me when I was 13 or 14 where I mouthed a word from a song that at the time I didn’t know was a derogatory term and used against members of the Asian community. I am appalled and embarrassed and want to barf that I ever mouthed along to that word. This song was the only time I’d ever heard that word as it was never used around me by anyone in my family. Regardless of my ignorance and age at the time, nothing excuses the fact is that it was hurtful. And for that I am sorry.”
“Fish” comes from the early part of Tyler, the Creator’s career, at a time when he aggressively courted controversy. With this statement, Eilish has issued one more apology for the song than Tyler ever did.
As for the second part of the TikTok, it shows Eilish tossing out gibberish syllables in a way that some have felt was derisive towards Asian languages. Here, the pop star is emphatic that this was not part of her intention. “The other video in that edited clip is me speaking in a silly gibberish made up voice,” she wrote, “something I started doing as a kid and have done my whole life when talking to my pets, friends, and family. It is absolute gibberish and just me goofing around, and is in NO way an imitation of anyone or any language, accent or culture in the SLIGHTEST. Anyone who knows me has seen me goofing around with voices my whole life.”
Eilish ended on a note of contrition:
“Regardless of how it was interpreted I did not mean for any of my actions to have caused hurt to others and it absolutely breaks my heart that it is being labeled now in a way that might cause pain to people hearing it. I not only believe in, but have always worked hard to use my platform to fight for inclusion, kindness, tolerance, equity and equality.
We all need to continue having conversations, listening and learning. I hear you and I love you. Thank you for taking the time to read this.”
Check out the TikTook, as well as a screenshot of Eilish’s statement, below.