Ready to find out which super cool celebrities are of Chinese descent?
1. Lucy Liu
Lucy Liu was born in New York to Chinese parents. She grew up speaking Mandarin and only picked up English when she was five.
Unsurprisingly, Lucy says she has a strong connection to her Chinese heritage. She brings it up in most of her interviews. Lucy has said: “I am a first-generation American, so I grew up with all that [Chinese] history and culture.”
When she was little, she was a fan of Jackie Chan’s movies. “I loved Jackie Chan growing up. I watched all of his movies because they’re so comedic and funny, yet skilled.” And when it was time to pick a major in her university, she chose Asian Languages and Culture.
Nowadays, Lucy likes to study religions. She is especially fond of Buddhism and Taoism, which are popular in China. Lucy’s mom is a Buddhist herself.
Lucy became famous when she starred in the US TV show Ally McBeal. And since then, she has worked in Hollywood blockbusters like Charlie’s Angels. But she has also made time to star in Chinese movies.
The New Yorker has always thought of herself as an artist too. She has presented her art in exhibits, but she used a pseudonym for the first ones, a Chinese name: Liu Yu-ling. And the subject of her exhibits? The first one was inspired by Hong Kong, the second one, by China.
2. Jackie Chan
Jackie was born and raised in Hong Kong and still spends a lot of his time there.
His parents, meanwhile, are Chinese.
Jackie’s original name is Chan Kong-sang, which means ‘born in Hong Kong,’ in Chinese. Through his father, Jackie apparently descends from a chancellor of the Tang dynasty.
And Jackie feels strongly Chinese. He is even an avid supporter of the mainland Chinese government.
He speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese.
As a kid, Jackie studied martial and dramatic arts. And in the 1980s, he became a movie star in his natal Hong Kong. Soon, he was also famous in Japan and Europe. Then, in the 1990s, he starred in the movie Rush Hour alongside Chris Tucker and became a megastar in the US.
Nowadays, Jackie has homes in China, Hong Kong, and the United States.
3. Alexa Chung
Alexa Chung is known for her authentic and cool personality.
She was born in England, in 1983, to a mostly Chinese father and an English mother. As Alexa put it on Twitter: “I’m 3/8 Chinese 5/8 English. A very silly fraction (…) Pass it on so I don’t have to explain again. Thanks.”
Her stunning looks always drew attention, and when she was 16, she was discovered by model scouts. Two years later, Alexa had left her small town and moved to London. She wanted to be, in her own words: “At the epicenter of What Was Happening.”
She became an in-demand model and walked for Vivienne Westwood, Tommy Hilfiger, and other big brands. Then, people noticed her personality and offered her gigs on TV. Alexa hosted shows on MTV and the BBC.
Soon, Alexa became Britain’s new “It Girl.”
Nowadays, Alexa has her own fashion brand –Alexachung. She also has her own YouTube channel where she talks about fashion and other stuff close to her heart.
4. Jack Ma
Jack might be one of the nicest billionaires around. He comes across as an optimist and has a great sense of humor. He is open and talkative and loves to share his knowledge.
Jack Ma was born to a middle-class family in China in 1964.
He has talked about the string of failures of his earlier years. He tried to get into what he calls the worst college of his province. And he failed the entrance exam twice. He succeeded on the third try. After graduating, he applied to more than 30 jobs; they did not hire him. Later on, he applied to study at Harvard Business School and was rejected… 10 times.
In 1995, he discovered the newly created Internet. He got online and realized that there were no pages about China, so he made one. The website was a success.
Four years later, he created another website: Alibaba. It became one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world.
Jack is now worth 37 billion dollars, according to Forbes.
He lives in China and now shares his wealth. He has created several foundations. Jack especially supports new entrepreneurs and rural schools, both in China and abroad, but also other causes. When Covid hit, for example, Jack sent medical supplies to the US, and to countries in Africa and Asia.
Curious about Jack and his projects? Read this interview.
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5. Connie Chung
Connie is one of the best-known journalists in the US. She was a news anchor for all three major US broadcasters -CBS, NBC, and ABC-, plus the cable network CNN.
And guess what? She is of full Chinese descent.
Connie’s dad worked as an intelligence officer for the Chinese government. He married Connie’s mom, who is also Chinese.
The couple had nine children back is Asia. But five of their kids died during the war, so the pair decided to move to the US.
The following year, in 1946, Connie was born in Washington DC.
Connie says she is as “American as anybody.” And about her heritage, she says she is “Chinese.”
She does not like the term “Chinese-American” because to her, it sounds like “half and half.” And she has stated that she is not “half” since both her parents are Chinese.
6. Vera Wang
Vera is another US celebrity with Chinese parents.
Her parents arrived in the US in the 1940s, and Vera was born a few years later.
Her parents were ultra-wealthy. She grew up in the exclusive Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. Vera attended private schools, was a debutante at the Waldorf Astoria Ball, and the whole thing.
Vera’s first love was figure skating. But after failing to make the US Olympic team, she switched to fashion.
She worked as an editor of Vogue magazine for 17 years, then for a couple more years, as a designer for Ralph Lauren. And when she was 40, she took the plunge and began designing her own clothes. The rest, as they say, is history.
By the way, according to Forbes, Vera Wang is now worth about 500 million dollars.
7. Ang Lee
Ang Lee is a great filmmaker. You have probably seen some of his gems like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain; or Life of Pi. Or perhaps his Sense and Sensibility adaptation? The one with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant.
Critics love Ang’s work. His movies have won 14 BAFTAs, 11 Oscars, and 9 Golden Globes. And his movies have been a huge success at the box office too.
Ang’s success may, partly, lay in that his films have a calmer pace than most Hollywood productions. And that pace is courtesy of Ang’s Chinese heritage.
His parents are Chinese. They fled their country after the Civil War and landed in Taiwan. Ang was born there in 1954.
Years later, Ang moved to the US to finish his university studies. And since around 1989, he has been making spectacular films both in his natal Taiwan and abroad.
Fun fact? His first international hit was the very British Sense and Sensibility. When Ang directed it in 1994, his English was not that great. There was also a bit of a cultural clash. British actress Emma Thompson has said that Ang was not used to actors asking questions and making observations. Turns out, Chinese actors do not do that. So Ang was taken aback by their feedback at first, but then he adjusted to his chatty co-workers and everything went smoothly.
Ang now lives in the state of New York with his Taiwanese wife. Yet, when he talks about Taiwan in interviews, he still calls it “home.”
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8. Jimmy Choo
Jimmy Choo built a shoe empire.
His pumps are a favorite of celebrities. They cost at least $400 a pair and were immortalized in the Sex and the City series.
The fairy-tale began in Malaysia. That is where Jimmy was born in the 1940s to a family of Chinese descent. His last name is actually Chow, but it was misspelled on Jimmy’s birth certificate, so he got stuck with the wrong spelling.
Jimmy learned how to make shoes from his father, a modest shoe designer. And at 11, Jimmy made his first pair of shoes: leather sandals for his mom’s birthday.
At 21, Jimmy moved to London, England to study shoemaking at a technical school. And by 1986, he had opened his first small shop. Soon, he had the likes of Madonna and Princess Diana as clients, and the company began its vertiginous growth.
But he loves shoes, so Jimmy still makes custom ones for a few select clients. For the label, he uses his Chinese name: Zhou Yang Jie. That way these shoes won’t be confused with the ones made by the company.
Jimmy describes himself as Chinese. When asked about his current work in China, he said: “Everyone keeps asking me why I’m in China… I’m Chinese, so I’m also coming back to my heritage, my motherland… It is very important to me to give back to society. We’re creating jobs, giving back to the Chinese economy.”
And in 2011, he received an award in Hong for being the best Chinese Designer. (He has also been honored by Queen Elizabeth, FYI).
In case you need more proof of his Chinese credentials, Jimmy opened a restaurant in London, Maximini, in 2009: it is a Chinese restaurant.
Jimmy now lives most of the time in Malaysia.
9. Emma Raducanu
Emma is the new darling of the tennis world.
She has been quite the surprise. Tennis players usually compete in many a grand slam before reaching the finals. But Emma won the second grand slam she entered: the US Open. That broke a record. And she was 18 when she achieved that feat in 2021.
Newcomer Emma went from ranking # 338 worldwide to being #19. She has a wild fan base in the UK, her home country. And the BBC and the Sunday Times named her best sportsperson of the year in 2021.
Emma, as many on this list, comes from a multicultural family. Her mom is from China, her dad, from Romania. Emma was born in Canada, and she lived there until she was two. Then the family moved to the UK.
Emma competes for the UK.
But Emma is close to her roots. She frequently travels to China and Romania to visit her grandmothers. So she speaks English, Mandarin, and Romanian fluently.
Emma says she grew up binging-on Taiwanese TV shows, and that she is “quite competent” in Mandarin. Her Chinese fans, meanwhile, say she speaks Mandarin like a native of northern China, where her family is from.
Emma admires many traits of Chinese culture, such as the discipline and work ethic.
Of her maternal family, she has said: “They are so mentally resilient; it’s like nothing can bring them down. I would say I take a big part of my inspiration from her [her mom]. My mum has worked very hard.”
She has also stated her mom “instilled a lot of, like, discipline, respect for other people into me. [My parents], they always push me. They have high expectations. I’ve always tried to live up to that.”
One of Emma’s favorite tennis players is Chinese Li Na. She admires Li’s mentality, hard work, and that Li “never complained. That’s something I aspire to be like.”
So far, so good. In interviews, Emma comes across as delightful, always cheerful, humble, and grateful.
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10. Michelle Yeoh
Michelle has starred in iconic movies such as Memories of a Geisha and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She is not only a great actress and beautiful, but she is also fantastic in action scenes.
Another time, she jumped from an 18 ft wall (5.5 m), but something went wrong, and she landed on her head. Quentin Tarantino, who was a huge fan of hers, went to visit her at the hospital. He kept her company while she lay there immobilized.
The thing is, Michelle is a trained dancer. She started taking ballet lessons at age 4 in her natal Malaysia. Then she moved to London to keep training. But at 16, a back injury dashed her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. So she looked for other ways to use her body to express herself. And that landed her in the world of martial arts movies. Her dancing background means she can learn a fight choreography fast. Plus, she loves the physical side of the genre.
She first became famous in Hong Kong and then in the rest of the world. She was a Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997); she played a terrifying mother-in-law in Crazy, Rich Asians (2018), and worked in Last Christmas (2019) with Emilia Clarke.
Michelle’s family is of Chinese descent. She is ethnically Han (the Han are the largest ethnic group in China).
11. Liu Wen
Liu Wen is a supermodel. She has been the face of Estee Lauder, an angel for Victoria’s Secret, and a representative of Chanel.
Liu was born in the province of Hunan, in China. She began modeling at 17 after winning a modeling contest.
Her career took off three years later when she began modeling for the best European fashion brands.
She now appears regularly among Forbes’ highest-paid models. She travels constantly, but her main home is an apartment in China. And she spent the lock-down with her family in China.
12. Harry Shum Jr.
Harry has also starred in movies like the popular Crazy Rich Asians and the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He did not know martial arts before filming, but his dancing background helped him get the hang of the choreographed fights.
Harry had a multicultural upbringing. His parents are from China and Hong Kong, respectively, but they relocated to Costa Rica.
Harry was born (1982) and raised in that peaceful Central American country. He grew up speaking Spanish and absorbing the local culture.
13. Julie Chen
Julie is a well-known journalist. Since she was a teenager, she dreamt of becoming a news anchor for a big tv channel. She did eventually become one.
She has been working for CBS since 1999.
The story of Julie’s parents would make a great romantic movie. Her dad’s dad was a powerful man in China. When his side lost the Civil War, he fled to Taiwan with his young family. But they first made a stop in Burma. There, Julie’s dad met Julie’s mom. She came from a wealthy Chinese family.
The teenagers saw each other only for a few weeks, but it was enough for them to fall in love. So when Julie’s dad moved to Taiwan, they kept writing to each other. He studied college, did military service, and moved to the US to finish his university.
Never forgetting his pen pal love, he looked for a US university she could attend. He found one in Tennessee, and she enrolled in it.
After 10 years of not seeing each other, they were finally in the same country. He would drive every weekend from Florida to Tennessee to see her. After they graduated, they moved to New York and got married.
Julie was born in Queens, New York, to the happy couple. She has stated that her first language is Mandarin and that she grew up in a household with traditional Chinese values. She has said she was taught to have a strong work ethic, to respect her elders and herself, and to make a path for herself based on her brain and not her beauty.
“I was taught the Chinese work ethic, and that failing was not an option. My dad left the house every day at 6 AM… he never complained,” Julie has said.
Julie’s upbringing might have been cozy: she would visit her wealthy relatives in Singapore who had drivers and house staff, and back home in NY, her mom would take her to “fine restaurants, to all the Broadway musicals, the ballet, and the museums.” But at the same time, her mom always told her that “If I wanted the finer things in life, I would have to work hard.”
14. Steven Chu
Steven also served as the United States Secretary of Energy for four years. Then, he resigned to go back to what he loves doing: teaching physics and molecular physiology, which he does at Stanford University.
Steven is not the only brain in his family, either. He comes from a family of scientists and scholars. His dad, who was born in China, earned a doctorate in Chemical Engineering at MIT. Steven’s mom also attended MIT. And Steven’s maternal granddad was a renowned scientist in China.
15. Olivia Munn
Actress Olivia Munn refers to herself as Asian or Asian-American in interviews. After all, she can claim THREE Asian countries as her own: China, Vietnam, and Japan.
Olivia’s mom is of Chinese descent, but she was born and raised in Vietnam. After the Vietnam war, she arrived in the US as a refugee. And in her new country, she met Olivia’s dad, an American of European descent.
Their marriage did not last long, though. So few years later, Olivia’s mom married again, this time a member of the US Air Force. And the new family, Olivia included, relocated to Japan.
Olivia grew up in Japan speaking Japanese and learning taekwondo.
But when she was 16, her mom got divorced once more. So mom and child moved back to the US.
16. Jennifer Tilly
Jennifer shares some similarities with Olivia Munn. Check them out: they were both born in the US to a parent of Chinese descent and a parent of European descent. Their parents divorced when they were little, and their mothers remarried and relocated. In the case of Jennifer, her mom took her to Canada. They lived in these foreign lands until they were 16… then their mothers divorced, and they moved again. At 16, Jennifer moved to another region of Canada.
Jennifer’s birth name is Jennifer Chan, although she prefers to go by her mother’s last name: Tilly.
Jennifer isis an actress known for her comedic timing. She usually plays bimbos who have a breathy voice -which, turns out, is her real voice. Her breakthrough role came in the famous movie The Fabulous Baker Boys. And years later, she got an Academy Award nomination for her role in Woody Allen’s movie Bullets Over Hollywood.
She has appeared in Liar, Liar, the Chuky franchise, and in Broadway plays, as well.
Jennifer is also a serious poker player. Like really serious. She has made a career of it and even won a World Series of Poker -Ladies Only Event back in 2005.
17. Kristin Kreuk
You may have seen Kristin in Smallville. In the TV series, she played beautiful and calm Lana Lang, who Clark Kent was in love with.
Kristin is Canadian. Her dad is of Dutch descent, while her mom is of Chinese descent -although she was born in Indonesia.
Kristin describes her mom as simply “Chinese.” “My Mom’s Chinese. She doesn’t speak any Chinese, but I went to Chinese school one summer, so I have a little bit of Mandarin,” Kristin has said in interviews.
The Chinese-Indonesian mom also lived in Singapore and the Solomon Islands before relocating to Canada for good. In North America, she met her husband and had Kristin.
18. Tyson Beckford
Tyson is probably the only male supermodel in the world. How many other male models can you name?
He has been on the cover of fashion magazines, has walked for the most famous designers, and even appeared in music videos such as Britney Spears’ Toxic. He has quite the following and elicits plenty of sighs.
Tyson has long worked for Ralph Lauren, representing his brand Polo. According to Ralph, Tyson is so successful because “he conveys power, style, and intelligence in a very exciting way.”
Tyson was born in The Bronx, in the US, in a biracial family.
His mom is from Jamaica and, racially, is half Chinese and half African. Tyson’s dad comes from Jamaica and Panama, and, racially, is of African descent.
So Tyson has the same ethnicity as fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell. She is also a Jamaican of African and Chinese descent. The mix is not unusual in Jamaica.
After Tyson was born, his family moved back to Jamaica. They lived on the island until Tyson was 7, then they returned to New York.
One day, teenage Tyson was hanging out with his friends in a New York park. The editor of a magazine spotted him. The magazine was doing a fashion shoot, and one of the models had canceled at the last minute. The magazine was desperately looking for a replacement, and that is when they found Tyson. After some convincing, they got him to pose for them. And Tyson’s modeling career took off.
19. Tiger Woods
Tiger is one of the best golfers of all time. And he is probably the only golfer that has become a celebrity.
Tiger was born in the US, and he embraces his multiracial background -which probably comes naturally to him since both his parents identify as multiracial as well.
Tiger has blood from Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
He broke down his ethnicity in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 1997.
Tiger’s mom was born in Thailand, and she is 1/2 Thai, 1/4 Chinese, and 1/4 Dutch. Tiger’s dad was born in the US and is 1/2 African, 1/4 Chinese, and 1/4 Native. Got all that?
Well, suffice it to say that since both of his parents have Chinese ancestry, Tiger ends up being 1/4 Chinese.
Tiger has said he is proud of all his heritage. He recognizes both his mother’s Asianness and his father’s Africanness. “I’m just a golfer who happens to be black and Asian,” he has said.
20. Zhong Shanshan
You probably have never heard of Zhong because he likes to keep a low profile.
But Zhong is THE wealthiest person in China and the 13th wealthiest in the world and. Forbes estimates his fortune in 70 billion dollars.
He then worked as a construction worker, a reporter, and a sales agent.
In 1996, he opened a bottled water company called Nongfu Spring. And now that company is China’s largest bottled water maker.
Zhong is not alone in his ‘billionairess.’ China is, according to Forbes, the second country with the most billionaires. There are more than 600 Chinese billionaires.