Pop star Billie Eilish is apologizing for mouthing a racist slur after questions were raised by an old video of her that quickly went viral on TikTok. Eilish says she is "being labeled something that I am not," after critics said her actions were insensitive at best and racist at worst.
Eilish, 19, responded to the criticisms in a message posted to her Instagram Stories. The footage in question dates from when she was 13 or 14 years old, she said. The video consists of several clips that have been edited together to highlight different scenes. Describing one of the clips, Eilish says, "I mouthed a word from a song that at the time I didn't know was a derogatory term used against members of the Asian community."
It was the first time she had heard the term, she adds.
"I am appalled and embarrassed and want to barf that I ever mouthed along to that word," the singer says.
"Regardless of my ignorance and age at the time, nothing excuses the fact is that it was hurtful. And for that I am sorry."
The video has been seen more than 1 million times
The video has been circulating for at least the past week. A version posted by a TikTok user named @lcxvy was seen more than a million times. In follow-up posts, the user said she is a huge fan of Eilish. Rather than trying to "cancel" the singer, she added, she wanted Eilish to address the recordings.
After Eilish apologized, @lcxvy said she was glad the singer responded, adding that it's "understandable and good she said something."
Backlash over the video has brought an unscripted flurry of media coverage to Eilish, at a time when the singer is building toward the release of her second album in late July.
Eilish says she was talking gibberish, not mocking anyone
In another controversial clip in the video, Eilish is seen (and heard) speaking in a way that many viewers see as her mocking a heavy Asian accent. Eilish says she was "speaking in a silly gibberish made up voice," adding that it was something she has done since childhood "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," Eilish says. "Anyone who knows me has seen me goofing around with voices my whole life."
Eilish ends her apology by saying, "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."
She adds that she has sought to use her celebrity and her platform to push for inclusion and kindness, along with tolerance and equality.