BEIJING - A TikTok clip which allegedly shows singer Billie Eilish imitating what sounds like a Cantonese accent and using a racist slur "c***k" for Chinese people has been spreading like wildfire on social media since it surfaced last week.
Chinese fans of the 19-year-old Grammy winner are especially upset, with China's nationalistic tabloid Global Times reporting on Monday (June 21) that netizens on Weibo in China have called for a boycott of Eilish.
"What she did makes me feel betrayed, like you give your heart to someone who actually belittles you," said former fan Sanni Zhu to the Global Times. "Whether this was before she became famous or not, or someone did it on purpose, it happened. The bad impression of her will be there forever. The Internet will remember."
On Twitter, the hashtag #BillieEilishisoverparty is trending, with users calling for her to be cancelled.
The singer addressed the issue in a lengthy Instagram Story on Monday (June 21): "I love you guys, and many of you have been asking me to address this. And this is something 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 used against members of the Asian community. I am appalled and embarrassed and want to barf that I ever mouthed along to that word."
She ended with an apology for using the word, saying: "Regardless of the ignorance and age at the time, nothing excuses the fact that it was hurtful. And for that I am sorry."
She dismissed allegations that she was mocking an Asian accent in the clip, explaining that "it is absolutely gibberish and just me goofing around, and is in no way imitation of anyone or any language, accent, or culture in the slightest”.
This latest social media scandal comes in the wake of another recent one involving her rumoured boyfriend, actor Matthew Tyler Vorce, 29.
He issued an apology on Instagram last week for old racist and homophobic posts which had resurfaced, and subsequently made his account private.
This is also not the first time that Eilish has angered Chinese fans.
In June last year, she had shared a set of tweets on Instagram which praised Hong Kong protesters and suggested that Black Lives Matter demonstrators can learn from them how to evade the police.
On Weibo, netizens took that to mean that Eilish supported Hong Kong independence and vowed to boycott her.
Eilish's debut album in 2019, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, was one of that year's best-selling albums and her highly anticipated follow-up album, Happier Than Ever, is due to be released on July 30.