Growing up Asian-American with traditional parents wasn’t easy for Julie Chen. Speaking Mandarin before English, the Talk cohost always felt as if she didn’t fit in: “I just wanted to assimilate and look and sound like the other kids,” she recalls to Us Weekly of being one of the few children of Asian heritage in grade school. “Most of the kids didn’t look like me. I was the one Asian kid, I think there was another Japanese student in my class. I was in denial.”
And it seems like history is repeating itself for her 8-year-old son, Charlie (with husband Leslie Moonves, 68). “I see him going through what I did,” the 48-year-old notes, “which was trying to shun that side of me.”
Charlie isn’t interested in learning his mother’s native tongue at the moment, but Chen believes he’ll warm to his background one day just as she did. “He’s at that age where he’s trying to figure out what does this mean,” she adds. “I know he’ll reach a stage where he’s going to regret not learning the language and speaking it fluently from a young age. He will want to get in touch with his Chinese roots.”
As an adult, Chen is proud of her heritage though, especially after participating in TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are in 2015. “To go back to the homeland, the motherland and get in touch with your roots,” the Big Brother host says, “I felt more aware of who I am and what makes me, me. It was very profound. I loved watching it with my parents, my parents’ generation of relatives.”
For more on Chen and her son, pick up the new issue of Us Weekly, on stands now.
With reporting by Nicholas White