As a young girl in Queens, New York, Lucy Liu never imagined she would one day be seen as a world famous beauty.
The "Elementary" actress, 43, speaks candidly about her formative years in the November issue of Michigan Avenue magazine.
"I grew up as a tomboy, and if you've seen photographs of me as a child, you see my mother cut all of my hair off. I had no hair: Picture Sinead O'Connor with a two-week grow-out," Liu laughs. "I was not considered feminine at all, and boys did not look at me. I was a toothpick."
Don't believe her? "I'll show you pictures, and you'll see I'm not lying," the actress insists. "I never looked at myself as a feminine person. My thing was, 'I'm going to be casual and be able to talk to people because I'm hanging out with the guys.'"
It wasn't until Liu attended the University of Michigan when she "suddenly felt like I understood more about myself and started making choices on my own. I started doing things that I wanted to do and understanding what my place was in the world, and I think part of that was also embracing myself as a woman. I was smart, I could hang with the guys — I could fall into my own niche category."
Even so, Liu says, "I find that if somebody finds me beautiful, it melts my heart because it's not something I heard most of the time growing up ever."
The "Charlie's Angels" star, whose past boyfriends include screenwriter Zach Helm, "Celeste and Jesse Forever" star Will McCormack and GLG Partners founder Noam Gottesman, says those feelings have affected her relationships with men.
"I can easily be enticed into some terrible relationship because I'm like, 'Oh, my God, you think I'm beautiful?' You know what I mean? And my friends are like, 'Why did you date that a–hole for so long?'" she tells Michigan Avenue. "I'm like, 'Oh, God.'"
Keep clicking to see more photos of Lucy …
Lucy Liu attends a special screening of "Detachment", hosted by American Express and The Cinema Society at New York's Landmark Sunshine Cinema on March 13, 2012.
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Lucy Liu arrives at the CBS, Showtime and The CW 2012 TCA summer tour party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on July 29, 2012.
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Lucy Liu and Michelle Trachtenberg attend the 27th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards at NYU Skirball Center in New York on May 6, 2012.
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Lucy Liu attends a special screening of "Detachment" hosted by American Express and The Cinema Society at New York's Landmark Sunshine Cinema on March 13, 2012.
Lucy Liu arrives at the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards at the Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 25, 2012, in Santa Monica, Calif.
Lucy Liu arrives at the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards at Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif., on Feb. 25, 2012.
Lucy Lui dons a police uniform as she films scenes for "Southland."
Lucy Liu attends a launch party in New York on Oct. 12, 2011.
Lucy Liu attends the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards on Sept. 10, 2000.
Lucy Liu performing with The Bullitts on the Deer Park Stage in England on August 6, 2011.
Lucy Liu attends the Swarovski Crystallized concept store opening in New York on June 25, 2009.
Lucy Liu attends a special screening of "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" hosted by the Cinema Society in New York on July 13, 2011.
Lucy Liu attends the 2011 CFDA Fashion Awards at Lincoln Center in New York on June 6, 2011.
Lucy Liu attends the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Gala at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2011.