LUCY ALEXIS LIU, 28, actress and photo artist

At 28, Queens, N. Y.-born Lucy Alexis Liu is a hit on both sides of the camera—as brainy student Amy Li in the popular CBS sitcom Pearl and as a photo artist with gallery exhibits in Los Angeles and New York City.

Credits: Film: Played an exotic dancer in City of Industry with Harvey Keitel and a coke addict in Gridlock'd, featuring Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth. Appears in Showtime film Riot, airing this month, as Luke Perry's self-hating racist girlfriend.

TV: Along with Pearl, Liu has played roles on Beverly Hills, 90210, ER and NYPD Blue.

Art: Selling at up to $8,500 a shot, photos framed with hub caps and decked with Tinkertoys, rice paper and other odds and ends salvaged from dumps and estate sales.

Fan: Pearl star Rhea Perlman says she was floored by Liu's artwork, "this whole other side" to her friend.

Turning point: Expecting to score a minor part in a college production of Alice in Wonderland and landing the role of Alice. "I had been limiting myself by creating an idea that I couldn't ever lead in something," she says.

First break: Played a waitress at the Peach Pit on 90210.

Pet hate: Racial stereotypes. "When I was little, people would come up to me and do karate chops and say, 'Oh, you're Chinese, you must know karate.' I hated that," says Liu.

Reveng: In defiance of childhood taunts, Liu took up karate, Thai boxing and kali-escrima pentjak silat (knife and stick fighting). "So," she says, "if someone asks me if I know karate, I can say, 'Yeah, I do, and I can kick your ass.' "

Nickname: "George" as in Curious George for obvious reasons. "I'm always asking questions," she says.

Vitals: University of Michigan grad, 1990, with a degree in Chinese language and culture. Liu, now living solo in Hollywood Hills, says of her single status, "I believe in love at first sight. [But] I'm really picky."

Job training: Pole-danced nude at an L.A. strip club to research her part as an exotic dancer in City of Industry. "It felt really powerful and kind of sexy," she says.

The catch: "I haven't told my parents yet," Liu admits. How does she think they'll take it? "It should be interesting. I came from a home where no one ever walked around naked."