Yoo’s Cues: Teo Yoo shot to fame with his nuanced performance in Past Lives, but the extrovert within him awaits

In the realm of entertainment, success stories are often shaped by talent, perseverance and a touch of fate. Teo Yoo’s rise has captivated audiences worldwide, a Korean actor raised in Germany who defied the odds to break into the international film industry. From humble beginnings to global sensation, his journey is an inspiring tale of passion, determination and unwavering belief in one’s dreams.

Yoo’s touching performance as a man doubting his destiny in the critically acclaimed film, Past Lives, cast him into an unexpected spotlight. The movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January last year, won Best Feature at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, and was a Best Picture nominee at this year’s Oscars.

“It’s still a bit surreal as Love to Hate You was my first leading role in a Korean TV show and Past Lives was the first time I was the lead of an American feature film,” says the 42-year-old actor of 2023. “Being able to showcase the diversity of my work to the public has been exciting.”

Teo’s breakthrough came with a role that would define his career and eventually solidify his place among the finest actors of this generation. First casted in an independent film, his portrayal of a complex character captivated audiences and critics alike. The film’s success propelled Teo into the international spotlight, earning him accolades and paving the way for a myriad of opportunities.

Chosen path

This year, he promises audiences will see a different side of him. “I don’t even feel like I have scratched the surface of my potential. It is always hard to answer this question [of what challenge is coming next] because as an actor, we are not choosing what we want to do. We are getting chosen. So it is hard to tell what comes next. But I can tell you that I want to show a more colourful and extroverted variety of my character in the future.”

Born Kim Chi-hun in Cologne, Germany, in 1981, to South Korean immigrants, Teo Yoo was supposed to train as a physical therapist, but pursuing acting studies at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York and then the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London changed his mind.

His career began in the mid-2000s with a few small roles in Korean films. Having relocated to Seoul, he clocked up appearances in a couple of international productions – Seoul Searching (2015) and the Russian rock movie Leto (2018), both of which took him to the Cannes Film Festival.

Breaking free

As the son of a coal miner who moved to Germany as part of a labour scheme, Yoo doesn’t waste time dwelling on regret and has never been afraid to take chances. “Personally, I believe that an individual can adapt anywhere and still find a reason and a purpose to feel that they belong in said circumstance,” he says. “I also believe that it even heightens a sense of belonging due to the purposeful nature of becoming invested in the new environment.”

Heart felt

Past Lives, Yoo’s most significant career highlight to date, is an endless love story, even if it lacks the genre’s typical elements. Written and directed by Celine Song, it follows two childhood friends as they grow older, become adults and go in separate directions. It crosses boundaries, time, relationship, and even lifetimes, and arouses emotions so deeply that yearning looks are the greatest way for the two protagonists, Hae Sun (Yoo) and Nora (Russian Doll and The Morning Show star Greta Lee), to express themselves rather than words.

The story’s origins lie in the Korean idea of inyeon, which holds that two individuals are meant to cross paths because of their ties from past lifetimes. Even though the couple’s relationship is intense and powerful, first-time director Song manages to make it seem real and relatable. And Yoo and Lee persuade us that it’s true.

“The cultural belief system of inyeon helped to construct the emotional elements of the character in this particular movie,” he says, adding: “I don’t really reminisce too much about my life. But sometimes I do like to think about it as a form of an imaginative exercise, as the construct of ‘what if’ is such a Western idea. In contrast, the core concept of inyeon allows me to just be.”

A happy ending?

Warning: A bit of a spoiler. Past Lives is a romance, even if the majority of the people who have watched it don’t feel that way by the end. However, without giving too much away, Yoo insists: “Looking at it from my character’s perspective, it’s not an ending. It’s just maybe a beginning. So it’s definitely a romance.”

His Oscars 2024 red carpet moment was a touching one tinged with sadness. Yoo wore a turtle pin, and when asked by the press he revealed the layers of meaning behind his accessory choice – it symbolised his late tortoise, Momo.

“Okay, so my pet tortoise passed away last year and I had him for 10 years. I’m gonna grieve for a while,” he announced, while smiling but close to tearing up. Yoo’s vulnerability, in real life or reel life, is what makes him very likeable.

Yoo says he was “in tears for about three days” after his pet’s death. “I was so dramatic. You know, it’s like that moment you have with your pet where you’re like, ‘Oh my god. Life is over.’ And then you remove yourself at the same time as an actor and you look at the situation and you think, ‘Oh my god, this is so dramatic and comical.’”

Driven by talent, dedication and relentless pursuit of artistic excellence, Yoo has proven that with hard work and determination dreams can indeed become reality. His success story continues to unfold, leaving audiences eagerly anticipating his next endeavour and celebrating the indomitable spirit of a true artist.

Tang Primacy: Tiffany Tang, queen of Chinese TV dramas, is as strong-minded as her Blossoms Shanghai character

Blessed with exceptional talent and magnetic presence, Tiffany Tang has long captivated Chinese-speaking audiences on the small screen and in movie theatres. The Shanghai native has starred in some of the most popular mainland China television dramas in the past 15 years, including Chinese Paladin 3 (2009), Xuan-Yuan Sword: Scar of Sky (2012), Lady & Liar (2015) and The Princess Weiyoung (2016) and has stepped onto the stage for a singing career, too. She was once hailed as the ‘One Billion Queen’ since her TV series consistently attracted the highest viewing figures.

After a short hiatus following the birth of her daughter, 40-year-old Tang was back in the limelight playing Miss Wang in the highly anticipated drama Blossoms Shanghai, produced and directed by Hong Kong’s pride Wong Kar-wai. This adaptation of Jin Yucheng’s novel Blossoms premiered in December and tells the story of A Bao (played by Hu Ge), a Shanghainese man living large during the 1990s’ economic boom. While garnering favourable reviews for Tang’s evocative interpretation of a complex character, in true Wong Kar-wai style the series also divided the critics. Also, unsurprisingly given Wong’s meticulous work habits, the script was many years in the writing and filming spanned a further three years.

It was a bold move for the arthouse director fêted on the international film festival circuit – his first turn on TV and a decade since his last motion picture, The Grandmaster. But thanks to a stellar cast and Oscar-winning Hong Kong cinematographer Peter Pau behind the camera, Blossoms Shanghai proved that change is sometimes necessary.

Tang had declined to participate in any other film or television project after landing the part, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to the series. “Over the past three years, I feel as though I have actually become Miss Wang,” she said. “Miss Wang is very clear-thinking. No matter how tough the situation, she can always overcome it.”

Life of Drama

This clarity of purpose may also be applied to her own rise. Tang’s passion for acting surfaced during her school years, when she actively participated in various drama clubs and productions. Recognising her potential, her parents supported her dreams, and she enrolled in the prestigious Central Academy of Drama in Beijing to pursue a formal acting education.

Her breakthrough came when she won the role of Zi Xuan in Chinese Paladin, the popular series starring, coincidentally, Hu Ge. Her performance earned her widespread acclaim and catapulted her to stardom in China. She has continued to impress in more than 30 notable TV dramas, showcasing her versatility and acting prowess.

Big-Screen Presence

Tang’s talent soon attracted the attention of other East Asian entertainment-industry powerhouses, namely Hong Kong and South Korea. Expanding her reach beyond China’s borders and onto the big screen, she appeared in the Pang brothers’ wuxia fantasy The Storm Warriors (2009) starring Hong Kong heartthrobs Aaron Kwok and Ekin Cheng, as well as A Chinese Odyssey Part Three (2016) and Cook Up a Storm (2017).

Bounty Hunters (2016), a China-South Korea-Hong Kong co-production, was another stride abroad, and it was followed by the Jingle Ma action-thriller Europe Raiders (2018), where she starred alongside Tony Leung and Kris Wu. The film was released in North America and Australia, opening doors for further international opportunities in the industry.

Sense and Style

Her acting credits aside, Tang frequently sits in the front row during fashion weeks. Her widespread popularity, striking appearance and effortless ability to embody elegance, sophistication and modernity have made her the perfect choice for global brands seeking to boost their influence in Asia. She was formerly a spokesperson for Coach and Bally, has collaborated with Roger Vivier and Valentino, and more recently endorsed Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton.

Tang is also an advocate for women’s rights and gender equality. In various interviews, she has spoken about feminism and the importance of breaking traditional stereotypes and encouraging women to pursue their dreams fearlessly. She once said that a woman is at her most alluring when she is pregnant, opining: “A woman has charm and this is not achieved by a girl. She will only go through it after she has become a mother.”

Motherhood First

Herself giving birth a year or so after her 2018 wedding in Vienna to actor and singer Luo Jin, Tang has openly discussed the challenges and joys of balancing a successful career with her role as a mother. She emphasises the importance of support systems and the need for society to be more inclusive and understanding of working mothers. Her candid and relatable perspective on motherhood has resonated with many, making her an influential figure for women navigating similar journeys.

She acknowledged that she purposefully chose to reduce her workload when she became a wife and mother. “Of course, work is important, but you must also allocate time and energy to family and life,” she said. “Once you return to work, you won’t have much time to accompany your children. Children are constantly growing. If you miss it, then you miss it.”

The actress added it is a common misconception that she has done little recently because she has only worked on a couple of projects: “I am actually busy. But it’s meaningless to explain it to people because people who know me don’t need the explanation.”

Tiffany Tang has successfully bridged the gap between cultures, garnering recognition and endorsement from prestigious brands worldwide. Her commitment to feminism and her relatable insights on motherhood further contribute to her status as an influential figure. As she continues to make her mark in the entertainment industry, her star power shows no signs of dimming, solidifying her position as an icon of Chinese television and contemporary Asian cinema.

Taylor Making: From the Kissing Booth to Instagram, rising star Taylor Zakhar Perez shouts out for equity

In the vast landscape of Hollywood, certain individuals possess the talent and drive to capture our attention and leave a lasting impact. Taylor Zakhar Perez, a rising star, has emerged as one such individual, captivating audiences with his acting prowess and using his celebrity platform to advocate for social causes close to his heart.

Born on Christmas Eve 1991, in South Chicago Heights, Illinois, into a family of Mexican, Middle Eastern and Eastern European ancestry, Taylor discovered his passion for the performing arts at a young age. Raised in a supportive environment that nurtured his creativity, he participated in school plays and local theatre productions. After completing high school, where he excelled at swimming, the budding thespian pursued his dreams and enrolled at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles, where he honed his acting skills and laid the foundation for his future career.

Kissing Tell

“Failure wasn’t an option,” says Zakhar Perez today of his decade-plus journey through Hollywood. Now 31, the actor moved away from his seven siblings in the Midwest to attend UCLA – in part so he could moonlight as an assistant at creative agency Art Department, where his uncle worked at the time. That was in addition to a few other gigs and, of course, attending class.

“I was working three or four jobs at one time: school, Art Department, production assisting, acting classes, and I was also a cater-waiter,” he says. “I didn’t move to Hollywood to not do what I wanted to do.”

It was in the second part of Netflix’s high-school romantic comedy series The Kissing Booth that Zakhar Perez made his big screen debut as Marco Peña, the dreamy, muscular and gifted “snack” that Elle (Joey King) calls him. Fans of the first film had launched co-stars King and Jacob Elordi into superstardom seemingly overnight, and Zakhar Perez received similar treatment. Within hours of The Kissing Booth 2’s release in 2020, he had more than four million Instagram followers. He was blown away by the response.

“I think my Instagram glitched, and my DMs [direct messages] still don’t work!” he exclaimed shortly after, highlighting the seeming absurdity of his instant appeal. “I try to delete them, I’ve talked to Instagram like, ‘Hey, I think these DMs are breaking my phone. It just glitches all the time.’ And they’ve tried to do it, but they still come in hot.”

His charismatic portrayal of the charming and confident Marco garnered critical acclaim and quickly endeared him to audiences worldwide. The following year he reprised his role in The Kissing Booth 3, solidifying his status as a rising star in the industry.

Honour Colour

Zakhar Perez is not only known for his talent but also for his unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community. Since entering show business, he has expressed his commitment to creating an inclusive and accepting society. “Love knows no boundaries, and it’s high time we embrace and celebrate the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community,” he notes. “Acceptance is the first step towards building a society where everyone feels seen, heard and loved.”

As a vocal and highly visible advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, he has actively participated in events and initiatives that promote equality and understanding. He says: “As an actor, I believe it’s crucial to use my platform to amplify voices that are often marginalised. Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is not only a moral obligation, but it’s also about creating a more compassionate and inclusive world.”

In addition to his support for the LGBTQ+ community, Zakhar Perez is a champion of mental health awareness. Recognising the importance of destigmatising mental health struggles, he has openly discussed his own experiences and encouraged open conversations about mental well- being. His dedication to raising awareness and promoting self-care serves as an inspiration to many.

Movies and Movements

Zakhar Perez is always moving forward. Having two successful films in quick succession under his belt, he was keen to take riskier steps in his career and continue to develop as an artist. “I’m inspired to lead more, inspired to throw myself in with talented people who are better than me. I just wanna learn it all,” he said at the time.

His guest role as a firefighter and potential raunchy cover star in HBO Max’s female-driven, female-created show Minx (2022) allowed him to do just that. The unconventional rom-com was greatly altered by this series set in the 1970s about the launch of an erotic magazine for women.

Zakhar Perez was thrilled to work with comedy great Jake Johnson of New Girl fame, who played one of the show’s leads.

His most recent film role sees him playing the co-lead. In the Amazon romantic comedy Red, White and Royal Blue, he is the gay son of the US president who falls for a prince of England – another character that casts him in a different light to his legion of adoring fans.

For him, life lessons aren’t limited to the big screen and cameras. He actively seeks to use his stardom to inform people about critical subjects, particularly in this era of performative ‘repost culture’. He has personally and consciously explored the topic of environmental challenges on his Instagram.

“I really like digging my heels into one social issue and being like, ‘This is what I know. This is what I’m learning,’” he says. “And maybe the people that follow me will have read everything along the way and understood it.”

And he’s all about practising what he preaches. “I’m trying to figure out composting. I’m trying to figure out a garden and chickens,” he laughs. “I’ll be that crazy chicken dad!”

Zakhar Perez’s background, career and advocacy works reflect his multifaceted, multicultural nature as an actor and individual. Through his talent, authenticity and dedication, he has positioned himself as a role model for future generations of actors and as a rising star with a passion for making a difference in the world. As his journey continues, audiences can anticipate witnessing his growth and impact both on and off the screen.

However, he may need a chicken-sitter when he’s away on long shoots, which is what he plans to do, keeping an open mind to wherever his next move will take him.

Yes, She Chan! – Gemma Chan’s powerful performances and outspoken advocacy have shattered barriers and opened doors for under

Gemma Chan’s high cheekbones, bright eyes and full lips characterise a face that is symmetrical to the point where it seems statistically improbable. This may be the reason behind her frequent casting in superpowered or non-human roles, such as the selfless android, Mia, in the British TV series Humans, space sniper Minn-Erva in Captain Marvel, and immortal alien Sersi in Eternals. But though her striking face will have helped her acting career, it is really just a superficial footnote to a person who runs truly deep.

Long before Hollywood came calling with a part in Crazy Rich Asians, Chan nearly took a different professional path. She declined a job offer from a prestigious London legal firm after earning her law degree at Oxford University in 2004. Rather, she enrolled at the esteemed acting school Drama Centre London. Two decades on, the British-Chinese actor has reached a comfortable level of celebrity status, capturing the hearts of audiences worldwide with her talent and unwavering commitment to breaking barriers in the entertainment industry.

Not So Crazy Rich

From humble beginnings to trailblazer, Gemma Chan’s life story is one of perseverance, resilience and a relentless pursuit of empowering others. She has openly acknowledged that her parents – hardworking Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong (father) and mainland China originally (mother) – overcame great adversity to earn degrees in engineering and pharmacy respectively.

Now aged 41, she was born in London and raised in a tight-knit Chinese family who had made Scotland their home. Her parents instilled in her the values of hard work, education and cultural heritage. Her father had survived two years of homelessness when their one-room flat in Hong Kong burned down and put his five siblings through school by working on oil tankers – which is why he considered Gemma’s artistic dreams not at all practical.

Some of her many early jobs include stocking shelves at the UK chemist chain, Boots, manning a shopping centre perfume counter and working as a lifeguard – all unimaginably far from the glamorous lifestyle she is now experiencing.

Diversity in Hollywood

But her breakthrough via the role of Astrid Leong-Teo, a strong, independent woman and a famous actress, in the surprise hit Crazy Rich Asians (2018) proved her father’s view wrong. The film not only became a global phenomenon but also marked a significant milestone for Asian representation in Tinseltown.

In various interviews, Chan has emphasised the importance of diversity in the film industry. She believes in the power of representation and the positive impact it can have on audiences. She says: “When people see themselves on screen, it validates their existence, their experiences, and it tells them that their stories matter.”

Playing celebrated social climber Bess of Hardwick in Mary Queen of Scots (also 2018) was another step toward prominence, and it was swiftly followed by her strong entry into the Marvel universe. Chan has a platform now that she is well-known in the media, and she is using it to every minority’s benefit.

She has been spotted on the red carpet, sporting clothing from Asian designers including Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung, Kenzo, Altuzarra and Adeam. “I was just so moved,” she says.

Power to the Women

Beyond her on-screen presence, Chan has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and combating gender stereotypes. Spotlighting the need for more complex and diverse female characters, she says: “It’s important to tell stories about women, showing them as fully realised human beings with desires, flaws and dreams.”

She did just that in Captain Marvel, supporting the first standalone female title character (played by Brie Larson) in the Marvel universe in the first Marvel film directed by a woman. Chan also expresses her admiration for Gurung who has been “putting plus-size and transgender models on the runway”. She adds: “I love opening up a magazine and seeing a whole mixture of body types … grey hair, dark skin, wrinkles – we are saying that we find these things beautiful.”

Chan’s passion for empowering women extends beyond her acting career. She has been involved with various organisations, including the Time’s Up movement, to call out sexual harassment, address inequality and promote gender parity in the entertainment industry and beyond. Her advocacy work amplifies marginalised voices and challenges societal norms.

She supports Time’s Up Justice and Equality Fund, the British counterpart of the Legal Defense Fund that assists people challenging workplace sexual harassment and an unequal status quo. Additionally, she collaborated with fellow actor Ruth Wilson and the British Film Institute to conduct educational sessions with more than 400 drama school students on how to spot various forms of power abuse, comprehend nudity clauses, and safeguard oneself from compromising audition scenarios.

“What’s going to be expected of you if you have to do a sex scene? What if you get asked to do something you’re not comfortable with? How can you say no?” asks Chan. “These are things they don’t teach you in drama school.”

To Be Continued

Despite her rising fame, Gemma Chan remains grounded and acknowledges the challenges she has faced. She emphasises the importance of staying true to oneself, stating, “It’s really important to find your own voice and your own path, and to not be afraid of speaking out and saying no.”

With all this activity in her life, from superhuman roles to battling for better industry standards, what could be next on her agenda? She expresses a desire to create more opportunities for underrepresented voices, saying: “I want to be part of making those stories visible, and hopefully, that will inspire someone else to tell their story.”

Elordi in Waiting: Priscilla star Jacob Elordi is rapidly climbing the Hollywood ladder to become Gen Z’s leading man

In the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, where talent and charisma go hand in hand, Jacob Elordi has emerged as a rising star who is captivating audiences worldwide. With his striking looks, undeniable acting prowess and an impressive range of performances, the 26-year-old Australian has quickly made a name for himself in the industry. From his breakout roles in The Kissing Booth films and the hit series Euphoria to being cast as Elvis in the latest exposé of the King of Rock and Roll’s rollercoaster life and loves, he is now one of Tinseltown’s most sought-after talents and a Gen Z idol.

Heart for Art

Born in 1997 in Brisbane, the Gen Z actor showed an interest in the entertainment industry during his childhood. He attended St Joseph’s Nudgee College, a prestigious Catholic school, where he nurtured his acting skills by participating in school productions. After completing high school, he decided to pursue acting professionally and enrolled at the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) in Sydney, which is renowned for producing talented actors.

Having appeared as an extra in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which was shot on Australia’s Gold Coast, his dedication and commitment to his craft paid off when a year later he secured his first film role, at the age of 21, in the Australian comedy Swinging Safari (2018).

Faces and Phases

Elordi’s international breakthrough happened about the same time, as he was cast as Noah Flynn, the bad boy, in the US teenage romance The Kissing Booth. The film’s popularity got him noticed by Hollywood insiders and he reprised his role in two sequels within the next three years.

Determined to make a bigger name for himself, he relocated to Los Angeles after the first film wrapped in 2017. He stayed on a friend’s couch in the San Fernando Valley for a few weeks, then slept in his 2004 Mitsubishi car on Mulholland Drive.

It was a hit-or-miss period in his young life and Elordi rode his luck. “I wasn’t booking jobs,” he recalls of this uncertain time. “I think I had US$400 or $800 left in my bank account – and Euphoria was my last audition before I went home for a little while to make some money and recuperate.”

Fortunately, the stars were aligned as he landed the part of Nate Jacobs in the groundbreaking series. When it came time to film the pilot, however, Elordi continued to rely on his vehicle. After noticing this less than ideal living arrangement, a producer on the show moved him into a room at the Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. “I got really lucky. Which is just an L.A. story, you know?” he says.

Fairy Revelation

For a heartthrob whose friendships with female co-stars Joey King and Zendaya, model Kaia Gerber and YouTuber Olivia Jade Guiannulli are constantly the subject of media speculation, Elordi was proud to take on a gender-bending persona in his youth. At age 12, he was chosen to play Oberon, King of the Faeries, in a production of the Shakespeare comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As might be expected in an Australian school at that time, he had to wear the thickest of skins to face the bullies.

“I did a play and I was called gay at school,” he says. “When they said I was gay, I remember leaning into the makeup [and thinking] if I’m going to be the King of the Fairies, I’m going to be the f—ing hottest King of the Fairies you’ve ever seen.”

The budding actor was motivated by the homophobic bullying because he wanted to disprove his friends’ beliefs about his passion, rather than rejecting it in favour of hobbies they thought were manlier.

“I’m going to show you that’s bulls—,” he vowed at the time of personal mission. “I could never understand, how could you label anything, ever? How could you label sport as masculine? How does your sexuality inform your prowess as an athlete, or your prowess as a performer?”

Brad Choice

In line with his debut US film, Elordi confesses that his own first kiss experience was one of the most romantic moments of his life. “Train station in East Malvern, in Melbourne, with a girl named Ruby,” he recalls of the encounter. “We met at, I think, 4:20 sharp. It was a date to meet and kiss. It’s probably still one of the most romantic moments in my life.”

His first celebrity crush may be a little more unexpected. “Brad Pitt, Yeah. I think in Troy,” he says, referencing the epic 2004 film in which the celebrated actor, who turns 60 this month, played the mythological ancient Greek warrior Achilles.

“That’s a beautiful man, there’s no denying it.”

Stripped Bare

When it comes to romance, Euphoria treads a more unconventional and daring path than the usual teen dramas. The show, which broke the mould for its depiction of drug use and transgender relationships when it debuted in 2019, has a lot of intimate nude scenes. Elordi, who describes Nate as a “sweet, lovable, relatable, giant, 18-year-old psychopath” says the nudity “comes with the territory of the character” who is in an abusive sexual relationship and that he “kind of [has] no choice” to realise the demands of series creator Sam Levinson’s challenging script.

Magnetic Power

Elordi is currently turning heads as Elvis Presley in the Sofia Coppola film based on Priscilla Presley’s autobiography. When asked if he’s a huge fan of Elvis, the youthful Australian honestly answers no, admitting that the songs in the 2002 Disney animated picture Lilo & Stitch were probably his first exposure to the rock icon’s music.

He was reportedly in a head-to-head battle with Austin Butler – who clinched a Bafta award in Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed 2022 biopic – for the role of Elvis, but got the nod to step into those famous blue suede shoes. “I thought nobody was going look quite like Elvis, but Jacob has that same type of magnetism. He’s so charismatic, and girls go crazy around him, so I knew he could pull off playing this type of romantic icon,” says Coppola, who wrote, directed and produced Priscilla.

This latest movie is somewhat reflective of Jacob Elordi’s own story – a deft breakthrough performance perfectly poised between youthful fantasy and adult reality.

The Mermaid’s Tale: Halle Bailey makes a splash in the groundbreaking role of Ariel – under the sea and above it

Halle Bailey never anticipated that she would be called for the main role in Disney’s live-action musical adaptation of The Little Mermaid. She believed, Ariel, the Disney princess who gives up her voice and mermaid tail to be with a “spineless, savage, harpooning fish- eater” human – would not be played by an actress who looked like her, despite her obvious credentials. The 23-year-old popstar has been writing music since the age of eight, opened for Beyoncé in Europe at 16, and has five Grammy nominations.

“I love that there’s so much Black diversity on screen now,” she says. “There was a time when we’d barely see locs – and now we have a Disney princess with them. It was super important for me to have my natural hair in this film. I’ve had my locs since I was five, so they’re a huge part of who I am. We need to be able to see ourselves, we need to be able to see our hair on big screens like this so that we know that it’s beautiful and more than acceptable.”

Beyoncé protégé

Before her successful Disney big-screen debut, Bailey was best known as one-half of the sisterly pop duo Chloe x Halle, whose first claim to fame was their YouTube cover of Beyoncé’s Pretty Hurts grabbing the attention of the music legend herself. The song changed the teenagers’ lives, propelling them to overnight prominence. They became the opening acts for both Beyoncé’s The Formation World Tour and Andra Day’s Cheers to the Fall Tour in 2016 and released popular EPs and albums including Uncovered, Sugar Symphony and The Kids Are Alright.

Their musical style, which transcends genres, distinguishes Chloe x Halle, two years her senior, from other artists. “My sister and I would always play mermaid in the pool,” she recalls. “Our first mixtape was called The Two of Us – I think weput it out when I was 15–and on the cover,I’m wearing my favourite mermaid blanket; it’s like a mermaid tail. Looking back, I’m like, that’s so weird. In a way, it was a coincidence. But really, it was the universe or God [giving me] a hint.”

Musical youth

Born in Mableton, Georgia, Halle picked up the cello and violin at a very young age, and like her sister learned how to play the guitar by studying YouTube tutorials. Noticing their musical development, their father, Doug Bailey, became their full-time manager, arranging for the girls – the middle pair of four siblings – to perform in the Atlanta area.

The family relocated to Los Angeles in late 2012 when Halle was 12. Two years later, Chloe x Halle signed with Beyoncé’s Parkwood Entertainment management company and record label. By 2021, the sisters had released two albums and earned a slew of industry accolades.

“One major high would definitely be when my sister and I were nominated for Grammys,” she says. “We sang Where Is the Love by Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack, and that was actually the performance that got me noticed by Little Mermaid director Rob Marshall. It was confirmation for me that my own abilities and belief in myself [is enough]. I believed in myself for the first time.”

Purple patch

In addition, Bailey is a fantastic actress who made her screen debut in the 2006 romantic comedy Last Holiday. She then appeared in the 2012 films Let It Shine and Joyful Noise, and has played Skylar in the American TV sitcom Grown-ish. Completing a hat-trick of films this year is The Line, which premiered a few months before the Disney musical, and the much anticipated The Color Purple, based on the stage musical and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker.

“I am so excited to be playing young Nettie in The Color Purple. This film has meant a lot to me for a very long time – it’s a Black family staple,” she says. “I also got a chance to write an original song for the film. It’s been really cool to incorporate my artistry into this new world of acting. I’m just so grateful to be a part of the film. I cannot wait for people to see it. I think they’ll love it.”

Breaking the mould

Early this year, when the first pictures of Bailey as Ariel appeared on social media, there was a definite shift toward a new normal that was felt all over the world. The internet was inundated with videos of young Black girls excitedly responding to an Ariel they could identify with. Disney broke the mould when choosing its lead actor, and The Little Mermaid delivered a plethora of surprises appropriate for the new decade. The movie – and Bailey – are taking the responsibility of its global impact seriously.

She says: “My main goal has always been to stay true to myself. There’s so much more to being a young woman than this fairy-tale character. I think other people have a hard time separating who Halle is and who a princess is – and that’s natural when you’re a fan of an artist. But it’s a beautiful thing to be a layered individual and not fit into one certain image.”

Bailey imagines herself working as a nurse, paediatrician or a kindergarten teacher if she had not broken into entertainment. As to whether she ever yearns for the realism seen outside the Hollywood bubble, she remarks: “It’s fun to think about, but honestly, no, because this has been my normal for so long.”

Greater purpose

Instead, she is careful not to let her work as an artist and entertainer distract from the purpose she would like to fulfil. “The awards and the accolades and the people complimenting, it’s all great, but what [am I] here for really?” she ponders. “What am I doing to give it back to God? What am I doing actively to be a better person every single day?”

Arguably, her historic role as Ariel is indeed part of her larger purpose, and something she is – and should be – remarkably proud of. Some people believe that our fate is predetermined. Some people think we can control our own future. But for Halle Bailey, both these factors may have contributed to her extraordinary rise from child prodigy to bona fide Hollywood actress.

Taylor to Perfection: Beyond the guitar strum, blonde locks and sold-out concerts, there is plenty of substance to Taylor Swift’s striking silhouette

It was music for Taylor Swift and Taylor Swift for music at the get-go. The country star turned pop star royalty showed a passion for music at a young age and quickly advanced from parts in children’s theatre to performing in front of a large audience. Before a Philadelphia 76ers basketball game at age 11, she sang The Star-Spangled Banner and the following year she picked up the guitar and started writing songs.

Swift created original music that expressed her experiences of tween alienation by drawing inspiration from country-music performers like Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. Her parents, supportive of her ambition for a musical career, sold their farm in Pennsylvania when she was 13 and relocated to Hendersonville, Tennessee, so she could attract the attention of country labels in nearby Nashville.

Swift met recording-industry veterans through a development arrangement with RCA Records, and in 2004, when she was 14 years old, she signed with Sony/ ATV as a songwriter. She frequently played her own songs at venues in the Nashville region, and it was during one of these performances that record executive Scott Borchetta took note.

Swift was recruited by Borchetta to his budding Big Machine label, and in the summer of 2006, she released her debut single, Tim McGraw, which was heavily influenced by the teenager’s favourite country musician. And the rest, including her chart-topping discographies, as they say, is history (her story in that case).

Voice for feminism

When the Grammy Award-winning music video – full of strong women kicking ass – for her iconic hit Bad Blood came back to back with her topping Maxim’s 2015 Hot 100 list, she took a moment to speak out about feminism and equality: “A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So, to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.”

At the same time, Swift faced criticism for penning too many songs in the past about her ex-boyfriends and other intimate relationships. She finds this critique anti-feminist and no longer has time for it. “When I was a teenager, I would hear people talk about sexism in the music industry, and I’d be like, I don’t see it. I don’t understand. Then I realised that was because I was a kid,” she explains.

“I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived.” She used her 2019 song The Man to emphasise how women and men are treated differently in the industry.

Political pride

Taylor also wants people to know that she supports the LGBTQ community, having received criticism of inaction in this regard. She claims she has consistently supported the movement through her work and charitable contributions. Clarifying her viewpoint, she says: “I didn’t realise until recently that I could advocate for a community that I’m not a part of. It’s hard to know how to do that without being so fearful of making a mistake that you just freeze.”

You Need To Calm Down, the smash-hit single from her 2019 album Lover, highlights her support of the LGBTQ community. The music video features Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres and iconic drag queens. The whole Lover catalogue was released at midnight on June 1, the beginning of Pride Month, when Swift introduced a petition in support of the US federal Equality Act. This legislation would amend the Civil Rights Act to outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Swift also posted a letter to the Republican Lamar Alexander, then the US Senator from Tennessee, asking him to vote yes. The request, on her personal letterhead, denounced President Donald Trump for not supporting the Equality Act. “I personally reject the president’s stance,” Swift wrote. Need she say more?

Unfashionable authenticity

Since breaking into the public eye in 2006 as a 16-year-old wunderkind, Swift has become one of the most commercially successful singers of all time. Last year, her songs received 36.6 billion streams, but her aesthetic has never attracted the same kind of attention. Unlike her contemporaries, she isn’t necessarily a fashion icon. She rarely attends Fashion Week and frequently misses the Met Gala. She favours light-blue wash denim shorts, a faded pink vest and unassuming sneakers.

Despite being quite nondescript, this style is notable for how Taylor Swift really is. Her attire suggests that she may be performing at a local talent show even though she is playing to tens of thousands of fans on a stadium tour. Lots of slogan T-shirts, sparkly bodysuits and prom dresses with meringue skirts. Her current tour, dubbed Eras, is a retrospective of the outfits from each of her 10 studio albums.

However, a lack of fashion cred is not always a terrible thing. She is a sincere and cinematic hitmaker who effortlessly navigates embarrassing confessionals on Lover and small- town stagnation on Midnight (2022). All of this is done with an unfashionable authenticity.

Swift is portrayed in pop culture as the wise best friend that her followers wish they had when they were teenagers (the Swifties actually exchange friendship bracelets). She is someone who may have covered their eyelids in glitter after being rejected by their preferred prom date, a person who would take great satisfaction in creating the ideal ‘heartbreak’ sundae with heaped piles of whipped cream, Oreos and chocolate syrup.

Swift’s songwriting, in contrast to that of so many of her peers, is more likely to make references to her pet cats and a home-for- the-holidays crush than a Hermès bag. And this ordinariness resonates with many more people than perhaps she ever imagined when she first visited Nashville as a child and dreamed of making it big.

Gosling the Great: Whether a psychopath, action hero or action figure, there is no character Ryan Gosling cannot master

Ryan Gosling has generally preferred to keep his cards close to his chest offscreen, in contrast to the thrilling and diverse parade of characters he has portrayed onscreen. From Jewish neo-Nazi in the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning The Believer (2001) and teen psycho-killer in Murder by Numbers (2002) to the romantic lead in The Notebook (2004) and a drug-addicted teacher in Half Nelson (2006), the former child actor showed a mesmerising range at the start of his adult career.

the notebook

Half Nelson earned him the first of two Academy Award Best Actor nominations; the second came a decade later for the musical La La Land, which landed him a Golden Globe. Nominations for the latter trophy have been plentiful – Lars and the Real Girl (2007), Blue Valentine (2010), The Ides of March and Crazy, Stupid, Love (both 2011). Critics and fans alike hail his standout performance as Ken in this year’s Barbie, opposite Margot Robbie, as deserving of the highest acting accolade.

la la land

Rambo Moment

Gosling’s fascination with all things dramatic, action-packed and comedic began early in life. Reared in Cornwall, Ontario, the young Canadian watched Sylvester Stallone’s primal and vicious revenge epic First Blood, the original Rambo movie, on videocassette one evening when he was in the first grade. He put the family’s steak knives in his Fisher-Price magic kit the next day, and armed to the teeth, made his way to school, eager to apply the knowledge he had just acquired.

“I didn’t think it through, you know,” he says, looking back at his foolhardiness. “I just thought, in my mind: This is not right, what is happening, and something has to be done. Thank God, you know, I was suspended. I should have been. My mother was mortified. And it was like reality came in. I had to get control of my imagination.”

crazy, stupid, love

Music to movies

The acclaimed actor is a talented singer, too. At age 12, he went on his first audition for a role in The Mickey Mouse Club. He was cast as a Mouseketeer and later shared the TV screen with future stars Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. He frequently sang on the show and was supposedly invited to join The Backstreet Boys by band member AJ McLean, his then-next-door neighbour. In 2007, Gosling released his own music and started an indie rock group called Dead Man’s Bones.

Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera

One of his great bait and switches is that, despite the fact that it’s obvious there are many deep, dark and bizarre things churning inside of him as an artist, his face and behaviour give the impression of a regular guy. From First Blood to other less violent pictures, movies clearly helped shape his young mind. Over time, they beckoned him toward them.

“When I saw Dumbo and The Elephant Man, I felt like those films were smashing down some wall inside of me and creating a room called empathy,” he says. “And being very grateful for having seen those films even though they were painful, and the idea of watching them again was scary because I didn’t know that I wanted to feel those things again, but it did feel different after seeing them. Like they had exposed some part of myself to me that I didn’t know was there.”

ryan gosling

He credits his uncle, who was an Elvis impersonator, with setting him on the road to performing. “I remember things being very mundane until he came [for an extended stay], and suddenly he was wearing a jumpsuit around the house and talking like Elvis, putting together a show and putting my mom as a backup singer and my father as head of security,” he recalls. “And all our family was coming around, making costumes… family members that didn’t necessarily talk before. It just brought everyone together. I was in the act – I handed out teddy bears and scarves.”

ryan gosling

Fame and fatherhood

The grownup Ryan Gosling has made it known that his family comes before his job. The 42-year-old has two daughters, Esmeralda, aged eight, and seven-year-old Amada with long-time partner Eva Mendes. Supporting child-soldier awareness group Invisible Children and the Enough Project, which works to end genocide, he has long campaigned against the conflicts in Central Africa. His own children had a big impact on his choice to star in the Netflix action thriller The Gray Man last year, and he intends to introduce his daughters to his work through the widely acclaimed Barbie.

barbie ken

Gosling, who plays the iconic Ken doll, explains: “Barbie was a way to do that. Not necessarily like I’m making it for them, but it’s the first time I think they kind of are understanding it. Although, they can’t for the life of them understand why I want to play Ken because nobody plays with Ken. But that’s why we must tell his story.”

The Barbie promo cycle has branded Ken as just some guy. He’s not just any person, though; he’s Ken; and that’s what exactly the creator and director of the Barbie movie intended it to be. Along with a legion of Kens defending their right to own some kind of personality, Gosling performs a massive 1980s’ power ballad. Incredibly blonde and impossibly ripped, Ken pulls himself together and finds some value in himself through words of self affirmation. “I’m just Ken and I’m enough / And I’m great at doing stuff,” he sings.

It’s an apt line for the actor as well as the character. In real life and in his chosen craft, Ryan Gosling has proven to be one of the greats.

Also Read: Barbie Composition: Margot Robbie adds another layer of character to her versatile body of work

Barbie Composition: Margot Robbie adds another layer of character to her versatile body of work

Margot Robbie wasn’t a huge Barbie lover growing up. The Australian actress who conquered Hollywood with seeming ease in her early 20s is unsure if she ever even had a Barbie doll. She spent a lot of time in Queensland, preparing mud pies with her cousin, playing with trucks and constructing forts.

The fashion sense came later; Robbie’s strong, glam femininity is currently being honoured in the Goddess: Power, Glamour, Rebellion exhibition at Australia’s National Museum of Screen Culture, alongside other female screen icons who have taken creative control and shaped their own image. “The clothes are a huge part of this movie and a huge part of Barbie,” she says. “It’s super superficial – but it’s incredibly profound at the same time. Everything in this movie had to be authentically artificial.”

Also Read: Barbie at 60: We salute several of her more intriguing incarnations

Barbie actress

Transformed into a fantasy comedy directed and co-written by Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women), Barbie hits cinemas this month. The Barbie actress not only plays the lead Barbie character (opposite Ryan Gosling as the main Ken) but also pulls the production strings through her company, LuckyChap Entertainment.

The actress, who turns 33 this month, has already had a career filled with memorable movie roles and, in real Barbie fashion, red-carpet looks. She got her start on the popular Australian soap, Neighbours, then quickly relocated to Los Angeles to pursue her Hollywood ambitions. Her rapid rise continued, as she was able to share credits with a number of well-known actors and filmmakers during her first few years in the US, earning praise from both the public and critics.

Life is her creation

Harley quinn

Straight away, Margot Robbie landed top billing beside Christina Ricci in the period TV series Pan Am (2011), then appeared in the time-travel romantic comedy About Time, and shone alongside Leonardo di Caprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). She won the hearts of the DC Comics faithful with her portrayal of villainess Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad (2016), a role she reprised in 2020 for Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) and again in The Suicide Squad the following year.

Also Read: How well do you know ‘The Suicide Squad’ actress Margot Robbie?

Robbie garnered her first Oscar nod for her complex portrayal of controversial US figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya (2018), and then regularly landed award-season nominations – including Bafta supporting actress shots for her performance as Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and her work in Bombshell (2019). The latter also brought in a second Academy Award nomination and Golden Globe shout-out.

While taking home a top award still eludes her, there is no question that Robbie will dominate the big screen for years to come. Acting is not her only concern, though; through her behind-the-scenes work as a producer, she has become a powerful advocate for women in Hollywood.

Margot Robbie

Beyond the Barbie world

Co-founded by Robbie in 2014 with three friends – one of whom, Briton Tom Ackerley, became her husband – LuckyChap has been committed to producing compelling female tales and assembling teams of female artists. These include I, Tonya, and multi-Oscar nominee Promising Young Woman, written and directed by Emerald Fennell and starring Carey Mulligan. More doors are being opened for women in Hollywood by Robbie and co., and she is also promoting women’s rights in the industry on her own platform. She has been an outspoken proponent of the #MeToo movement and has pushed to make the film industry a safer place.

Reflecting on her own self-education about the prevalence of misogyny in the workplace, she says: “It horrified me just how that particular crime plays in the grey area. That’s where it really flourishes when a situation isn’t black and white, and that’s when insidious people like Roger Ailes [as depicted in Bombshell] or Harvey Weinstein take advantage of that grey area.”

Barbie actress

She is passionate about getting women involved in action movies since that particular genre is where the big money is. “Also, the perception that women aren’t interested in action is ridiculous,” she adds.

With the industry on the precipice of great change, Robbie finds herself not in the position of the burgeoning film starlet that she was a decade ago, but an executive producer making tectonic shifts to break the patriarchal mould.

Never going out of style

And then there’s her influence through fashion, which is a way of expression but also a powerful key for change. Empowering women through fashion is something strong and possible.

Barbie makes her own statement by dressing with intention. She doesn’t dress for the day; she dresses for the task, which might involve a leisure activity or a form of employment. In the official movie trailer, one scene stands out as it pokes fun at the way the Barbie universe seems to blur such distinctions.

Barbie actress

Stepping into the shoes of stereotypical Barbie, Robbie describes what makes her special beyond the many clothes she gets to wear: “[Wonder Woman actress] Gal Gadot is [the inspiration for] Barbie energy. Gal Gadot is so impossibly beautiful, but you don’t hate her for being that beautiful, because she’s so genuinely sincere, and she’s so enthusiastically kind, that it’s almost dorky. Yes, she can wear a short skirt, but because it’s fun and pink. Not because she wants you to see her butt.”

Also Read: Gal Power: Gal Gadot shatters superhero glass ceiling with Wonder Woman Debut

When the acclaimed actress is not in character, she is often checking the websites of train companies as travelling on the Orient Express was on her bucket list for a long time. “All I want to do is live on a train,” she says. “You literally wake up and you open the window, [you are in Switzerland] and it looks like The Sound of Music.”

Margot Robbie is at full speed and in the driver’s seat of her childhood dream of making it big in Hollywood. With Barbie, an intriguing cinematic take on a past childhood icon, it’s clear that the actress-producer won’t be hitting the brakes any time soon. Or as Barbie would say, live your dream.

As Manny As Possible: More than just another pretty face, Manny Jacinto isn’t silent on how Hollywood should change

Manny Jacinto is in a good place and it has only got better. The Filipino-Canadian actor’s breakout role in the Golden Globe-nominated hit show, The Good Place, drew viewers, especially Southeast Asians, to his effortless charisma and comedic prowess; he played a DJ and dancer who was initially mistaken to be a Taiwanese Buddhist monk observing a vow of silence as he happened to be wearing a barong-inspired outfit. When he did speak and the credits rolled at the end of the first season (2016-17), fans of the show were proven right – his performance had caught the eye of the critics, gaining favourable reviews. His portrayal of a “lovable doofus” from Florida goes against the stereotypes of how Asian men are often portrayed in Hollywood.

The show’s success allowed him more room for role experimentation. Last year, he joined the stellar cast led by Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick – though disappointingly, in another silent performance, his lines were cut – and was among the leads in the romantic comedy, I Want You Back. He also cinched his next TV gig with no less than Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy in the Hulu miniseries, Nine Perfect Strangers, an adaptation by David E. Kelley of Liane Moriarty’s 2018 novel of the same name.

PacMan revival?

Born in the Philippines and raised in Vancouver, Jacinto had a few small roles in film and TV before landing his biggest breaks. He happened to appear in a 2013 episode, titled “Pac-Man Fever”, of the long-running dark fantasy-drama Supernatural, and the PacMan adjacencies stirred instant connections to legendary Filipino international boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, not least because of the name similarity.

Making a name in Hollywood is, of course, a feat for our Manny, not just as a Filipino but as an Asian actor. As with any success, it took a lot of hard work, determination and patience. Having had the privilege of working alongside some of the industry’s biggest names, he is sure of one thing: he doesn’t want to get too comfortable.

Engineering a break

Life had a different path for Manny Jacinto before making it to the city of stars. Believe it or not, he was once a practising civil engineer. The University of British Columbia graduate was supposed to become a pharmacist, but having failed chemistry, he took another route – towards his dad, actually, thinking if his father could be an engineer, then why couldn’t he? But having accomplished that, he discovered his dancing feet.

“There were lots of risks or jumps but a lot of it came through a series of steps because if you told me eight years ago that I would be an actor, I would laugh. I wouldn’t believe you. It’s crazy, Filipinos and Asians performing onscreen. Dance and music were things I really resonated with so I was like, hey, I think that’s super cool, maybe let’s try it out.”

He took a dance class in downtown Vancouver and fell in love with performing. From dancing, he went on to acting and from there, it snowballed. Once this spark had activated his “acting bug”, he realised that he could express himself through different methods – from voice projection to gesticulation – and the floodgates to his career opened.

“I had a civil engineering degree in my back pocket so I knew that if things didn’t pan out, I could always go to engineering. I also have incredibly supportive parents who never frowned upon or hindered my need to explore the creative arts,” he shares.

Filipino etiquette

Filipinos, as many would and could attest, put a lot of emphasis and importance on work ethic, and for Jacinto, this is something that he has in his genetic makeup. He stresses that it was passed on to him by his parents, especially his father, who always finds a way to make things work and who has sacrificed everything for the family.

“That’s something I would love to tie into the script I’m writing,” he says, adding: “Filipinos have this general sense of optimism and sense of ease. I remember going back to the Philippines when I was younger, and there was just so much joy being around family.”

Despite growing up in Canada, the boyish-looking star identifies himself as a Filipino, with habits unique to the culture, such as the simple preference “to eat with a spoon and a fork”.

When the shoe fits

As for his physical attributes, Jacinto’s stunning looks, particularly his cheekbones and jaw, have also sparked rhapsodic gushing in The New York Times. When complimented on his supermodel jawline, he notes: “It’s very flattering, but the reaction usually involves me blushing and sweating in my palms.”

Often seen dressed down in denim jeans and t-shirts, the actor is quick to point out that shoes play an important role in his craft. “I have too many different shoes. I apply this to acting as well like I put on shoes to fit different characters,” he explains. “So, if I need to be Jason Mendoza [in The Good Place] – someone who moves a lot and is light on his feet – I wear sneakers, like a pair of Jordan’s or something like that.

“Yao of Nine Perfect Strangers is more of a minimalist so he will probably wear a Birkenstock. Logan from I Want You Back is more of a hipster, so he’ll probably be in vintage boots. Shoes help me get more grounded with the characters.”

More and/or Less

Like many other Asian talents currently making waves in the international mainstream media, Jacinto hopes to see more diverse faces on screen in the future – and not just in roles that are sidekicks, but those that occupy the lead spots. He also urges Hollywood to be more of a force for change and creativity: “I want to see more diverse stories. This isn’t a revelation, but a lot of things are being recycled or rebooted. There’s this fear for change or fear to do something different. I’d like to see less repetition and see more originality in the stories we tell.”