Hailing from Sydney, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, 23, is an Italian-Chinese actress/model who also just happens to be one of our current girl crushes. You may recognise her from Netflix’s remake of the legendary film, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and in her most recent role as Deng Yan in the latest Hollywood blockbuster, The Greatest Showman (starring alongside the likes of Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron and Zendaya, no less).
With a black belt in Taekwondo and intensive training in WuDang sword-fighting, there’s no doubt that she’s a force to be reckoned with (and will dead set kick your ass — don’t let the pretty face fool you). Read on as the rising superstar (and face of the Bonds 2018 Underwear Campaign) talks discipline, stage-fright and how she *accidentally* became a vegetarian… Tell us about your background in martial arts and your training in WuDang sword fighting?
When I was around nine or ten my parents wanted me to start training in either dance or martial arts. I chose martial arts. I’m not sure what my logic was at the time aside from perhaps “dance is too girly.” I’m very glad for the decision — my years training in Taekwondo, Muay Thai and Kenpo were not only great for fitness and strength, but also for discipline and tenacity. They also served as a place to vent any frustration during my teenage years.
“I think martial arts is super important for kids, especially girls. It teaches you how have proper control of your body, particularly in self-defence.”
WuDang sword fighting differs hugely in form and technique from the other types of martial arts I had tried. I trained in WuDang sword fighting solely for my first film — Netflix’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. It is a beautiful art form — possibly too graceful for me!
How did you get into acting and what has been the highlight of your career thus far?
I was on a completely different path — halfway through my first year of university studying law in Sydney. On some weekday in July 2014, my soon-to-be manager approached me at Central Station in Sydney after I’d attended my uni tutorial that day. She tried to convince me to start modelling — but I wasn’t too interested. It wasn’t until she pitched me the idea of acting a week or so later that I agreed to go to my first audition, which I ended up booking the role for in the Netflix film. It really is one of those insane discovered-in-the-streets kinda stories, but in hindsight it makes more and more sense that I would switch paths and pursue something more creative. I’d always loved film, writing, art, photography — but I grew up believing these were not solid careers. The highlight of my career so far has been working with incredible actors (and exemplary humans) like Michelle Yeoh, Hugh Jackman and Dev Patel.
Apart from Taekwondo, are there any other sports or workouts that interest you?
I love doing weights (as a therapeutic gym-workout), boxing, beach runs, tennis, touch-football, horse-riding and ice-skating. That makes me sound like a super active person, but I just make time for these things when I can!
What are some of the biggest life lessons you have gained from participating in two martial arts disciplines? How have these teachings transcended into real life?
They aren’t really lessons that can be put into words. In training for so long and going through periods of feeling energised and committed, to other phases of laziness and fatigue — taking part in something so consistent tends to grow with you. It’s like a parallel, and these disciplines have served as sources of relief when I’ve been frustrated, a distraction when I’ve been studying, and a way of keeping active after sitting down all day.
“The biggest teaching that has transcended into real life is probably just the element of strength — in facing down an opponent in the Dojo, I also feel I’m programming my mind to utilise this bravery in other areas of my life.”
We hear you’ve become an “accidental vegetarian”. Can you tell us how this came about?!
For moral and health related reasons I went vegetarian when I was around sixteen to nineteen. At the time, I didn’t know how to cook, or enough about nutrition for it to be a healthy diet for me. Now, having travelled so much, I’ve learned how to nourish my body, I find vegetarianism easy and fulfilling again. I don’t put any pressure on myself to completely cut out meat, and I still eat it occasionally. I find that as long as I don’t acknowledge that I’m vegetarian (thus making meat the forbidden fruit that I would suddenly crave) I mostly go for vegetarian choices anyway — hence the “accidental vegetarian”.
How would you describe your overall health and fitness philosophy?
Everything in moderation — but always be a conscious consumer.
What are some of your favourite foodie hotspots when you’re back in Aus and what does your ideal breakfast look like?
My ideal breakfast is two or three eggs scrambled in coconut oil, half an avocado with lime salt and pepper, and a slice of Iggy’s bread. If I’m feeling like a lighter meal my ideal brekkie would be organic steel-cut oats with raw honey, ABC nut butter, chia seeds, blueberries and banana.
Most recently you starred in The Greatest Showman. How would you describe your experience working with some of the biggest names in the biz?
The Greatest Showman was a really fun challenge for me. I got on board because the opportunity came up to join (what was described to me as) a live menagerie of performers who would be belting out original numbers, lead by Hugh Jackman, to hundreds of extras serving as a real-life audience. It sounded absolutely terrifying for me, because I’ve always had stage-fright and have never had any song or dance training. So, of course, I couldn’t resist. Working with Hugh Jackman was everything you’d imagine it to be — his reputation precedes him as being the nicest guy in Showbiz and within minutes of working with him, it’s absolutely clear why. He’s incredibly generous in spirit, genuine, professional and always gives 110%. A-class human.
You’re a Bonds girl! Tell us what the shoot was like and your experience working with Bonds?
I am! Woohoo! It was super chill, smooth, fun. I played my own music and danced around in my underwear on set all day. Like most Aussies I’ve been wearing bonds since I was a kid. I love their new collection, it’s very minimal and reminds me of classic underwear ads from the 90’s. I kept asking them if I could take the products home and they assured me I’d get a box full at some point!
How would you define your beauty personality, are you a ‘less is more’ kinda girl?
Completely. I think people style themselves to what suits their look — because of my mixed background and some of my features I find the ‘less is more’ approach definitely works for me.
“On my off days, I keep it as simple as possible with makeup and skincare.”
Your career sees you travelling — a lot! Can you share some of your in-flight beauty secrets?
Always fly with a make-up free face, even if it means bringing a make-up remover onto the plane with you (I buy the smallest size of Bioderma and bring a few cotton pads onto the plane). Aside from that there aren’t many secrets for me, just applying and re-applying a good moisturiser depending on how long the flight is. Right now, I’m using a great oil-free oxygenating gel from Philosophy that goes on before my moisturiser as well — it feels as though your skin is taking a huge deep breath.
You’re part Chinese part Italian, what a mix! What are some influences you’ve adopted from both cultures?
Growing up I was mostly just influenced by Australian culture but since becoming an actor I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of opportunity in Asia due to my Chinese heritage. The greatest benefit of that has been (as cliche as it sounds) re-connecting with my Chinese roots, learning Mandarin, really connecting with my family in Beijing and Qingdao for the first time and understanding their world. It’s very humbling to spend time in China and to be completely out of your comfort zone, needing to use your wits, patience and adaptability.
If you weren’t acting, what career path would you have taken and why?
Well, I was originally studying law but I’m not sure I could go back to that now. I’ve been increasingly fascinated with design, particularly interiors and gadgets for the home. Even on a larger scale, buildings and architecture. Traveling so much and living in so many hotel rooms, apartments and Airbnb’s, I’ve become hyper-aware of how our surroundings shape our daily mood and cognitive load.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
I don’t really hold onto one piece of advice, I fluctuate from quote to quote depending on what helps me at the time. One of my favourites is “Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.”
What is your favourite holiday destination and what is next on your bucket list?
I want to do a big adventure trip, camp at national parks and not use my phone for a week. Not sure when or where that’ll happen but it’s on my 2018 list.
Work wise, what can we look forward to next for Natasha? [at time of interview]
Right now, I have three projects coming up. First is Detective Chinatown 2, worldwide release of February 16th (Chinese New Year is the biggest box office weekend in China) – this is my first Chinese film, it’s half in Mandarin and half in English. It’s an action comedy and it’s absolutely hilarious. Next is Hotel Mumbai, a beautiful film based on the 2008 Mumbai Terrorist Attacks where I got to share the screen with Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Jason Isaacs and Nazanin Boniadi to name a few. That was a very special project. Finally, I also have an animation coming up with Sony Pictures which is my first voice-over job! It’s so much fun turning up to work with no-makeup in my sweatpants. That will be announced soon too.