My boyfriend is jealous that I get to interview Olivia Munn.
“I loved her on G4,” he gushes, referencing the television network that helped launch Munn’s career in the mid-2000s. Before her star-making roles on The Daily Show, The Newsroom, and X-Men: Apocalypse, Munn co-hosted the live series Attack of the Show!, where her striking beauty and unique charisma stole the hearts of every pop culture nerd watching (including, evidently, my boyfriend). Neither of these qualities has changed over the past 10 years. (Watch her episode of Vogue’s 73 Questions to get a sense—she’s sporting the prettiest beachy waves you could imagine while informing the host that the “geekiest” thing about her is her personality.)
Standing in front of Munn, it’s hard to believe she has been in Hollywood for a full decade. The 36-year-old has the complexion of someone half her age—I try not to squint as I examine it under a crystalline light fixture at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, where Munn is doing a day of press to promote her new film, Office Christmas Party (in theatres now). Munn’s hair is shiny and perfectly tousled, her skin glows like an orb, and her makeup is both effortless and high-glamour.
None of this is an accident. Munn is more invested in the world of makeup and skincare than the average celebrity we interview. (Let’s just say she’s all about the glitter lip trend and knows the actual science behind hyaluronic acid.) Throughout our conversation, Munn speaks with a refreshing candor about her beauty troubles: her struggle to find a makeup artist who understands her multi-ethnic features, her intensive quest for ageless skin, and her journey towards finding “a good sense of self-worth.” Read on to hear Munn tell her beauty story in her own words.
Olivia Munn: “Being multicultural has affected my definition of beauty, the way I see beauty, and how I feel beautiful tremendously. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand why my eyes were more almond-shaped, or why I didn’t have blonde hair. I had to realise that there are certain things about myself that I can’t change, so learn to love it or learn to live in a state of always feeling inadequate. And obviously, the latter is not a very appealing life.
“Over the last year, I actually started working with Patrick Ta, who is an Asian-American makeup artist, and that’s when I really appreciated how makeup can transform you in different ways. You know, being multi-ethnic has always been difficult with makeup artists and hair artists, because one little thing can drastically change my face. I had one makeup artist for the Entertainment Weekly Pop Fest, but then I worked woith Patrick a week later at the CFDA dinner in New York; and if you put those pictures side to side, I look drastically different. [Ed. note: Compare the photos here and here.]
“I’m Chinese and white, and I actually have more of a Chinese bone structure but more white features, and little things completely transform my face. Like putting shimmer in the corner of my eyes can make me look cross-eyed. There are some people who can wear any makeup style, and they will look beautiful. But for me, I can see drastic changes. Like when I work with other makeup artists, sometimes they’ll do the same thing to me that they’ve done to a lot of white girls, and it doesn’t work. They don’t understand that rimming my eye in black will just make it smaller.
“I’ve felt so much more beautiful when I have been able to work with someone like Patrick who accentuates my features and does something unique, as opposed to doing the same thing he would do on Gigi Hadid. Now I understand what works for me—the almond shape of my eye, the way to open it up, the different technique.”
“I love playing with makeup and wearing bright and fun colours, so I kind of do that all the time. When I get up in the morning, even if my boyfriend is gone all day long, I still do my hair and makeup. I do it even if I’m just going to the grocery store because I want to do it for me. It makes me feel good. I think, especially for young girls and women, when we start to do things for ourselves and not for anybody else to see it, that’s when other people do see it. But when your boyfriend sees it, or your husband sees it, that’s just the cherry on the top of what you’ve already created for yourself. It’s just feeling a sense of self-worth, a sense that I’m not wasting this makeup if I’m putting it on for myself.
“I always feel like whenever I get up and get ready (and that doesn’t always mean doing full makeup, sometimes it just means I’m getting up and putting on a little blush), it’s worth it just so that if I were to pass by a mirror I would feel good about myself. I think when you do those things, you create a sense of self-confidence that is hard for anyone else to break down. And that’s so important, especially when you get into a relationship, whether that's a friendship or romantic relationship or business relationship. How is anyone else going to know if you’re worth it if you don’t? So you have to invest in yourself. That doesn’t mean getting into full hair and makeup and putting on a gown, but it means not wearing your pajamas all day. (Which by the way, there are days when you should do that!)
“On my first date [with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers], we went to the beach, and I don’t actually remember what I was wearing. I remember he was wearing shorts and was barefoot, and he had such great legs. I was like, gosh. I remember what he was wearing more than what I was wearing. [My beauty look] was probably what I normally do: a little concealer—I like the YSL Touche Éclat (£25)—and a little blush. I did my eyebrows, chapstick, and wore my hair down. That’s my go-to.”
“I spend a lot of energy on thinking about and researching what it takes to keep your skin looking young and healthy. Personally, I feel that if your skin looks good, that is the first part of your makeup. When I first moved to Green Bay [Wisconsin], my skin was actually okay, but the second year, everything was cracking, I felt so dry and had no idea why. I had to get heavy salves to put on my heels and my hands. I had to take vitamin D because I wasn’t in the sun a lot. It was really intense, and I just had to acclimate to it. This year, I feel better with my skincare because I’ve been doing regular facials, and I’m really big on those disposable face mask things that you put on like a cloth and are dripping in serum. Today is now the third time I’ve done [a sheet mask] before an event or press junket—I put it on before doing my makeup, and I feel like it changes my face.
“But I think the biggest thing is I upped my water intake. You need water to look young and to lubricate your joints and your face. And you need hyaluronic acid to help carry that water to your skin. I’ve been looking into different vitamins, like acid vitamins, glucosamine vitamins, sodium chondroitin, which is part of a hyaluronic acid system. You have to do those things along with drinking water. And I do three litres a day, which is hard. It’s too daunting to have the big one-litre bottles because it feels never-ending, so instead I get six half-size bottles. Water helps kick up your metabolism, helps you keep weight off, and it hydrates your skin.
“I also use Proactiv, so I clean my face morning and night. I have the wipes right next to my bed, so no matter how tired I am I’ll at least wipe my face off and put on moisturiser. I use the sunscreen from Proactiv, too. You need a sunscreen that has zinc in it, or it’s not really doing its job. And then they have the dark spot corrector pads. I have freckles and I love my freckles, but you can start to get sunspots where your freckles are and they start to group together, which really prohibits your skin from reflecting light, which I think everyone wants because it gives a youthful look.
“So when you ask what my beauty secrets are, besides Patrick [Ta] and [hairstylist] Christian [Wood], it's water, sleep, and sunscreen.”
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.