In our monthly series, Self-Directed, we invite beauty and fashion influencers to direct their own editorial story and create the looks they love with the glam teams they trust. You’ll learn about their best-kept beauty secrets, favourite products, and more.
When I first clapped eyes on Natasha Liu Bordizzo as ingénue Snow Vase in the follow-up to the Oscar-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it’s fair to say I was captivated. The 22-year-old Chinese-Italian Australian actress and model is certainly striking—all fine features, effortlessly tousled hair and willowy limbs. But, upon discovering the role was her on-screen debut, I was a little bit blown away. Could a first timer really be this good? This practiced? This natural? Her ability to portray a character with ease and credibility is so remarkable I knew I'd found Byrdie Australia's next beauty muse.
The story of Liu Bordizzo's career beginnings is the stuff of Hollywood urban legend. After being scouted by an agent with a keen eye, she read for a supporting role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny. The producers were so impressed, she landed the lead instead. (See: A Very Big Deal for a then unknown girl from Sydney.) But, if you think Liu Bordizzo's rise up the ranks is thanks to no more than her pretty face, you're mistaken. A former law student with a passion for everything from affogato to Egon Schiele, her Instagram account reveals a woman with an inquiring mind and a sense of self that belies her age.
Plus, she has a black belt in Taekwondo.
Her latest project is big budget thriller Hotel Mumbai, a retelling of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, alongside Dev Patel and Jason Isaacs. In short, Liu Bordizzo is on the up. We caught up with her on a trip home to talk beauty role models, being an "accidental" vegetarian and her secret to flawless skin.
Keep reading to see how Liu Bordizzo, with the help of makeup artist Elsa Morgan and hairstylist Luke Davis, does beauty.
Look 1: Aussie Beauty
"This is the closest to my day-to-day self. I feel comfortable in it, it feels like me." — Liu Bordizzo.
Get the Look
"This is the quintessential Aussie beauty look with a twist. It's bronzed and glowy, but also effortless, laid-back and cool. First, I warmed up Natasha's skin using Tom Ford Bronzing Powder ($145) in Gold Dust, then used the same product across the eyelids. I deepened the lashline with Tom Ford Eye Color Quad ($128) in Cocoa Mirage and lined the inner rim of the eyes with MAC Eye Pencil ($29) in Coffee to create a smoky effect. Next, eyebrows were filled in with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($38) in Soft Brown and brushed through Eyeko lightly tinted Brow Gel ($34) for a fuller look.
A sexy nude gloss (L'Oréal Paris' Color Riche Extraordinaire, $22, in Nude Ballet), and coat of Chanel Inimitable Mascara ($54) pulled the look together, along with a few cheeky freckles! I created those using MAC Luxe Brow Pencil ($32) in Fling, to enhance Natasha's natural smattering, for an extra dose of Aussie beauty." — Morgan.
Look 2: Dark Berry Lip
"I wanted to explore my inner Italian temptress with this look. I love the sexy lip!" — Liu Bordizzo.
Get the Look
"This look is such a red carpet favourite, and for good reason! It's elegant, subtly sculpted and refined. I gave the brows some extra attention here with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($38) in Soft Brown to give Natasha's face a polished and perfected feel. I added definition to her eyes with Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow ($42) in Taupe, then added a few coats of Chanel Inimitable Mascara ($54). I really wanted to keep her looking cool and fresh, so I kept the foundation (La Mer The Soft Fluid Long Wear Foundation SPF20, $200) to a minimum and only used a tiny amount of concealer to address areas that needed extra coverage.
Next, I gently patted on RMS Living Luminiser ($55) for extra wattage, and balanced the highlights with soft contouring. The lip was the real focus here—we chose a deep blackberry shade from Nars (Ingrid, $46) and I applied it with a brush for precision." — Morgan.
Look 3: Pretty in Pink
"I wanted to experiment with a softer, more feminine look—I'm usually a bit of a tomboy." — Liu Bordizzo.
Get the Look
"For this look I really wanted to celebrate Natasha's naturally luminous skin. This flushed and glowing makeup is so gorgeous and youthful, and, it's easy! Natasha's skin was enhanced with Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector ($66) in Pearl, liquid foundation, and a very light dusting of powder along the T-zone. Next, I applied a wash of Kevyn Aucoin The Pure Powder Glow ($44) in Shadore across the cheeks, sweeping it up high onto the cheekbones. I chose this particular shade of baby pink to give a rosy freshness to the face—we didn't want anything strong or intense.
To emphasise glow, I buffed an illuminating powder along the high points of Natasha's face (brow bone, cheekbones, bridge of the nose). To balance the look I applied a single coat of Chanel Inimitable Mascara ($54) to lashes curled with Shu Uemura Lash Curler ($31), sculpted the eyebrows with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($38) in Soft Brown and Medium Brown, and pressed Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Lipstick ($52) in La Diva into the lips." — Morgan.
Look 4: Blade Runner Inspired
"Something about this makeup gives it a mysterious cyber feel without taking things into costume territory—that intrigues me." — Liu Bordizzo.
Get the Look
"This look has what I call 'intelligent beauty' written all over it—it's a nod to the '40s-inspired character Sean Young played in the '80s classic Blade Runner. I washed a soft haze of grey shadow (Nars Eyeshadow Duo, $50, in Underworld) around the eye, concentrating the intensity along the lower lashline to add moodiness. I also gently contoured Natasha's cheekbones with MAC Studio Sculpt Defining Powder ($49) in Sculpt, and extended her eyebrows with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($38) in Medium Brown to add a slightly cinematic feel.
A cherry red gloss (Dior Addict Fluid Stick High Impact Glossy Colour, $52, in 575) on the lips brought everything together." — Morgan.
Keep scrolling for Liu Bordizzo's Chinese, Italian *and* Australian beauty tips, her go-to dinner (spoiler: it's pasta), and the "accidental" workout she swears by.
Byrdie Australia: Walk us through your A.M. and P.M. skincare routines.
Natasha Liu Bordizzo: In the morning, I use Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser ($66) as it's really refreshing and leaves my skin feeling smooth. I then follow with Chanel Hydra Beauty Serum ($124). Once that’s absorbed a little, I finish with a Sisley moisturiser or one from Aspect Dr ($33).
At night, it's largely the same, although twice a week I'll use EmerginC Scientific Organics At-Home Facial Peel + Clarifying Kit ($125) as a strong exfoliant. Also once or twice a week in the mornings—especially if I have a shoot—I'll use Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask ($180) which instantly smooths, brightens and plumps.
B: How has your Chinese-Italian and Australian background played into your beauty habits?
NLB: My Chinese mum literally cuts up fruit and sticks it to her face—mostly berries. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. [Laughs.] My Italian dad uses a heap of sunscreen as that side of my family is more sensitive to the light.
B: You mentioned during shoot that it’s been difficult in the past to find beauty icons you can relate to, who do you look to now?
NLB: I now look to women with beautiful vibrant skin and healthy hair for inspiration, as opposed to finding examples of people who actually resemble me. That's quite hard though. Although, I do get told I look like Jessica Gomes a lot!
B: How do you keep your skin looking so flawless? (Seriously, tell us your secrets.)
NLB: My secret is visiting Melanie Grant in her Double Bay clinic for regular facials and rejuvenating Omnilux. Especially before and after flights. You don't realise how dull your skin has been looking until you’ve had a treatment there.
B: What’s your go-to makeup look for everyday?
NLB: If my skin's good, it’s as minimal as possible. A bit of Ken Goh Doh Maifanshi Moisture Foundation ($91) which I love—it’s moisturising and gives really lovely natural coverage. Then I do a little eyebrow filler (eyebrows are my life) with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz ($38). Some days I'll throw on some Nars Orgasm Blush ($44) (everyone's favourite), and a little mascara. For mascara, I generally buy any cheap drugstore brand. I’m using L'Oreal right now. I'll finish with a little illuminator beneath my brows.
B: How do you style your hair on the daily?
NLB: I use almost nothing to style it, I got lucky with natural Italian waves! I throw in a little Kiehl Heat-Protective Silk Straightening Cream ($32) and some Moroccanoil ($60) just to calm it down.
B: What would we currently find in your handbag beauty-wise?
B: What’s the best tip you’ve learned from a hairstylist or makeup artist?
NLB: That for me and my look, less is more.
B: Are there any Australian beauty secrets you swear by?
NLB: Salt water fixes most things! It also re-alkalises your skin.
B: If you could give your 16-year-old self beauty advice, what would you say?
NLB: Stop straightening your hair every day! You're ruining it, and your natural curls are prettier anyway.
B: Does your love for film play into the beauty looks you love?
NLB: Very much! It's so fun slipping into different characters for shoots and red carpet events.
B: What’s does a day in your diet look like?
NLB: I don't label myself as anything—the amount of different diets out there overwhelms me these days! I'm "accidentally" vegetarian most of the week though. For breakfast I'll usually have muesli with coconut milk or eggs and avocado (the Aussie classic). For lunch I'll eat at a cafe as I'm always out and about. For dinner, it's a simple stir-fry with veggies, tofu and a heap of tamari. Or a prawn pasta with a tomato base.
B: What do you always have in your fridge?
NLB: Eggs, broccoli and almond milk.
B: What’s your workout of choice?
NLB: I've been doing martial arts for most of my life and normal cardio workouts really bore me. I love martial arts because you're so concentrated on the art form and the self-defence element that you often forget you're working out. That said, there are some really fun and creative workouts in L.A. which is where I'm based now. My favourite is Rise Nation, a climbing machine class done in a pitch black room with crazy loud music and a lit-up disco ceiling. (I'm not making this up!)
Creative Direction: Lisa Patulny; Photographer: Tāne Coffin; Makeup: Elsa Morgan; Hair: Luke Davis; Styling: Amanda Stavropoulos.