When we connect over the phone, Shioli Kutsuna speaks slowly and carefully, the timbre of her voice lower than you’d expect. This is not a woman who blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. Normally, I would assume this demeanor is a result of years of media training (and perhaps the wounded response to an unflattering interview or two). But Kutsuna’s star is only beginning to rise, having played key roles in a few Japanese television shows and movies before arriving in Hollywood in a way that has propelled many before her into stardom: via a superhero film, of course. Her portrayal of mutant Yukio in the Marvel superhero film Deadpool 2 put her on the map, and only time will tell where Kutsuna’s career will take her now that she has that coveted pedigree under her belt.
Right at this moment, however, she’s on her way to the airport, having wrapped a nonstop press tour for the sequel to the Ryan Reynolds–fronted Marvel darling on everyone’s lips. Over the next half hour, Kutsuna and I discuss everything from placenta moisturizer to meditation, and I get the impression that she chooses her words carefully, and not from a jaded attitude or guardedness, but because she is a careful, thoughtful person. She’s honest with her feelings about representing Asian women in an industry that either puts them in a box or disregards them entirely (in short: She’s not entirely comfortable), she’s open about her tendency to worry about the future (same), and she comes across as an entirely genuine individual trying to find her way in the world while staying true to herself. Superheroes—they’re just like us.
Congratulations on Deadpool 2. As an Asian woman in Hollywood, do you feel you have a responsibility for changing stereotypes or preconceived ideas of what’s considered “beautiful”?
To be honest, I don’t feel too comfortable. My voice doesn’t have to be everyone’s voice. I did grow up in an area where there weren’t too many Asians, and I didn’t have any Japanese classmates, so I did kind of struggle with that while I was in primary school. I definitely know what that feels like. At the end of the day, you just have to find confidence within yourself.
You moved from Australia to Japan when you were 14. What do you feel like is the biggest difference is between the two countries’ approach to beauty?
I do really feel like everyone in Australia is more natural, organic, and they love the sun and they just let everything happen naturally, and if you get a tan, that’s fine, whereas I feel like Japanese people are very controlled about the type of beauty they want.
Do you have any favorite Japanese beauty products that you love?
Well, placenta is kind of like a thing in Japan—it still is. I use it on my face [via a moisturizer]. They have it in face creams, they have it in toners, and it gives a natural sort of shine—a glow. There are some green tea skincare products too. It kills germs, I think. And it smells amazing.
Tell me more about this beauty contest you were in.
That’s embarrassing, yeah. I mean it’s a common way to get in through to an agent in Japan. Agents would host a contest or a beauty contest. You just sort of present yourself. So it’s acting, it’s singing, it’s doing interviews on the spot, or it’s answering questions on the spot. They call it a beauty contest, but it’s just to be able to show your personality.
What’s your current summer beauty regimen?
Well, I do like to stick to organic products usually. So just something really natural all over my body. But my skin is very weak, so definitely lots of sunscreen. Actually, sunscreen all throughout the year is just a must. It can get really, really, really hot in Japan. And you do get sweaty no matter what you do—you can’t avoid it. So not putting too much on—just having a natural glow and maybe like a really nice bright shade on the lips. I love anything colorful. I love painting my nails a different color every day just to feel like I’m wearing spring or summer.
For skincare, I use a lot of skincare products that my dermatologist makes. Everything has a lot of vitamin C extract and placenta in it. There are no preservatives in it, so it doesn’t last that long, but I like to keep things very natural because I’ve been through so much with bad skin previously. Also, just taking vitamins and taking probiotics and staying healthy.
What’s your go-to foundation for hot summer days?
I love the one from this brand called Three. I don’t know if you have it in the U.S., but it’s amazing.
You’ve mentioned before that you go to Japanese hot springs as a part of your wellness practice. Tell me more about that.
Well, it’s hard to find places in Tokyo—it’s such a busy city—you just take the weekends off to just go to the countryside where there are nice scenery, great locations, and amazing hot springs. I got whenever I have a break. It’s just like going to the beach for Japanese people.
What other wellness practices do you swear by?
I meditate. I tend to worry over things that haven’t happened yet, and I know it’s a negative aspect, but it is just how I am. So I just really stress myself out while I’m waiting on things because you know, we have so much waiting time for jobs like this. So it really helps when I have just that maybe 10-minute or 15-minute break to really just calm myself, and I get to a neutral state where I can really relax and just work and stress less. I just like to sit and focus on my breathing. I think it’s the most helpful thing. It was really hard to concentrate in the beginning because you’re just not used to it—your mind’s going constantly.
You’ve been doing a lot of press around Deadpool 2 and traveling a lot. Do you have any travel beauty tips or products or anything along those lines to help you look well-rested?
I keep my face moisturized with a mist. And also my throat as well. You can easily catch a cold from the dry airplanes. I take a scent as well to keep myself calm on the plane. I use this series called Chakra that Aveda makes. They’ve got like eight types of different smells, and they all represent some sort of feeling. I have one and it’s very soothing.
If you could give 16-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
Drink more water. Sleep well. I try to rest as much as possible on set now. I think that’s the best way. You know, you feel like you want to chat with people and keep things active, but it’s really important to just take a break.
Head over to Who What Wear to see how Kutsuna styles the sheer trend seven ways.