• Jacket by J.W.Anderson; shirt by Jason Wu; pants by Gucci; pumps by Gianvito Rossi

    Bingbing Li is a strong believer that a person can communicate best – and sometimes only – with their eyes. The Chinese actress puts the theory to the test when we meet in a cafe in Beijing’s central business district, by wearing a mask that covers the lower two-thirds of her famous face. 

    Aside from the disguise, she is dressed to fit in: hair in a messy bun; a T-shirt and skinny jeans by Gucci; black pumps. She removes the mask a few times to make her points, revealing flawless, makeup-free skin; the result, she says, of daily beauty treatments and staying out of the sun.

    The mask, it transpires, is necessary today due to a cough she picked up on a recent movie set. But as one of China’s most-recognizable faces – and one of the most-followed celebrities on social-media site Weibo – it is a cloak she dons often. “In the beginning, I loved people recognizing me. I wanted them to,” says Li, discussing the start of her fame, some 15 years ago. “It was such a new feeling. But it became

    troublesome – now I have to cover my face to go anywhere.” 

    Such camoflage isn’t required in the US and Europe – Li is lesser known in the West. But now, at 41, that is all about to change. After her breakout Hollywood role as Ada Wong in 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution, Li will appear in the blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction with Mark Wahlberg, the latest instalment of the colossal Transformers franchise. She plays Su Yueming, the “CEO of the Chinese Transformers”, who she describes as smart, sexy, tough and aggressive – attributes often ascribed to the actress herself. “She is very strong and precise with a sharp personality,” says Li. “People will remember this role.”

    This leap to Hollywood is a major departure from Li’s usual

    “I [used to love when] people RECOGNIZED me. But now I have to COVER my face to go ANYWHERE”
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