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