Yes, that Chloe.

China’s “anti-actress” is its future of cinema.

That Chloe with that unusual four-character name, used only by those derived from ancient surnames and those transliterated from minority tribes. The rest of us mere mortals go by two- or three-character names, but not Chloe: 曾美慧孜 Zeng Mei Hui Zi – like “Helen of Troy” or “Joan of Arc” or “Warrior Queen Boudica of the Celts”, but something to the effect of “Chloe The Intelligent and Industrious One Who We Once Only Acknowledged For Her Beauty But Now We Know Better”.

Yes, that Chloe.

And yet, she disappears so entirely into her onscreen personas, that she can walk down a crowded club street on a Friday night and nobody will bat an eye. She can waltz into crowded jazz club, still luminous in iridescent purple makeup from a day on set, and nobody will miss a beat.

“I got your message!”

Chloe is breathless, confused, as she joins me in the back corner of the polyester-red-velvet club. “Did the original one shut down? I don’t remember it being like this.” Yeah. She wrinkles her nose.

I love your work, I start lamely. There’s a thorn in her smile. “Did you watch my movie from when I was a kid?”. She shrugs, then almost to herself, “I’d wanted to act since I was a kid.” Indeed, her first ever film role at age 14, playing Dong Dong, a university student, in 娄烨 Lou Ye’s sobering Summer Palace (2006). A university student. At 14. When the film peaks in the raging chaos of a student demonstration, Dong Dong’s face wrestles to hold in the fear and panic and the desperate need of a young adult to know the answers. Her gasping attempt to find words is so quietly devastating that when the film premiered at Cannes, the global film industry was like, wait – who’s she?

I also watched Three Husbands, I offer.

Chloe perks up. The film was one of her favourite productions. Director Fruit Chan had run a set of military accuracy and few takes. “He knows his story and characters so precisely and completely,” she gushes. “I aspire to that laser focus, when it’s my time be on the other side of the camera.” She considers this. “Honestly, actors often have fairly limited room to move on the range of a character. We meet the character through the writer or director, so to speak, and then our job is to complete it.” But this is where she sees immense opportunity in Chinese film landscape’s massive shift in the past year.


PHOTOGRAPHER Hailun Ma • PRODUCERS Margaret Zhang and Jeffery Sheng • STYLIST Dre Romero • MAKE-UP Regia Lu • HAIR Xiangzi


Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese filmmaker, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Zhang has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Zhang’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NOWNESS, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for four consecutive years. CNN has identified Zhang as a leading fashion photographer in Asia and ELLE named her the region’s most influential digital voice. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim. In 2018, co-curated the first annual FOREFRONT Summit focused on inter-industry problem-solving at all scales of business. From this king summit, Zhang developed FOREFRONT+ – a round table series of candid conversations covering subject matters of universal concern. In 2019, THE FACE Magazine engaged Zhang as Creative-Director-at-Large for Asia for its relaunch. Zhang is currently working on her first feature film.