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F9's Anna Sawai on Joining the Fast Family and Smashing Hollywood Stereotypes

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The Fast and Furious film franchise is unwavering in its ability to delight audiences. Across nine films, which have collectively brought in $6 billion at the box office, it has overdelivered on high-throttle action and heart-thumping storylines, welcoming an array of exciting new characters (and A-listers!) into the now infamous “family” along the way. For newcomer Anna Sawai, who joins the crew in F9: The Fast Saga, the franchise has always represented what could be in terms of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. Growing up in New Zealand and Japan, seeing Asian actors on-screen in a major U.S. action film was a game changer for the 29-year-old, who left her J-pop group FAKY in 2018 to pursue acting full-time.

Since pivoting, Sawai has been steadily building her résumé, landing a role in the 2019 BBC crime drama Giri/Haji and, soon after, the part of Elle, a martial arts warrior, in F9. She seamlessly fits into the beloved Fast family, kicking ass and holding her own alongside franchise veterans. Later this year, Sawai will star in the Apple TV+ big-budget drama Pachinko, which is based on the Min Jin Lee novel of the same name. It’s a massive series with a story that unfolds over four generations and spans multiple continents. Needless to say, Sawai is one to watch. I caught up with the actress ahead of the F9 premiere—where, I should note, she stunned in a look by Brandon Maxwell, Tiffany & Co. jewels, and Sophia Webster heels—to talk about her badass summer role, not conforming to Hollywood stereotypes, and more. 

You are new to the Fast and Furious franchise. What do you love about this film series?

It was a film that I grew up watching. It’s really big in Japan as well. They had Tokyo Drift, which was huge. In recent years, the industry has become a lot more diverse, and we are heading in the right direction, but back when the first film came out, I don’t think a lot of other films had as much diversity. It’s been very inclusive since the beginning. Seeing people who look like me is what I really love about the films. 

The Fast and Furious cast is a pretty tight-knit crew. Did you feel you integrated into the “family” pretty quickly? 

I definitely felt like the new girl, and I was really nervous because stepping into something that is really tight-knit, like you said, is nerve-racking. There are huge stars [in this film], too, so that was another reason I was preparing myself for the film. But they really welcomed me with open arms and were so warm. They made me feel like I was part of the family even though I was a new kid. I would say now I feel a lot more confident saying I’m part of their family. 

Let’s talk about your character Elle, who is an expert martial arts warrior. Outside of all of the intense training, how did this role challenge you as an actor? 

She does a lot of action, like you said, but the training itself wasn’t really tough on me. I’ve done action training for maybe two years in total, and it was a lot of fun, but what was more challenging was feeling confident with the cast—not feeling like I shouldn’t be here. We had a scene [that] was pretty emotional, and we did so many takes, and after we shot for about two or three days, I found out that they were going to make changes to the script, and we had to reshoot everything on my last day. So emotionally preparing for that was quite challenging. 

What are you most excited for audiences to see with this character?

I’m excited for people to see an Asian female who is not afraid of kicking ass. She is really badass, but it’s not like she’s just a fighter because she’s Asian. She’s had a traumatic past, and there is a reason why she’s had to learn how to protect herself. I’m excited for people to learn her backstory.

You have a fight scene with two badass Fast and Furious veterans, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. What did you learn from them while working behind the scenes and watching them perform?

I would say there are actually a lot more badass characters, including Charlize Theron and Nathalie Emmanuel. Everyone is really badass, but I had a fighting scene with Jordana and Michelle, and they are so unapologetic. They are so confident in who they are, and me being the younger and newer person, I was like, “Oh, am I doing this okay?” and questioning myself at times. They taught me that you don’t have anything to worry about, just be yourself, just be confident in what you do, trust yourself, and you are here for a reason. 

Do you have a favorite fight scene from the film?

I was able to go to Tbilisi in Georgia, and no one else was there. It was literally just the second unit. I got to ride this huge armory truck and shoot a machine gun. It was blanks, but you could still really shoot it on the streets of Tbilisi, and that was such a sensational feeling to really be there, not just on a set. To actually feel the atmosphere and feel the gun and basically just be a badass was amazing. The first time I shot it, my hands were shaking. I had never shot a gun before, and it was scary at first, but then you just feel like you can conquer the world. 

Later this year, you are starring in the Apple TV+ series Pachinko, an adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s acclaimed novel. It’s an epic drama and a huge production filmed across multiple continents with dialogue in Korean, Japanese, and English. Can you tell me about your experience working on the series?

It was honestly such a special project to me because being able to tell the story of my character, who is working in a male-dominated industry and not being taken seriously. I know so many women who have faced similar things. And even now, I think gender equality in Japan is not where it needs to be. So to be able to tell her story really meant a lot. To shoot with this [cast and crew], they really took it seriously, and it was really something that spoke to them. No one was there just to have fun. It was so meaningful. Also, this was my first project that I knew I would be working on for multiple seasons, so we were able to really create it from the beginning, and it felt like everyone was included in it creatively.  

What can we look forward to in terms of your character Naomi? 

She has such a strong personality, but because we are talking about the ’80s, it wasn’t like she could just say whatever she wanted to say. You can really feel the struggle of knowing what you want to do and having an opinion but having to … conceal it and making adjustments where she could. I can’t really say too much because not a lot is revealed yet, but I am sure a lot of women will be able to relate to her. 

So your part of the story is set in the ’80s. Does that mean we will get some good ’80s fashion moments as well?

You will definitely see ’80s fashion, but she is mostly in the office, so it’s not the crazy fashion you might think. It’s not like übercolorful or big hair, but it’s a lot of shoulder pads. 

You are still early into your acting career. What would you like to achieve in the next five years? 

I think it’s really important that I choose the roles that don’t fit into the stereotypical Asian roles that have been around for a long time. I think Naomi is definitely one of those. In terms of projects, I would love to do a role where the race [of the character] doesn’t matter. So it’s an open-ethnicity role. Most of the [auditions] I’ve done are looking for an Asian actress, so I would like to challenge myself to those kinds of [open] roles. I know the competition is that much more because everyone is auditioning for it, but that would be a good challenge for me. In terms of stories, I really love drama. Although, I like to escape in a crazy sci-fi world, too. I would love to tell a story based on an actual person’s life or true events. That would be a lot of fun and also a lot of pressure. 

Who are some of the actors or creators you admire in terms of their career choices?

I grew up loving Angelina Jolie. What really drew me to her was that she was not only a beautiful and great actress, but behind the camera, you can tell she is so passionate about philanthropy. I love Carey Mulligan. I have always loved her films, but watching her in Promising Young Woman made me realize how much more I love her. I recently watched Cruella, and Emma Stone is just so good! She is always great, but this felt like a completely new type of Disney film. I think what I love about the actors I mentioned is that they can do very different types of roles. It’s not always the same. I love Natalie Portman. The list goes on and on. They are all super powerful, confident, and assertive. 

Before pursuing a career in acting, you were a lead vocalist in a J-pop girl group called FAKY. Can you tell me about that experience, and do you think you will go back into music at some point?

Return to music? No. I am not confident in my singing. I would love to sound like Whitney Houston, but I don’t, so I don’t think I will. What I would love to do is musical films. Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables, those kinds of movies I do love. But I don’t know. Never say never. Maybe? It’s just not something I’m trying to do right now. 

I was looking back at some of the old FAKY music videos and press images, and it’s clear fashion played a big role in your overall aesthetic as a group. What is your relationship to fashion these days?

Well, back then, I definitely did a lot more experimenting. I was wearing things that I probably wouldn’t wear right now. I always go for the same stuff, which I need to stop doing, but the most important thing is that I feel comfortable and confident. Even if you are following the trends, if you don’t feel like you look good in it or you don’t feel completely comfortable, it shows. Even if you are wearing something really different but you’re owning it, that’s all that matters. So I try to find something that I, at least, feel good in. I’m quite short, so I need to make sure that I find something that won’t make me look tiny. I will wear wide-leg jeans with nice platform sandals so I don’t look as small as I am, and then I’ll wear something that is fitted on top because I don’t want to wear something that is wide, as that will accentuate my height. 

So your approach to style is different as an actor?

Yeah. Back then when we would walk down the street, people would see us, and they would be like, “Oh that’s Anna from this group.” But now, I am an actor, and people know me for the roles that I do, but they don’t expect to see that when they see me on the street. So I have the liberation of just being whoever I want to be versus making sure I’m still the image they see on stage. 

What are the pieces or trends you have your eye on for summer?

Thong shoes. Do they have those in high heels? If I can find those that are actually high heels, that would be great. When I recently went shopping, I got a lot of maxi skirts, and I never used to wear them, but I think this season I’m pulling them out a little more, and it’s nice because they are so easy. 

Catch Anna Sawai in F9: The Fast Saga, in theaters now. 

PhotographerAkina Chan 

Hairstylist: Erin Klassen 

Makeup Artist: Minjee Mowat 

Stylist: Marchel Eang 



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The 20 Best Lily of the Valley Perfumes That Are So Dreamy

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Slightly sweet and softly floral, lily of the valley has been a mainstay fragrance note for decades. A favorite scent of Christian Dior, it gained popularity in the 1950s thanks to the house’s Diorissimo scent. Today, notes of the flower can still be detected in a number of Dior’s most-loved fragrances (some of which are among the most popular perfumes of all time).

Not to be confused with the standard lily, it grows in the springtime in white bell-shaped buds along on a long, green stalk. “Lily of the valley, or muguet in French, has a lilting, sweet scent imbued with dew that is alternately sweet and green,” explains Steve Mormoris, CEO and founder of Scent Beauty. “It has a strong association with the emergence of spring and with new beginnings. It is remarkably feminine in character and has an enduring classicism without being old-fashioned.” (Fun fact: Kate Middleton had lily of the valley in her wedding bouquet for her April 2011 wedding to Prince William.)

Often found as a base note in floral fragrances, lily of the valley plays well with woody notes like sandalwood, patchouli, and vetiver as well as green notes such as herbs and foliage. According to Mormoris, these pairings “accentuate its sweetness without being cloying.”

Like many trends first set by Christian Dior, the floral scent’s popularity endures to this day. “[Lily of the valley] evokes a day of simple pleasure, much like the first warm spring day,” says Mormoris. Intrigued? We don’t blame you. Here, we searched high and low for 22 of the best lily of the valley fragrances to help you find your perfect scent for this season and beyond.



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I Just Copied Megan Fox's Hair Color—Here's My New Routine

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I’m a natural brunette, but when it comes to changing my hair color, I’ve always opted to go lighter. For years, I’ve changed my hair with highlights, balayage, and even ombré, when that was a thing. Just this past August, I got a new round of highlights and opted to go for a shade of sandy blonde.

Recently, I’ve been itching to make a major change. Megan Fox provides beauty inspiration in many aspects, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her hair color. It’s the perfect dark, chocolaty, almost-black brown, with so much shine it might as well be reflective.

After asking pretty much everyone I know if they thought I could pull off Megan Fox’s hair color (most people said yes but made sure I knew it wouldn’t make me look like Megan Fox), I finally decided to take the plunge and try the color for myself.

I went to Nikki Lee, Garnier consulting celebrity colorist, who gave me the dark hair of my dreams. To help you achieve the dark hair you’ve been dreaming of, I spoke with Lee and Andrew Fitzsimons, a celebrity hairstylist who works with Megan Fox herself, to get the lowdown on going dark, maintaining your new color, and the products you absolutely need.

Commit to the color. Keep in mind that you’ll be coloring your hair all over, so you should plan to commit to darker hair for a while, according to Lee. “You don’t want to flip-flop back and forth from light to dark and vice versa, as this can cause damage to your hair.”

Consult a stylist. “It may seem easy to grab a box dye from the beauty aisle in a drugstore. However, you’re probably not going to achieve the exact color you are going for,” says Fitzsimons. “Always consult with your stylist or colorist about your desired color so they can customize the right products for your hair type.”

Patch-test the hair dye. Fitzsimons warns that dyes can be harsh on skin, so you should do a small patch test to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction before covering your head in dye. 

“If you have a lighter color to begin with, it might take a few times for the dark color to take, so fading might occur, which is totally normal,” says Lee. If your hair is dark to begin with, going darker should be fairly easy for you. 

When it comes to your hair texture, always make sure you’re going to a stylist who’s familiar with your hair type. Lee emphasizes that fine hair might grab color more quickly than thicker hair, which may require an extra layer of color.

“Simple tips to help preserve and maintain colored hair include not over-washing, using sulfate-free and color-safe products, deep-conditioning often, and refreshing your shade in between applications with a color enhancer to add temporary pigment between washes and restore vibrancy,” says Fitzsimons. He recommends only washing hair once or twice a week to avoid stripping hair of its natural oils, which can cause damaged follicles. 

“A good option is NatureLab’s Repair Shampoo, which is infused with argan and prickly pear oils to protect your hair from environmental damage and restore a healthy look and feel. This product is free of harmful ingredients that can potentially strip your color and hair strands.” — Fitzsimons

“NatureLab Repair Conditioner is an antioxidant-rich plant-based conditioning treatment that protects your hair from further damage, helps with color longevity, and keeps hair shiny and healthy.” — Fitzsimons

“Tigi Copyright Custom Care Treatment Base is infused with keratin, shea butter, and a vitamin complex, which seals moisture and acts as a natural conditioner, preventing dryness, and improves manageability.” — Fitzsimons

“Daily Dose locks in moisture eliminates frizz, strengthens, and prevents breakage. Leave-in conditioners are meant to protect your hair and leave hair soft and luminous.” — Fitzsimons

“Since Megan has naturally dark hair, my focus is to keep the integrity of her hair in great shape (especially when I’m using heat-styling tools on her). One of my go-to products is the NatureLab Smooth Hair Oil, which is a heat protectant that helps to prevent heat damage while keeping her hair moisturized, shiny, and healthy. A good hair oil is one of the keys to maintaining her gorgeous locks.” — Fitzsimons

“I suggest getting ahold of the Garnier Nutrisse Color Revivers to give your color the boost it needs in between sessions.” — Lee

“Bed Head by Tigi Rockaholic Dirty Secret Dry Shampoo leaves hair feeling refreshed and saves hair from heat damage and colour loss. It is a great alternative for in between washes or if hair becomes oily.” — Fitzsimons

Up next, 15 Looks That Prove Chunky Highlights Are the Coolest Hair Trend of 2021



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Sarah Hyland’s Easy Beauty and Wellness Routine

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Do you have any other beauty go-tos besides the Neutrogena wipes? For me, I always go back to the Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker. 

Oh, dude, that shit was the best. Yes, I always go back to Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($10). It’s just easy. It’s good. It’s also really cute for creating a glossy lid. It stays. I think another good staple is also a spoolie brush. Always have a spoolie on you.

Oh, for your amazing brows. You mentioned Aquaphor. Have you tried slugging? It’s a TikTok trend where they seal in moisturizer with Aquaphor or Vaseline.

What are the teenagers doing nowadays? [laughs]

Is there anything surprising that we’d find in your bathroom cabinet?

Laxatives? I don’t know. Everyone gets constipated once in a while.

Ha ha, yes, especially during the pandemic. Lots of stress.

Girl, a lot of cheese! 

What about your hair? It’s naturally curly, right?

Yes, its curly. Ive been relying on the Sourse Beauty Bites ($34) a lot because they have a ton of biotin. It’s really great for strengthening your hair, and it has also helped me with hair growth. I always diffuse my hair and use a good gel. People are scared of gel, but if you find a good one, the result won’t be crunchy!



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