My name is Eugene Quek, and I’ve charmed Cate Blanchett into taking a selfie with me.
My life, in other words, is complete.
Full disclosure: I’m a Blanchett buff of the highest order, so no pretense of objectivity here!
Cate who? Anyone remotely clued into contemporary pop culture will recognise Catherine Elise Blanchett as “one of the best actors of her generation” (Wikipedia’s words, not mine). Then there’s Cate’s singular complexion, the one crystal clear constant running through two decades’ worth of cinematic incarnations …
All of which is to say that gazing at her gamine figure in the flesh is an out-of-body experience. Up close, the 45-year-old woman of the hour (wearing Elie Saab couture, natch) looks for all the world like a glimmering GIF in motion.
Huddled on a hotel settee with similarly starstruck Singapore scribes, I feel like anything could happen – like she could conceivably wrap her arm around my waist and snap a picture with me using my smartphone. And by the power of Pitera, she did!
Selfie shenanigans aside, here are some bits and bobs I’ve learnt from the luminous luminary:
The Asian obsession with skin whitening? It’s a Western thing, too. Go hard or go home: When I challenge Cate on her tacit endorsement of a brand which some handwringing types have accused of abetting colourism, she flinches not an inch.
“It’s funny you should ask that, because SK-II’s whitening range was the first line I encountered when I was pregnant and had noticed some pigmentary changes,” Cate says evenly, looking me dead in the eye. “When I met with the brand reps, they were absolutely bewildered as to why I was using it.” (As well they should be, because come on, Cate’s as pale as the day is long.)
“I remember saying to them that we’ve all got unevenness in our skin tone, we’re all concerned about UV damage. Sure, each culture has at its core its own ideal of what is quintessentially beautiful, but I think the West is now very much taken with this Asian obsession. We’ve sort of inherited it, really.” Whoo-hoo, Asia skin rules!
Cate’s a Thought Catalog columnist. She’s all about feel-good bromides that come off as bonafide words of wisdom when uttered in that comforting cadence of hers. To wit, here’s Cate’s idea of beauty: “I really subscribe to the Asian philosophy that in order for something to be perfect, it needs to contain a grain of imperfection. When a plate in Japan breaks, they seal it with gold; they celebrate the cracks, you see. Whereas in the West we’re always trying to pretend that the crack’s not there.”
She even manages to sneak in a subtle sponsor’s plug with her self-empowering spiel: “I think we should disavow this notion that perfection is even possible. I certainly wasn’t born with incredible skin, but it’s gotten better since I’ve starting using SK-II. I work with what I’ve been given.” Nice one!
The one thing she regrets about Blue Jasmine? Probably not what you expect. The Aussie A-lister has skirted the whole Woody Allen situation for a while now … but she will cop to feeling regret over going #MakeUpFree in what must rank as the best film of her career: “In Blue Jasmine, I felt it was incredibly important to be completely bare. When I told my makeup artist I wanted no makeup on, no concealer, no nothing, I knew that I would regret it later. So the way I get around it is to not watch it back.”
Indeed, for someone who’s fronting a first-rate beauty brand – not to mention someone who’s the owner of one of the most mesmerising mugs in showbiz today – Cate’s shockingly camera-shy: “I don’t watch [my past performances]. I’ve never thought of myself as being beautiful or not beautiful; that’s not for me to judge, to be frank.” Allow me to chime in, then. Cate, you’re beyond beautiful!
Someone get her a role as an empress from the Edo era, stat! Cate comports herself like the regal ruler of the silver screen that she is, but we already know that. What’s truly striking is her penchant for ritual in her life, which is very Japanese in its own poetic way: “I love the strong sense of ritual and routine at the core of the SK-II brand.”
“The products come to life from a naturally occurring substance the brand has labelled Pitera, but they also hail from a long Japanese tradition.” Cate as one of the last female monarchs of Japan, her cloistered life encroached upon by modern industrialisation? A walk in the palace park for someone who’s played queen more than once!
Want to look like Cate? Check back with us in 13 years. For someone guilty of asking bemused beauty staff if a particular product would make me look like Cate Blanchett, the secret to her complexion comes as something of a downer. As it turns out, patience and persistence are of the “essence”, so to speak: “Yes, we’re in the beauty world where everyone’s obsessed with the quick fix, but the brand pays off over time – I’ve been using SK-II for 13 years now.”
The leading lady may be a fearless fashion frontliner – the knitted “Cate Blanket” number caused a right kerfuffle in its day – but when it comes to her complexion, she’s downright conservative: “I’m not faddish about my skincare, to be honest. I know that doesn’t sound very ‘now’, but I use the same essence, the same serum, a moisturiser, and I cleanse. And I get up and do the same thing the next day.”
Other beauty bites? Cate says she’s been advised not to be overzealous with the eyebrow tweezer; not an issue in this K-Brow age we live in, methinks. Oh, she also says she decants the Facial Treatment Essence in a tiny spray bottle for a quick pick-me-up – something fellow SK-II face and Chinese thespian Tang Wei professes to doing as well. Great beauties think alike!
And finally, Cate hates selfies – but I made her take one with me, anyway! Press pow-wow over, we’re politely invited to pose for photographic mementos with the megastar. My recollection of what happens next is hazy – the sequence of events remains a woozy blur to this day, really – but flash-forward two minutes into the future and I’m looking down at my smartphone at a series of adorably awkward selfies with Cate Blanchett herself.
Later on, I learn from my beauty buddies that Cate said something to the effect of loathing selfies (“I don’t understand them; why would anyone want to look at themselves while taking a picture?”) But here’s the thing: She obliged me when she could have easily signalled to her surly security to have me spirited out of her suite.
And that, my friends, is why Cate Blanchett is the kindest, most glamorous, most enviably porcelain-skinned and by all accounts professional superheroine this side of Middle-Earth’s Lady Galadriel!
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