Photo: Instagram / Kenzo Parfums
Call it serendipity or destiny. Call it an X-factor or sheer talent. However you look at it, South Korean actress Kim Tae Ri’s career has been one helluva ride.
Despite being a rookie, she beat out close to 1,500 candidates to land the plum role in the 2016 psycho-erotic thriller The Handmaiden, directed by Park Chan Wook (who also helmed the Cannes Grand Prix-winning Oldboy). There, her breakout turn as a thief who falls in love with the rich heiress she’s trying to con earned her plaudits aplenty, among them the best newcomer gongs at the Busan Film Critics Awards, the Director’s Cut Awards and the Asian Film Awards. In the couple of years since, she’s snagged key roles in two vastly different films – one a political thriller, the other a quiet drama.
Soon, she’ll be seen on TV in the hotly-anticipated K-serial Mr Sunshine opposite Lee Byung Hun, one of Korea’s A-list leading men. And earlier this year, she topped the entertainment category of Forbes Korea’s 2030 Power Leaders list, which highlights young up-and-comers in various fields. Not bad for someone who only had a string of short films on her CV a few years ago.
Right now, the spotlight is on the 28-year-old as she assumes the role of the new face for Kenzo’s signature fragrance, Flower By Kenzo. Succeeding Chinese model Ming Xi, she was hand-picked by the brand’s creative director, Patrick Guedj, after her gutsy debut performance in The Handmaiden left a deep impression on him. Describing her personality as very strong and also very feminine, Guedj says Kim is someone who knows what she wants and what she’s doing. “She had so many questions about the character in the Flower film – she wanted to understand everything, be sure about everything,” he says.
Kim herself feels she was chosen by Kenzo because she has the personality traits that the brand wants the Flower woman to embody in the new campaign. “I think the character I portray [in the advertisement film] is kind of heroic. She has this power to touch a world that is hardening and this wonderful, amazing energy that she spreads to the people around her. It’s a very confident, strong woman. I think that was what they were looking for during the audition, and they saw those qualities in me,” she says.
Guedj felt there was more to her than that, however. “She looks so young and baby-faced, very nice and cute, but she actually has a core of steel. I like that contrast in her. And the character she played in The Handmaiden was exactly like that too,” he explains. Kim says she sees the same mix of strength and fragility in the poppy – Flower By Kenzo’s symbolizing bloom. “I think the poppy has very contrasting qualities because it has a very thin, frail stem that is actually the life force supporting the bright, dominant flower.
Similarly, the fragrance can smell very girlish one moment and very feminine and grown-up the next. Having all these contrasting aspects combined in a scent is what appeals to me,” she says.