“We moved from Peru to Australia when I was a baby, so I didn’t personally remember anything of where we were from. I am very grateful to my mum that within our new household, which was so far away from Peru, she kept our culture, and particularly our indigenous history, alive.
It feels like a miracle that she kept that strong sense of connection and instilled it in me, as it’s not like there were many other South American people for us to interact with, especially of Quechua descent. On the outside, I had a fairly typical Aussie upbringing, but within our own home, Mum would always remind us that we were the descendants of Incas. Our people had built more roads than the Romans, they were astronomers, mathematicians, and they created Machu Pichu. My grandma still speaks the language, so together they created this bubble in which I was able to experience our roots and history with pride.
When I was younger, my heritage didn’t seem as important to me, because I think in the early nineties it was much more about trying to fit in and ‘be Australian’, but as I got older I realised how special it was to have this indigenous heritage. As a teen I gravitated towards indigenous Australians, and did a few years of volunteer work in Redfern and in youth detention centres, as indigenous Australians are disproportionately represented in that system. These girls opened up to me and gravitated towards me; I think all being brown girls in Australia, we kind of understood a little bit about the others’ experience.
It wasn’t until I went back to Peru at 18 and saw how much my people were really living that I made a silent vow to correct that injustice.
They were living in poverty, dispossessed, disenfranchised, without land or dignity, and they were not proud to be indigenous. There was such cognitive dissonance between what my mum had taught me, and this reality. I realised I could either stay in Peru and help people one on one, or go and help redesign the systems that aren’t working. It inspired me to go back to Australia and study social science and policy at UNSW.
I am so grateful to Australia, as if we hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t have had the access to education that I did, or have lived in a relatively egalitarian society (not if you’re Aboriginal, though!). I was lucky to live in a place where there was not so huge a gap between the rich and poor. When we arrived here, my mother needed government assistance, and she was immediately helped with housing to get on her feet. I think as Australians we value fairness, we share a love of nature, and we are big on hard work and perseverance. As an immigrant girl from Peru, I got to go to one of the best universities purely on merit, as that’s the kind of country Australia is. Those are some amazing values to have grown up with, and I still consider Australia home.
When I moved to the US, I lost the whole foundation I had built my life on – I was without my family or my sense of purpose.
I had been a uni student studying social science and policy, majoring in development in the third world, and working as a volunteer in the inner-city with indigenous youth, then all of a sudden I moved and all that purpose was gone. It suddenly seemed that my purpose was to be a famous actress.
Certainly back then, it felt like there was only one vision in Hollywood of what success looked like. It was very narrow, very hard to attain, and not in alignment with my desire to be of service. It all felt very selfish, to have this whole team of PR people and agents and it was just all about you. That seemed very alien to me. After The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift came out, I fell into a very deep depression. I think every young person goes through something like this, because we put such pressure on everyone at such a young age to know what they want for the rest of their lives. I found it depressing to be doing what had always been a dream of mine, but have it not be matching up with what I thought of as success. I took a long break, which became something that would happen often in my career. Even though common sense might say, ‘just keep at it, keep grinding in LA for however many months or years’, whenever it felt like too much for me, I would leave. I went to go and be with my then-boyfriend in Atlanta, or later in my life I learned to take road trips to Big Sur and up into Northern California, to explore the beauty.
I didn’t want to be in The Fast and the Furious!
I grew up on SBS and ABC, watching world movies and independent films, so this sort of franchise action movie was right at the other end of spectrum from the films I watched and aspired to be in. It was a huge opportunity, though, and my agents told me that being in this movie was going to get a lot of eyes on me. Doing it was an example of me not following my intuition, and it’s not the decision I would make today. It happened with Dynasty too – even though I look back on it with fondness, it wasn’t right for me (which thankfully the producers realised and recast me). It was all about overconsumption… I mean, I was literally playing the head of PR for an oil company! It’s the same with The Fast and the Furious – I really don’t care for car racing, and imagine the footprint of a franchise like that. Not only how much it costs to make, but also the people around the world it inspires to burn fuel for no reason. I do feel that every role I have taken is part of my overall journey, so in that sense I am grateful for what they taught me. However, taking those two roles are definitely not decisions I would make again, now that I have such strong sense of the stories I am meant to tell.
I have had roles that have made me so happy, too. If I bowed out of acting now, I would be very proud of my career.
UnReal was the first show I had been on that was a critically acclaimed hit, and it was nice to be a part of something so well-considered. I learned so much, especially from Shiri Appleby. I am so grateful to have been a part of it. Also, we were filming in Vancouver in British Columbia, and it was right when my environmental awakening happened, so I got to experience the beauty of that part of the world at this perfect moment. I was only working two or three days a week, so I had so much time to explore. My main memories of that period are of hiking and canoeing in the British Columbia wilderness. I am so lucky that my job is so amazing!
My absolute career highlight was The Baker and The Beauty, which went to number one on Netflix all over the Americas, with zero publicity. It’s a show I remain incredibly proud of. To this day, I love the work we did and the character I was able to create. As an actress it felt that I was able to use everything I had learned and accumulated in my time in Hollywood.
I still feel like there are stories within me and stories I want to tell, but I’m not sure I will be acting any time soon.
The landscape in Hollywood is very interesting right now. We had the golden age of TV and now we have come to this over-saturation of streaming platforms and shows, where the quality has largely really gone down. As a result of all of the uncertainty in the world, producers and networks are feeling a bit scared of anything that isn’t a formula that the audience has seen before. I am not looking to do anything within this current formula, because I believe it has been designed only to distract audiences and not to make them feel.
I am currently working as a writer and producer on a couple of documentary series. They are very exciting to me, as they have a lot of relevance to the situations we are in at the moment, while also looking to the past.
I do think there are some shows and pieces of writing where important issues are emerging, like Don’t Look Up, and I am very excited to see where we will go as an industry. When these shows start to arrive in my inbox, then I will gladly pick up my acting hat, but not until I feel moved. I think a lot of people still need to catch up with where the world is and what we need as audiences. I don’t think we need to be making more movies that terrify us or are just there to distract us. We are able to both reflect and shape the world we live in with the stories we tell, and with mass shootings happen every week, I don’t want to be part of anything that glorifies violence, or part of old narrative storytelling that glorifies patriarchy. I want to be part of something new.
I have these very deep ties in Peru, and there is a lot of work to be done there. I’m in the process now of working on a series on the pre-colonised history of Peru. It’s sort of about the stories mum used to tell me of what our people achieved, and considering those in light of our modern technologies. How did they build all of that back then, without any of the tools we have now, and simultaneously feed 10 million people without one drop of fertiliser? Doing this project feels like I am coming full circle.
I do use beauty products, but I feel a bit uncomfortable when I am done with them and think so much of the packaging just goes to landfill.
There was a point where I was making everything myself, even my own toothpaste, and trying to be zero waste. That’s amazing for all those can go that route, but I move around a lot and with travel that approach is not always an option. It’s an uncomfortable negotiation for me, as I want my skin to be healthy, and I do care about my appearance (as well as it being a part of my work), but it’s sad to me that the beauty industry relies so much on plastics and non-recyclable packaging. I always try to remind myself that we are just not there yet, but remain hopeful that we will.
We need to have more people in the beauty industry helping to close the loop on plastic waste, like WeDo is.
Maybe in the future we will say ‘can you believe those past generations used so much plastic’? I really hope companies like WeDo and products like these set the tone for where we are going in the future. Plastic bottles, whether or not they are recyclable, should be a thing of the past.
The leave in conditioner, Nourishing Night Shift, is a wonderful product, especially if you swim a lot. I like to put it in after I wash it and sleep with it overnight. The No Plastic Shampoo Bar is the gold standard, because it is completely plastic free. Using one does require a bit of adjustment, but I promise you, once you shower with a bar you will never go back. They also do some wonderful moisturising creams and oils for face and body, and are overall a very reliable brand.
Living Libations is another brand I like – they have a lovely range of essential oils. And then whenever I go home to Australia, I stock up on Mukti’s Antioxidant Facial Oil Omega 3-6-9, which I just call ‘the beauty oil’. Or I just walk into Orchard St. and get all my products there. Kirsten is a good friend of mine and I absolutely trust everything she stocks. I go crazy in there – it’s my place for a guilt-free shopping spree. She understands that it’s not just about external beauty – she has tinctures and teas, yummy oils and perfumes, even amazing copper water bottles.
For me, the best skincare is something I might find made locally at my organic supermarket, or that I make myself.
At the end of the day, a lot of these so-called ‘natural’ brands are just using things like jojoba oil, which are easy to source, so I like to experiment with making different blends myself. I also like to take my time in the mornings and focus on the basics of sunshine and water, which in turn helps my skin health and my appearance. When I wake up, I go outside and get a little bit of early morning sun, always before the time of day where I’d be exposing myself to harsh UV rays. I believe it helps to set my circadian rhythm, helps me to wake up, sleep better, and look well-rested. Then I start my ritual of praying over my water, and having a quiet, meditative, graceful moment. It helps me to focus on my hydration levels, and I have noticed over time that my skin feels more hydrated, and I have less bags under my eyes.
I do use makeup, but again what to use and when feels complicated.
I have a lot of yellow tones in my skin, and it is hard to find that in natural brands. My current favourite foundation that gets my tone just right is by MAC, but every time I use it I feel sad, as I would love to find a natural beauty brand that can mimic that same colour. There has been such an amazing boom in that sphere; every time I go onto Sephora, I see something new in that area. So I hope in the next year or two to be able to find what I want made by a natural brand. I have found a product I like for cheek colour, Ilia’s Multistick. I understand that right now ‘clean’ and ‘green’ are trends, and ‘clean’ ingredients are one thing, but packaging being recyclable and responsible has to be forever.
I don’t want to be eating lipstick all the time, so I actually microblade my lips! For me, it’s a zero waste option, and I don’t have to mess around. I see Ruth Swissa, who also microblades my brows and sometimes a slight lash line. Then if I am going on holidays, I’ll do lash extensions. That way, I can pretty much wake up already looking refreshed and ready and go. That is my goal, to not have to be slathering on product. With a little bit of smart microblading and lots of hydration, I am pretty much there.
Most days I do some yoga, depending on how I feel and what my body needs. I enjoy primal movement, too, which is about moving our bodies in ways they were designed to move.
I focus on things like joint health, flexibility and strength. I like to spend as much time as possible in bare feet, grounding myself with the earth. I don’t want to work out in that way that’s part of the hustle and grind, or is about ‘whipping myself into shape’. I want to feel nourished at the end of each day. My body is my vehicle and my friend, and I am trying to be in an intimate relationship with it.”