Maggie Q on the Road

This stunning actress and budding Hollywood star is certainly made from sugar and spice, yet for this issue of WestEast, she appears different to her many previous features in Asian magazines — more worldly and with several international blockbusters under her belt. In the serene desert, where she has been filming her latest venture, Maggie Q, as she is affectionately known, moves confidently with the forms of the hot, arid dunes for our exotic cover shoot.

Born Margaret Denise Quigley in Honolulu, Hawaii, this model- turned-actress stems from mixed descent, with a Polish-Irish American father and a Vietnamese mother, she is predictably termed “exotic” by both Asians and Westerners. Quigley is an appealing icon of a globalizing industry as Hollywood sheds some of its stereotyped inhibitions in an effort to adapt to changing socio- cultural audience demographics.

The ‘exotic’ label can be perceived as both an advantage and disadvantage, but when WE asked, Quigley herself seems unperturbed: “I feel that whatever we are in life helps and hinders us, always. Such is the balance of the universe. It will always keep us in check. Let’s just say, I am grateful for what I am, and grateful for what I am not.”

After finishing college, Maggie Q travelled to Japan and Taiwan before coming to Hong Kong to chase her dreams. She became a model at the tender age of 18 and soon rose to celebrity supermodel status in Asia, gracing covers of renowned magazines such as Time, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. As her career began taking off, she first earned roles in numerous Asian films, including ‘Gen-Y Cops’, ‘Naked Weapon’, ‘Rice Rhapsody’ and the S$7 million German- Singaporean telemovie ‘Das Haus der Harmonie’.

“There are so many places in the world where I work and travel that I feel very connected to, and happy. I could stay in Africa for months, Vietnam, or Tibet for the same, and feel right at home,” said the globetrotter. However, since leaving Asia to pursue a career in Hollywood – joining the ranks of noted crossover stars Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi – Quigley now considers the United States to be her “home”.

Before Hollywood stardom, Maggie Q was, for those of us in the East, a regular in the rag mag gossip columns. She has often expressed the frustration of living under the scrutinous Hong Kong paparazzi, who stereotyped her as a wild, hot femme fatale of mixed blood, with romantic connections to actor Daniel Wu, star Edison Chen, and international footballer Hidetoshi Nakata; predictably ignoring her more compassionate side in favour of salacious gossip.

Quigley has expressed to the media that she doesn’t “want to be stereotyped as [an] Asian girl who fights… but also I have more to offer than that”. Though the West has given her more open opportunities, her image as a sexy, wild girl who does kung fu is still imperishable:

“It is definitely a struggle, when you are part of any ethnic minority group in Hollywood. I have no problem being an Asian girl who does kung fu movies because it is something I enjoy very much. It just means that if that is my choice, I have to work harder to be considered for other roles too. So far, I have had a wonderful balance of projects that have me doing a variety of creative ventures that I love.”

Her blooming acting career has caught media attention worldwide, and although she is beginning to break from the mould, it is the tough girl roles in blockbusters such as ‘Mission: Impossible III’ in 2006 and ‘Live Free or Die Hard’, that have created her most memorable on screen moments. There is no doubt that Maggie Q kicks ass and looks gorgeous doing it, but little do people know that she is a skilled stuntwoman and not afraid of risking a few injuries:

“I have cracked my shins, sprained my hands, torn muscles, and been cut and bruised on every part of my body. Lots of scars! Ha! And I still feel I have gotten off very easy,” Quigley laughs.

Most recently she stars in Tian Zhuangzhuang’s epic war drama ‘The Warrior And The Wolf’, as a tribal woman who encounters a lost warrior seeking shelter. However, Quigley has stepped up her game with projects of a more contemporary, urban nature such as recent venture filming with Hollywood star Ethan Hawke in Soho (NY), for the film ‘New York, I Love You’ — an anthology of 12 different 5 minute love stories all occurring in New York. Each story is directed by a different directors, and other cast members include superstars Natalie P ortman, Elijah W ood, Juliette Binoche, Nick Nolte and Gena Rowlands. Her roles in ‘New York, I Love You’, ‘The Warrior and the Wolf’ and action comedy ‘Rogue’s Gallery’ this year have proved that Quigley has many more surprises to add to her growing repertoire.

Her pursuits away from the entertainment industry also tend to dominate the conversation, despite her exciting Hollywood career and international heritage, our animal loving cover girl’s most exotic moment to date was “hiking the Congo to photograph silverback gorillas in their natural environment.” “I still get emotional whenever I think about it,” reflected Quigley.

In 2007, a pro-vegetarian campaign of PETA Asia Pacific showed her cradling her almost bare body in a bed of crimson red chilli peppers, protesting that going vegetarian will “spice up your life”. With a message dear to her heart, Quigley exposed a seductive side without hesitation. Her presence on the PETA posters came as a shock to many meat-loving Asian audiences; but as the owner of many dogs, who has even joked about them coming first before any man, she is adamant about wanting to “continue to travel the world as an environmental and animal rights activist.”

So much so that she is currently in talks with different TV stations in the US on “shows that highlight earth heroes (people who fight for the rights of living beings on the planet…) I have great interest in highlighting the lives of people who, everyday, make a difference in this world. We have enough celebrity news!”

It can be safely said then, that in Quigley’s world, the most exciting thing that is happening for her in the next year is the incorporation of her own charitable foundation:

“It has been a dream of mine for years, and finally have had the focus, the energy, and the intention to get it all together, the way I had always pictured it.”

So, it’s beauty, brains and compassion to boot, Maggie Q is a refreshing breath of fresh air in Hollywood. Since this is the SPICE issue, we asked our cover girl what it is exactly that makes her tongue feel hot, eyes water, palms prickly with heat, and skin deliciously tingle? The tough girl with a conscience finally shows a romantic side and simply replies with “LOVE”.

Text: Jing Zhang & Ren Wan

Photography: Wing Shya
Styling: Sean Kunjambu 

Published in Issue 27 SPICE, 2009