"When you're younger, maybe because of the calibre of woman that you associate wearing that scent, it feels like it's someone that's cooler and more accomplished than me. But then, as you grow into yourself, you realise that you can be part of the culture, too."
When Natasha Liu Bordizzo was young, she, alongside many of us, felt as though Chanel N°5 represented something entirely out of reach. When we were young, it seemed the historical fragrance was reserved for wear by only the most sophisticated of folks, someone dreamt up, set aside for the enigmatic. Ironically, the 26-year-old actor already represents all of these qualities, and her hypothesis of growing into the scent couldn't ring more true for Bordizzo. We're at Paramount House for the viewing of the new Chanel N°5 Fragrance campaign starring Marion Cotillard as the new face and ambassador of the houses most iconic fragrance. "I think everyone has a way of viewing N°5 and I feel like Chanel has reinvented it." Bordizzo comments, post-viewing.
The film itself casts a dream-like light on the fragrance, a reminder of why it stands solidified in iconicism. A woman draped in a black cape stops along a Parisian bridge to gaze at the moon. The power of her dreams propels her onto a sparkling celestial body, where a man is waiting for her, and the two characters begin a passionate dance. An ode to the way the history of the fragrance makes you feel. Dreams blurring into reality.
For Bordizzo - whose self-possession radiates throughout the room - the dream is her reality. But that doesn't mean such a feat wasn't intimidating at first. As a Chanel ambassador, the actress reflects on her journey with the brand, the N°5 film serving as an enduring reminder of what it represents: "consistent success to like a mythical level" She says.
"I think I had to grow into it, and grow into the history of such a brand and feel like I had my own space in it. I always feel like Chanel is very welcoming. For any woman who is ready to take it on, you know?" She reflects.
Here, we speak with Bordizzo about her relationship with the legendary fragrance, why telling the truth is when she is most courageous, and how she takes ownership of herself in an industry that makes it more difficult than most.
What was your favourite part of the film?
I think just the fact that they used the colour of the perfume as a backdrop for the moon and everything. It really adds to the childlike element. I think the energy was very playful and unexpected for such a classic perfume. I think everyone has a way of viewing number five and I feel like Chanel has reinvented it.
What’s it like to watch films as an actor, are you noticing more?
I do think that since I started acting, I watch film and TV less for leisure. Because it does feel like it's still within the realm of my work. If I'm working on a movie that is very character-driven, maybe I'll notice more about how they've shaped a character. If I'm hanging around other people in the industry as well, I could be watching a movie with my friend who's a cinematographer, then he'll be bringing up all these things that I wouldn't usually notice. Which just adds all these layers add to the point where I'm noticing everything and it's no fun anymore. So, I have to often just remove myself and encourage myself to remember that I'm also just a viewer.
Marion [Cotillard] said in the film that she had all these memories of Chanel N°5 when she was growing up. Do you have any memories of the fragrance throughout the years?
I feel like it was always on the dresses of friend’s parents that were really cool. I can never pinpoint the moment but you just know growing up, how iconic Chanel number five is, and I guess that that has just permeated through every layer of society because even as a kid growing up in Sydney, I knew.
What's your everyday scent?
Honestly, changes all the time. Sometimes I just wear essential oils, because I just want to take it back to like self-care and that feels rejuvenating. And then, when I go out it's more a perfume. My favourite is Gabrielle, it feels so playful.
Who is the Chanel N°5 woman to you?
I think that as Marion [Cotillard] mentioned, it felt a little bit inaccessible. When you're younger, maybe because of the calibre of woman that you associate wearing that scent, it feels like it's someone that's cooler and more accomplished than me. But then, as you grow into yourself, you realize that you can be part of the culture, too. Working with Chanel is just an honour and it's such a timeless brand and fragrance, there's not really anything else that can compare in terms of just consistent success to like a mythical level. I often think ‘what is this? And why is it what is? Why does it never age? And why does everyone in the last hundred years feel the same way about this one?’ It definitely feels like part of my life now. I think I had to grow into it, and grow into the history of such a brand and feel like I had my own space in it. I always feel like Chanel is very welcoming. For any woman who is ready to take it on, you know?
What does it mean to you, to be on this journey with Chanel?
I definitely just feel like they've taken me under their wing. And I'm like ‘thank you.’. I feel quite fluid, and I feel like Chanel is very fluid. It can fit in any space. I feel the same way because I'm mixed race and grew up in this country, then I worked in the China market and the American market, I just feel very fluid and don't like to be defined which I guess is why I feel so fitted to Chanel, because it's not so loud. It's powerfully subtle. And I feel like I can fit into the culture doesn't overtake you. It’s just a celebration of women.
The fragrance is said to symbolize renewal. Do you have a ritual when you need to feel renewed?
I'm an introvert, to begin with. But it's a lot to do with just going into myself and probably cutting off social media and not contacting many people for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, and really just writing a lot.
And then that will often take me to a place where I'm looking a little odd. So, that goes into me changing up my appearance. I just caught my hair and got bangs. I'm getting a tattoo next week, a line drawing of a nude woman faced away on the back of my arm. To me, it represents a woman in solitude and healing, faced away so it's her space. I feel it's quite an obvious answer to renewal because you're literally changing something around you, but it does help me feel like I’m making little decisions for myself.
That must feel quite liberating considering your job.
It does. Because I mean, it's a very minor thing to even complain about. But yeah, you don't really have ownership of your look a lot of the time.
Our current issue is themed courage. I wondered when you felt the most courageous?
Honestly, just telling the truth, because that just feels like a dying currency these days. Because there are so many influences leading you astray. And it feels like, the media and politics are just increasingly a circus. I think it's honestly just a struggle to keep things simple. Keep things truthful, and not swayed by a million different things.
What are you afraid of?
I actually am just so afraid of climate change. And the fact that not enough is being done about it. My friends and I talk about it all the time. We just watched David Attenborough's witness statement. And I'm scared for the US election. Because if it doesn't go to a certain way, that's another problem with the climate and progress won’t be made. That's on my mind a lot.
It's overtaken my fears from my own self, like, in terms of me being the centre of my universe and my own narrative, climate change has actually become a more pressing fear.
What do you dream of?
I just dream of this year, and all the pain and upheaval and everything else being a cleansing year, rather than like the beginning of the end, right? I really hope that this is just a very hard lesson in many ways for many different people. And that we come out of it like a phoenix, rising from the ashes with more compassion, and not taking for granted the fact that society is very fragile.
What does success look like to you?
I guess for a lot of people it’s just being kinder to yourself. Because we're all just going through a strange time. More long term, I guess it's just a balance. Yeah, balance between self-care and helping others and everything in moderation.
What does your version of self-care look like?
My current version of self-care…I guess I'm just constantly trying to find the time to reflect. I do it through journaling or meditating. It's the same way you take your car to the mechanic. I think that there are just things that need to become day-to-day. Same as therapy for a lot of people, I think that mental health, in general, should be talked about the same way that you brush your teeth or go to the dentist. It's a lot of just me keeping my mental health in check. Then from there, if that's going well, everything else falls into place in terms of the decisions I make for myself and how my life pans out, and how I arrange the pieces that I'm given.
Are you working on anything right now?
So everything's been pushed back. But I am about to do a couple of additional seasons for the voyeurs, which is an Amazon original film that is meant to come out first quarter next year, I believe. So I'm really excited for that. It's an erotic thriller, which is few and far between as a genre these days, but it's awesome. I'm very excited about it. It's got Sydney Sweeney, Justice Smith, and Ben Hardy. Great cast, and very artsy - just the kinds of films I want to be making the rest of my life really. I have an animation coming out with Sony called Wish Dragon. Where I voice the main girl, she's really cute. It's got John Cho, Constance Wu, Jackie Chan. Amazing cast too so I'm excited for that one.
What's next for you?
I just want to be on set again, and I want to keep being part of projects that I love. I'm planning on really getting back to being very busy to make up for this time. Not that I think I've wasted it, we've all done what we could with this year, but I definitely will double down.