Chinese actor Meng’er Zhang certainly picked one hell of a project for her first film role. The performer stars in Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, releasing on September 3rd. Dubbed the “first Asian-led superhero movie,” the plot follows Shang-Chi (played by Simu Liu), a master of Kung Fu who is forced to confront his past when he’s drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization, a terrorist organization. In the film, Zhang plays Xialing, Shang-Chi’s estranged sister who is reunited with him, and she immediately clicked with the character. “We’re both tough women,” she says. “We hold our ground, find our voice, and use it.”
Filming the big-budget flick, Zhang says, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for her. “I was nervous on my first day on set, and didn’t want to let [director] Destin Daniel Creton or the rest of the cast and crew down,” says Zhang. “After all, this was my very first feature film, and my costars are legends. But they all made me feel at ease: We quickly became a close knit family.” Ahead of her big screen debut next month, Zhang attended the film’s world premiere on Monday in Los Angeles—and she documented her getting-ready process for the red carpet exclusively for Vogue.
Knowing it would be her first big red carpet moment, Zhang didn’t shy away from glamour on the step and repeat. She slipped into a chic Alexandre Vauthier dress that had a full, metallic purple skirt. “Because this was Meng’ers debut, we had a lot to say and accomplish with this look,” says her stylist, Kevin Michael Ericson. “Alexandre Vauthier’s looks always have a way of saying something modern and striking on the red carpet. Working with hair and makeup, we kept the look in limbo between playful and classic.” To do so, hair stylist Renato Campora and makeup artist Rachel Goodwin played up the whimsical beauty with a retro, slicked bob and colorful eye makeup. “I went with jewel tones to complement her gorgeous dress, but kept her skin fresh with just a hint of color on the lips,” says Goodwin.
While the paparazzi-filled premiere was certainly exciting, Zhang says wearing the glitzy dress and jewels after filming wasn’t her favorite part of the project. Instead, it was seeing Hollywood finally embrace proper Asian representation on-screen. “I am from China and grew up seeing Asian representation depicted on-screen,” she says. “However, not all Asian kids have had the same experience that I did, which is why this film is so significant. They can finally have a hero they can look up to and say, ‘They look like me!’”
Below, see how Zhang got ready for the Shang-Chi premiere.