Sultry and sensual in both lingerie and swimwear, Olivia Munn proves that sexy is not all about showing skin, and we agree after this DA MAN exclusive interview and fashionable feature.
Photographs: Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
Styling: Marc Sifuentes
Olivia Munn, who previously went by the name Lisa Munn, is a sexy half-Chinese actress (born in America, but lived in Japan and other places for most of her youth due to her stepfather’s career in the U.S. Air Force) who has had a breakout year in 2010.
Munn had a small role in Iron Man 2, but she had already developed a bit of a cult following by being a sultry presenter on a video game TV show called Attack of the Show, (for which one popular men’s magazine called her the “sexiest geek”) appearing on the cover of Playboy and other men’s magazines. In addition to her acting and presenting, she is also an accomplished writer, with a couple books to her credit, magazine columns and regular updates on her blog, oliviamunn.com.
Upcoming projects include a major network comedy, Perfect Couples, and an anticipated comedy for the big screen called Freeloaders.
DA MAN: You started your showbiz career while you were living, as a kid, in Japan, how did that come about?
OLIVIA MUNN: Basically begging my mom to let me do it all. I learned to barter at an early age. I had to take karate and piano (to perpetuate the Asian stereotype) and hated it. Not that I really hated the activities, I just hated being told what to do. So, then I learned to negotiate with my mom. I said I would do well at all my piano recitals and make sure to get new belts in karate if she let me take theater classes. How could she turn down that offer? She got what she wanted: a karate-chopping, piano-playing daughter. And I got what I wanted: to act.
DA MAN: Have you always wanted to get into showbiz?
OLIVIA MUNN: Yes. I always moved around a lot and had a hard time making friends. I was a tomboy who always wore pants and had dirt in my hair. The girls in class never wanted to hang out with me or invite me to their birthday parties. So I spent a lot of time running around after my big brother and emulating him. One day, I was watching my favorite show, Punky Brewster, and I asked my mom to help me be her friend. Punky (actress Soleil Moon Frye) looked exactly like me: brown pigtails, freckles, tomboy. [My mom] explained to me that [Punky] wasn’t real, just an actress. That’s when I knew that I wanted to do what Punky Brewster did. Of course, when I told my Asian mother I wanted to be an actress, she immediately shot it down telling me ‘You be lawyer or doctor! No actress!’ But I never let that deter me. I always believed if someone else could do it, I could too, if I worked hard enough.
DA MAN: Did you experience any kind of culture shock moving back to the U.S.?
OLIVIA MUNN: The culture shock happened at 16 years old from Japan to Oklahoma. It was the hardest year of my teenage life. I had to pick up and go to a new school in the 11th grade. And the people in Oklahoma all know each other from like kindergarten on, so everyone already had their circles and it was really hard to get anyone to even notice me. I spent the first month walking through the hallways crying in between classes, because I would feel so alone. It probably didn’t help that I was in my ‘skater’ phase and wearing men’s ripped jeans, big baggy T-shirts and Converse sneakers. And all the girls in Oklahoma were in their ‘preppy’ phase and wore sweater vests and cargo shorts.
DA MAN: We like your book Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek. Any plans for a follow-up book?
OLIVIA MUNN: Thanks!!! Writing this first book was exhausting. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. To find the time to sit down and write down all these stories that have rattled around in my memory for years was hard. And I’m very specific with my voice. And the way I write isn’t the way I speak. But, it conveys my personality the same way my voice does. So, I couldn’t have someone else transcribe all my stories for me. There would inevitably be something lost in translation. So I had to sit at my computer for hours on end, typing away all these stories. At the end, I’m very proud of the book. I was real and honest and told life from my point of view… and I hope at least 10 people laugh.
DA MAN: You have a very sexy figure; how do you keep in shape?
OLIVIA MUNN: I have a Pilates instructor come to my house three times a week. And I try to surf as much as I can, although that is harder nowadays with my schedule. And really I think it’s important to eat healthy food, but also treat yourself. If I want pie, I eat pie. If I want onion rings (which is always a yes), I eat onion rings. I just make sure to not overindulge the rest of the day. I find that once you get your body into really good or bad shape, it’s really easy to keep it there. So, if you’re really overweight, it’s easy to stay like that. But, if you work hard to get your body in great shape, it’ll want to stay there. And then you can relax and indulge more often.
DA MAN: Where do you like to surf?
OLIVIA MUNN: Whenever I find the time to surf (which seems to be hardly ever lately) I like to surf this one break in Santa Monica wear all the beginners go. It’s nice and mellow there. I get nervous going to any places where the hardcore surfers go because I’m always afraid I’ll accidentally take someone’s wave.
DA MAN: How do you feel about being a sex symbol to many men?
OLIVIA MUNN: I’m not the thinnest, or tallest, or prettiest, or sexiest, or have the biggest boobs or really anything that the press usually says equals sex and beauty. So, if people are looking at me as a sex symbol, I think it’s flattering and I also think it’s great for young girls to see that you don’t have to look like some of these girls on magazine covers. You can be all different shapes and sizes and be considered sexy. So, I hope people embrace the fact that there can be a new definition of sexy and beautiful and you don’t have to starve yourself and get plastic surgery to achieve it.
DA MAN: You mentioned on your blog that growing up, you were ‘never a big dater and just wasn’t that into boys.’ Has that changed?
OLIVIA MUNN: Ha! Has it changed? Well, I still don’t like to date that much. I’m getting more protective of myself, which I think more girls should do. I’m very happy in my life right now and I don’t want to bring in any boys that could ruin or disrupt that. I’m very protective of my happiness now and I’m definitely not looking for any boys in particular. If the right one comes around and I can trust him with my heart, then maybe I’ll give it a try. But, for right now, I’m very happy with my work and friends.
DA MAN: How’s your love life?
OLIVIA MUNN: It’s great right now. I’m in love with life, my friends, work and being happy. Thanks for asking (she says with a wink).
DA MAN: What are the qualities that you look for in a man?
OLIVIA MUNN: Honesty, loyalty, protective, smart, sense of humor (not that he has to be funny, just that he has a good sense of what’s funny), sweet eyes and gives massages without complaining.
DA MAN: What are your current projects?
OLIVIA MUNN: My first book, as mentioned, came out in July, it’s a collection of stories from my life from finding my first agent in Hollywood, to my eighth-grade boyfriend with Tourette’s syndrome, to meeting really big jerks in L.A. and how I got started. I was also in Date Night and a new comedy on NBC called Perfect Couples. It’s a comedy from the executive producer of Friends and a writer/producer of 30 Rock. It’s about three different couples and how they live life. There is also Freeloaders, which will hit theaters in late December 2010, and I’ve got Attack of the Show, live everyday Monday through Friday.
DA MAN: Who has had the biggest influence on your life?
OLIVIA MUNN: My mom. She has been through so much in her life and come out on top. She showed me that we don’t always do the right thing, and things don’t always go our way … BUT, if we do everything with good intentions, in the end, life will find a way of working itself out.
DA MAN: Which directors/actors would like to work with?
OLIVIA MUNN: Would love to work with Robert Downey Jr. again. And, of course, Tina Fey and Steve Carell. I think all of the greats would be amazing Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts. My idol for the longest time has been Sandra Bullock. I love her. I think she does such a fantastic job conveying both humor and sadness, and I really identify with her energy.
DA MAN: Tell us something naughty that nobody knows about Olivia Munn?
OLIVIA MUNN: Well, that would just be silly. Then somebody would know it now, wouldn’t they? (as she gives a big, cheeky wink.)
This article was updated for the Web in December 2010, the original feature, with more high-resolution images, appeared in the April/May 2010 edition of DA MAN. To order it, go here.
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