She’s Sexy & She Knows It

Witty and fearless, movie star Olivia Munn is Hollywood’s new superhero – melding sexy with smarts, she’s kicking butt with her own stunts and speaking out for women

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Witty and fearless, movie star Olivia Munn is Hollywood’s new superhero – melding sexy with smarts, she’s kicking butt with her own stunts and speaking out for women

If there’s an actress in Hollywood who’s confident and self-assured, and willing to be a voice for women in a #MeToo world, it’s Olivia Munn. The 38-year-old actress, who stars in the new Predator movie, has never had a problem being sexy and assured in her Asian curves – thanks to a multi-faceted CV that allows her to be comfortable in her own body.

With her exotic looks, Olivia ran the risk of being hindered by the sex symbol label. But the star, who graduated with a journalism major and whose first job was at a local TV news station, says, “I never had a problem with it because I first became known doing a tech show. I was this nerdy geek girl who was also seen as being sexy.

“So it was never just about my looks and I think that made it a lot easier for me to work on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, and then get hired for The Newsroom because there are all these different sides of me that people got to appreciate. Basically I think I was projecting myself as a sexy and confident woman who also had a sense of humour and could make people laugh. I never felt typecast in one kind of role.”

Born in Oklahoma in the US to an American father of English, German and Irish heritage and Vietnamese-Chinese mother, Olivia spent her formative years in Japan where her stepfather, a US Air Force officer, was stationed. With the frequent military family relocations, it was natural Olivia spent much of her young life trying to fit in as she was always the “new girl” in school. “I wouldn’t say I was awkward, but there was an awkwardness of just trying to blend in. I just wanted to blend in enough so that people didn’t bother me,” she recalls.


Her unique ethnicity blend, made it even more challenging as well. “I grew up in a world where blonde-haired, blue-eyed, stick-thin were the ideals for female beauty. And I remember looking in the mirror at eight, nine years old and just hating the way I looked. Hating that I had Asian eyes, hating that I had freckles, because you didn’t get confirmation from the rest of the world,” says Olivia.

Despite the tumultuous years, Olivia’s mother, Kim, remained her tower of strength and reason. Olivia credits her sense of self-worth and confidence to her upbringing and her mother. “My mum always instilled this feeling of self-worth in me, and that I knew that my dreams mattered even if they were close to impossible.”

That toughness she acquired through her growing-up years is now more evident than ever. Olivia has proven to be a strong voice of justice for women’s rights, is one of the founding members of Time’s Up! and a fervent advocate of the #MeToo movement. She denounced director-producer Brett Ratner last year for his lewd behavior towards her when she, as an aspiring actress, worked as his production assistant on After the Sunset in 2004.

As she revealed in an interview, she was sent to deliver a meal to the director’s trailer and was greeted by a half-naked Brett, who masturbated in her presence. When she went to a lawyer to see if she could press charges against Brett, she was told that it was inadvisable for her to try to go up against such a powerful director. She did write about him – albeit discreetly – in her 2010 book Suck It, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, but only recently spoke about it openly. Olivia was among six other women who stood up against Brett.

“That did leave an impact on me,” Olivia admits. “How broken do women have to be before people listen?” she says, with obvious frustration at how women are being objectified and discriminated, and yet expected to remain silent.

And as Olivia’s voice becomes more assertive, so are her roles. In 2016, she played the telekinetic mutant, Psylocke, in X-Men: Apocalypse, and last year, Olivia got all geared up in combat uniform for her role as a ruthless CIA operative in SIX, the high-octane History Channel series about a specialised anti-terrorism unit of US Navy Seals. The part of high-ranking agent Gina Cline seemed tailor-made for her.


“Growing up in a military family brought this story (SIX) very close to me, I understand that world,” Olivia shares. “I was honoured to be a part of a show that offers such an honest and revealing portrayal of the men and women who serve in the military and often in a very selfless way. It was a very comfortable feeling to represent that world.”

That, as well as the fact that she was portraying real-life women operatives: “The biggest thing I learnt is that some of the CIA’s best operatives are women – many of the top field agents, interrogators and shooters are women.” she says, adding, “So this isn’t an imagining of what it’s like to work in the CIA and undertake these kinds of missions and make these kinds of decisions, this is what it’s really like and that was very important to me.”

With that fearless attitude, it’s only natural Olivia revels in doing her own stunts. “It was only when I was training for X-Men three years ago that I realised how much fun it was to do the stunts and get seriously into the physical preparation. I had already had a background in martial arts and gymnastics so the training aspect is something I’ve always thrived on. You just get into this mindset where you keep wanting to push yourself and your body to the limit.”

In the Predator reboot, movie-goers will get to see Olivia, who plays a scientist, battle the alien. “Right now, I love doing action. I love being able to get in there and do stunts.”

Olivia’s come a long way from the days she was a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She stole airtime from lead actor Jeff Daniels whenever she appeared as the neurotically-cerebral TV reporter Sloan Sabbith in The Newsroom, and she is now making her mark in Hollywood blockbusters. “My career has taken different turns and I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that a lot of people aren’t quite sure what to make of me. There’s still this stupid view that women can’t be both sexy and smart. It’s a threatening notion,” Olivia says.


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Olivia was born to an American father and Vietnamese father and has two siblings.

2004 > 2005

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My Reading Room

She appeared in rock band Zebrahead’s music video for “Hello Tomorrow” as the love interest of lead singer Justin Mauriello (pictured here) and starred as teen surfer in Beyond the Break.

2006 > 2010

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She co-hosted video game lifestyle TV series Attack of the Show! Seen here at the 2007 Comic Con.


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She published her book Suck it, Wonder Woman! The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek.

2010 > 2011

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She was the correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

2012 > 2014

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She played Sloan Sabbith in The Newsroom. Seen here at the show’s premiere party.


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She starred in Ride Along 2 and Office Christmas Party (above).

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She played Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse.


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My Reading Room

She took part in the Women’s March and became an advocate for Time’s Up! and #MeToo.


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My Reading Room

As a CIA operative in Season 2 of SIX.

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In a scene from Predator.