Maggie Q is speaking out about her experience modeling in her teens in Japan and her ultimate disillusionment with the industry, which she calls "so toxic and gross and one that I would never recommend anybody go into."
"I remember the agency that I was with, they had a whiteboard on the wall and with all our names on it and they weighed you every Friday and they put your weight on the wall, but they kept all the previous weights for all the previous weeks on the wall," Q, who stars opposite Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton in the new film The Protégé, told Salon. "They kept it there so that people could see if you were yo-yoing, going up and down. It was like a wall of shame. If you gained a pound, everyone knew it and could see it."
Adding that "eating was discouraged," Q said the system "was intended to shame you into either never eating, having an eating disorder or feeling really bad about yourself and it's disgusting. It's really gross."
Q told the publication that she stayed lean at the time partly because she couldn't afford to buy food for the day.
"I stayed really slim because I really couldn't have three meals a day because I couldn't afford them," she explained. "And they were like, 'Look at Maggie. She's so awesome because she's always so skinny.' And I'm like, 'Don't say that to people when I can't afford food.'"
As Q pivoted to acting, she found similar exploitative behavior in the film industry, but calls the changes ushered in through the #MeToo movement "really awesome."
"I mean, the fact that there are certain people who can't get away with things now is just... I mean, I remember the days when being in those dinners where the big guy walked into the room and everybody had to kiss his ass in a way that was just really demeaning and awful, and those people are now sitting in jail and it's really awesome because the abuse was just so rampant and blatant," she explained. "No one was hiding anything.
"It wasn't until people started speaking up in numbers that it became something that was a threat to these people," she continued "But the more and more and more people have confidence and courage to come forward, it becomes really, truly undeniable."
While she frequently comments on the need for gender pay equity, Q says she primarily does so when discussing migrant workers, rather than women in the film industry.
"For me, my focus has always been on the women who have none, who no one is paying attention to, who can scream into the wind all day long and no one's going to hear them," she said. "I think that whatever end you fight on, do it. I just want to lend my voice to people who don't have one."
These days, Q is known for tackling her own stunts on set. But just two months before she was due to start working on The Protégé, she underwent major back surgery. Still, she chose to come back to work, despite her doctor advising her to rest at home for three more months.
"Everyone around me was terrified," she admitted. "Everyone around me didn't want me to get hurt and wanted me to self-preserve. I think that I did find the balance. I think that I worked hard, but I think at the same time, I was able to internally go, 'Maggie, listen to yourself and listen to your body.' And for what it's worth, the body let me do things. I don't know why because I so mean to it for 20 years."