Meet Junko Cheng, a 57-year-old mother who just this year booked her first acting role. As an actress in Taylor Swift’s “Delicate” music video, Cheng a.k.a. “Lipstick Lady,” stands inside an elevator with the Reputation singer and applies lipstick, but Cheng’s character can’t see the pop star because Swift is magically invisible to everyone as part of the Joseph Kahn-directed video’s how-it-feels-to-disappear-from-the-public-eye plot.
“I’m only 5-foot-3 and Taylor is way taller [5-foot-10], so they had to put me on a metal box to make us the same height even though I was in heels and Taylor was barefoot,” Cheng told Billboard on Thursday (March 15), four days after the video’s iHeartRadio Music Awards premiere. “By the time I got done with the scene, I had about 10 layers of lipstick.”
It’s a 10-second scene that has gone viral on Twitter after Cheng’s 17-year-old daughter, Megumi, shared a tweet that now has more than 50,000 likes and nearly 10,000 retweets. She tweeted: “this is my mom. she’s 57 and felt like pursuing acting recently … mostly for shits and giggles, but here she is. So beautiful.”
Cheng’s response to her daughter’s tweet has also achieved viral fame:
— Junko Cheng (@junkocheng) March 15, 2018
this is my mom. she’s 57 and felt like pursuing acting recently… mostly for shits and giggles, but here she is. So beautiful. pic.twitter.com/dwhfTpqX57
— megumi (@megchenggg) March 14, 2018
Cheng booked the role on the first day her agency Prestigious Models, which specializes in Asian talent, posted her profile online. She was unaware the music video gig was for Swift until the day she shot the elevator scene in early February at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles because the role was described as a video shoot for an “unnamed male artist.”
“Imagine my surprise when I sat in the makeup chair and found out it was for Taylor Swift,” Cheng recalled. “Taylor introduced herself to me, and since I saw her dancing earlier, I told her I take hip-hop classes, which is really crazy for a middle-aged Asian mom. What I loved about her is that she’s dancing with full abandon with not a care of what other people think. I’m that way too. Once you’re in your 50s, there’s a lot you don’t care about and you care more about the time you have left here on Earth and what legacy you’re going to leave behind.”
Cheng touted Kahn for making her first acting experience a “fun” one.
“Joseph Kahn is a genius. He knows what he wants. He’s very clear. It was easy for me as a beginner actor. Nothing stressful. He made it fun. I can see Taylor and Joseph have a very trusting relationship like friends and good professional people that are on the same wavelength,” she elaborated.
What’s next for Cheng? Well, she’s already been cast as a “store manager mom” in another music video — a Mario Garza-directed visual for London-based band Next Stop Mars — but she’s open to more roles in music videos and elsewhere.
The Southern California mother of two is also a longtime singer, with several albums filled with children’s music and adult contemporary songs in English and Japanese to her name. If given the chance to duet with Swift, she knows what song she’d want to do together.
“I’d love to sing ‘22’ with Taylor,” Cheng said. “I’m so old, but inside I’m young. Everybody has an internal age that we’re stuck at and we look in the mirror and go, ‘Whose body is this?’ But inside I’m still 22. There’s something about fun pop music that keeps us young, and I appreciate that.”
Another thing Cheng appreciates is Swift’s dedicated fanbase for making her go viral.
“Swifties are loving, kind and like an army of white blood cells who are always ready to fight for Taylor Swift whenever anything negative comes up,” Cheng said.
Zainub Amir, who manages the popular Swift fan account @SimplySFans, emphasized how integral everyone on set can be to an artist’s vision: “It’s amazing to see how every character in Taylor’s music videos plays an important part to add to the big picture. Junko Cheng’s daughter is a fan just like any of us, and it’s a proud moment her and her daughter will have forever thanks to Taylor.”