Liu with co-stars Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore in the big-screen remake of Charlie's Angels.
Everett Collection

When I bring up her Twitter account, she rolls her eyes. “I’m so bad,” she says, referring to the fact she has yet to send a tweet to her followers. “I haven’t figured it out yet, but I will. How do you maintain your personal life and still communicate on a professional level without crossing that line? My fear is I won’t be able to separate those two things, and I think it’s so important to maintain a little of who you are.”

Liu has also learned the power of saying no to a person or project that isn’t a good fit or that taxes her schedule. Noting that women often exhaust themselves by trying to please everyone, she says she’s become a lot more confident in the decisions she makes and can turn something down without feeling the need to compensate.

One of the organizations she has said yes to is UNICEF, for which she’s been a celebrity ambassador since 2004. She’s also a talented painter who’s published an art book and makes time for meditating twice a day, even if it means getting up extra early. “It really recharges and re-energizes you,” she says. “To give yourself that time is more important than sleeping. It makes everything more manageable.”

Before I know it, our time is up. Liu says she has time for one more question, and so I ask: What’s next?

“Honestly, I would like a little time on my own to regroup and just clean out the drawers or the piles of mail. There’s correspondence that needs to be dealt with. A little quiet time would be good. I know that sounds introverted, but I just love doing that stuff,” she says.

As we say our goodbyes, a middle-aged man appears at her side. “I’m a big fan,” he says, murmuring something about helping out with a museum event.

“Walk me out,” she says, entertaining his pitch as they stroll into the sunshine. 

KATHLEEN PARRISH is a freelance magazine writer and an instructor of journalism at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. She has written about adult beauty pageants, silent retreats and opera star Andrea Bocelli for American Way.