Kristina Tonteri-Young

Kristina Tonteri-Young

Kristina Tonteri-Young is a Ballet Dancer turned Actor, Surfer and Maison d’Etto muse. She stars as Sister Beatrice in Netflix’s Warrior Nun, a delightful depiction of the fight between good and evil. 



Md’ E You were trained as a ballet dancer, but transitioned to acting? Can you elaborate on that?

I started dancing when I was 3 years old. By the time I was in my teens I’d suffered multiple injuries and had been through two surgeries, and finally realized that I could either continue to force something on my body that didn’t come naturally, or I could find a different creative avenue to pursue. For a while, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. What does one do after leaving one of the best ballet schools in the world? It was kind of like stepping off the edge of a cliff and falling into an abyss, but luckily stagecraft and stories appealed to me so I decided to try acting.  


M. d’ E What are some of your favorite ballets and why?

Giselle was the first ballet I saw, and to this day it remains my favorite. To me, it conveys the message that there is no shame in being open-hearted and trusting in people, or pursuing something or someone completely, even if you end up failing or being hurt by them. There is always peace in forgiveness and love in letting go.  

Another favorite is Spartacus, it’s the ballet that made me wish I was born male so I could dance the men’s roles, which is what I always wanted to do. Also, the music by Aram Khachaturian is breathtaking.  


M. d’ E What are some of your favorite movies and why?

The Count of Monte Cristo,  Amadeus, and IP Man. Most likely because they all deal with very human conditions like jealousy, envy, injustice, revenge, righteousness, pride, love, etc.  


M. d’ E  Are there any similarities between ballet and acting? Differences? Audrey Hepburn made the same switch when she realized she would not make it as a prima ballerina by the way!

Well, there are many similarities at first glance, of course, such as: telling a story and playing a character, but perhaps the most surprising thing has been how well the ballet training I received has supplemented the acting training and the work I’ve been lucky enough to do.  

In terms of differences, I guess I would say that acting is a much more instinctive form of communication. In classical ballet, you have to understand exactly what you’re doing physically and you’d rather not have any surprises on stage. The steps are set, whereas in acting, of course you go into it knowing where the scene is headed and where the character is coming from,  but it’s a much  more exploration-based form. 

M. d’ E Who do you admire or most identify with?

I guess I can relate to Audrey Hepburn a little, and I do admire her a lot. I really haven’t thought about it much.  I also admire the actress Anna May Wong very much for her tenacity in fighting for visibility as an Asian-American in Hollywood. 


M. d’ E I understand you are a surfer. Where did you learn or first try it and where is your favorite place to surf?

I learned to surf right here in the Rockaways! I haven’t been surfing for long enough to try any cool spots abroad, but hopefully that will change soon!  


M. d’ E You currently play Sister Beatrice in Warrior Nun on Netflix. How did you prepare for the role? Any similarities between you and the character? Differences? Apart from the obvious that you do not have superpowers… that I know of!

As with any role an actor plays I believe there will always be degrees of similarities between them. We’re both quite goal-oriented and focused people, we care a lot for the people around us, and both of us could probably benefit a lot from learning what self-care and self-nurturing mean.  I think she’s much more emotionally clammed up than I am, but then again I might be wrong, I don’t  believe any of us are capable of being the most objective about our own  emotional openness! 


M. d’ E What are you reading these days?

Recently I’ve read Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev, which has some of the most beautiful descriptive  language I’ve ever come across. The Mind is Flat: The Illusion of Mental Depth and the Improvised Mind by Nick  Chater. Confessions of a Mask by Yukio Mishima, Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago, and The Stranger by Albert Camus.  


M. d’ E What fragrance do you wear? What was your first scent memory?

At the moment I just wear lavender and rosewood. I think my first scent memory is the smell of dark rye bread, toasted, with melted butter on top. Also, the smell of my dad’s grilled cheese and ham sandwiches on the weekends. I seem to remember food-related scents best! 


M. d’ E Where do you dream of traveling next?

I’d like to go surf in Bali or Puerto Rico sometime soon, but I’ll be working in Spain later on this summer.


M. d’ E  Do you have any morning or nightly rituals?

I should be better about this, but, no, not at the moment. I’ve been trying to journal before I go to bed, but usually it  happens around the time of my morning coffee the next day.  


M. d’ E What are your biggest fears?

Being a disappointment to my family, ending up alone, living a life that I won’t want to/will be ashamed to look back on if it flashed  before my eyes… you know, the usual. 


M. d’ E Who inspires you or who would you like to dance, act, or surf with?

At this point in the pandemic, I’d like to dance with just about anyone, to be honest! It’s hard to be specific, but I’d like to work with people who want to play and explore the work with me, and who don’t take themselves too seriously.  As for surfing, I believe myself to be inspired every time I go out and see the  lovely familiar faces of surfers who I’ve gotten to know over the last 6 months in the water and out. I’m inspired by their kindness and generosity, their beliefs, and their ways of relating to the ocean.


M. d’ E What’s next for you?

Work-wise, the world is filled with waiting. Possibly an indie film in the works, and shooting of Season 2 of Warrior Nun should start sometime in  the summer. On a personal level, I hope I get to discover some beautiful places this year, within, and without.  


Proust Questionnaire 


What is your idea of perfect happiness?

To me, perfect happiness is when I  can be optimistic in the midst of despair, and allow myself to feel despair when everything seems to be going smoothly, and yet not be consumed by it.  Balance. Needless to say- not yet attained.  


What is your greatest fear?

Looking back on life in old age and only perceiving the things I didn’t attain or experience. Being ashamed of the choices I made.  


What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

I procrastinate everything. Also, I can be a jealous person.  


What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Making empty promises, I guess.  


Which living person do you most admire?

I admire many people around me! I admire my family and so many people I’ve  met along the road, it’s impossible to choose one. 

What is your greatest extravagance?

I love shoes. It’s a problem…  

What is your current state of mind?  

Confused, but hopeful.  

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Ambition. Like anything, if it makes you happy, good, but if it's just blind ambition I  imagine it’s not taking you down a path to happiness, but greed.  

On what occasion do you lie?

When I believe the truth will hurt more or because of shame. But I’ve learned that it’s like a band-aid and the lie hurts much more and for longer.  


What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I’ve always had negative feelings about my weight and body shape. Still trying to find things to love about myself, just like everyone else.  


Which living person do you most despise?

I don’t know. I don’t think I despise anyone, that’s a very strong emotion, but I  have an extremely severe disdain for Mr. Trump.  


What is the quality you most like in a man?

Self-knowledge, curiosity. 


What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Probably the same as for the men; self-knowledge and curiosity.  


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Lol” I think, unfortunately…  


What or who is the greatest love of your life?


When and where were you happiest?

In the ocean this past summer. In the Alps too, last year.  


Which talent would you most like to have? 

I’d like to be able to always know the right thing to say.  


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to be more courageous.  


What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Having achieved all the  goals I’ve set for myself career-wise, so far. 


If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I think I might enjoy trying out the life of an owl or a dolphin.  


Where would you most like to live?  

I prefer the nomadic life for now. In the future, I’d like to settle somewhere near the ocean.  


What is your most treasured possession?  

Photographs of me with my parents when I was a child.  


What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?  

I’m fortunate enough to say I don’t know the lowest depths yet. I’d say letting down your loved ones and being let down by people you love is pretty miserable.  


What is your favorite occupation?  

Surfing or being in the mountains.  


What is your most marked characteristic?  

I’m pretty darn stubborn. Too stubborn.  


What do you most value in your friends?  

A wicked sense of humor.  


Who are your favorite writers?  

Jose Saramago, William Shakespeare, and Orhan Pamuk  


Who is your hero of fiction?  

I don’t think I have one at the moment…  


Which historical figure do you most identify with?  

I guess I can relate to Audrey Hepburn a little and I do admire her a lot. I really  haven’t thought about it much.  I’d add that I also admire the actress Anna May Wong very much for her tenacity in fighting for visibility as an Asian-American in Hollywood.  


Who are your heroes in real life?  

The more I learn about life, I am starting to realize that my parents are my heroes  no matter what happens. My friends are my heroes, and so many more people  than I can list here.  


What are your favorite names?  

I don’t think I have favorite names, only the dearest people.  


What is it that you most dislike? 

Situations in which I feel powerless.  


What is your greatest regret?  

That there are moments in my life that I am ashamed to look back on.  


How would you like to die?  



What is your motto?  

Don’t worry about it until the precise time comes to worry about it. When that time  comes, don’t worry, just sort it.
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