At the suggestion of a friend, Q began modeling in Tokyo at the age of 17, before making an unsuccessful move to Taipei, and finally trying in Hong Kong. She has said it was not easy for her: "I had twenty bucks in my pocket. I mean, I literally did the same thing that my mother did when she left Vietnam... didn't speak the language... had no money." But, it was in Hong Kong, that she was selected by Jackie Chan, because he saw a potential action star. His intensive training taught her the importance of professionalism and always doing her own stunts. Q later said, "I had never done a day of martial arts in my life when I started in the business. I couldn’t even touch my toes."
In 1998, she started her acting career in the TV drama House of the Dragon, which was a huge hit in Asia. In 2000, Q made her film debut as Anna in the horror film Model from Hell, and went on to star as an FBI agent Jane Quigley in the action thriller Gen-Y Cops the same year. Her appearance in Gen-Y Cops impressed Jackie Chan so much that she was cast in Manhattan Midnight and Rush Hour 2.