The Hong Kong entertainment industry has seen the likes of several “rags-to-riches” star in recent years. Although encircled by the glitz and glamour of her career successes, Kara Wai’s (惠英紅) rise to stardom did not come easily. The 59-year-old award-winning actress was once quoted saying, “[What I’ve gone through in] my life is equal to two times someone else’s life.” In a recent interview, Kara noted five major events in her life that may be even more sensational than what could be depicted on screen.
Incident #1: Working as a “Dancing Girl” at a Night Club
It is no secret that Kara had a rough childhood. Coming from a poverty-stricken home, Kara started working at a young age to help alleviate her family’s financial burden. At just 14 years old, Kara secretly quit school and worked at a nightclub performing song and dance. This unfortunate event paved way for her eventual debut in the entertainment industry. Through this job, Kara met Chinese filmmaker, Chang Cheh (張徹) and joined Shaw Brothers Studio. At 17 years old, Kara was selected to play “Mu Nianci” in the film adaptation of The Legend of the Condor Heroes <射雕英雄傳>.
Incident #2: Complaining to Chinese Film Director Richard Li
Prior to joining Shaw Brothers, Kara had written letters and sent portfolio photos of herself to Chinese film director, Richard Li (李翰祥), and expressed her desire to become an actress. However, she never got a response. Later, when she had the opportunity to film one of Richard’s movies, she approached him about the incident, claiming that she had to spend quite a sum of money to take those portfolio pictures. She brazenly scolded Richard that she was scammed by the director himself. This resulted in Richard deciding to cast her in the role of the maid, “She Yue”, in The Dream of the Red Chamber <金玉良緣紅樓夢> film.
Incident #3: Taking on a Lead Role
Initially, Kara only had a supporting role in director Lau Kar Leung’s (劉家良) 1977 action film, Dirty Ho (爛頭何). However, the actress who was supposed to play the female lead backed out due to the intense and grueling action scenes. Lau Kar Leung then noticed Kara and cast her, noting her performance in action scenes and her work ethic. This began their long-standing collaboration through the years.
Incident #4: Having Been Jailed Once
Kara revealed that she was once jailed for violating regulations when she and her mother were in the business of buying and selling older homes. At the time of arrest, Kara’s mother even put up a fight and resisted the police. This resulted in the mother and daughter spending several days in jail.
Incident #5: Forcing Mona Fong to Increase her Salary
In 1982, Kara received her first Best Actress award for her role in My Young Auntie <長輩>. With the newfound recognition, Kara met with Mona Fong (方逸華), who was married to the chairman of Shaw Brothers Studio and Television Broadcasts Limited, Sir Run Run Shaw (邵逸夫), and requested a raise. Initially met with rejection from Mona, Kara threatened to challenge the legitimacy of her artiste contract, as it had been signed by her elder sister at the time. In the end, Kara got what she wished for and received a $10,000 HKD raise. Through this incident, Kara realized that she must rely on herself to get what she wants and not let others dictate her life.
This article is written by Huynh for JayneStars.com.