When it comes to the next generation of rising Hong Kong television stars, the TVB Most Improved winner Mandy Wong (黃智雯) is definitely someone we should all look for. Arguably one of the biggest breakout stars last year, Mandy ended 2012 with a few critical successes – winning Astro’s My Favorite Promising Actress and TVB’s Most Improved Actress for her performance as the stingy housewife, Lau Siu Lan in the drama L’Escargot <缺宅男女>.
Mandy may have received the most acclaim from acting critics, but her exposure rate is notably much lower than fellow TVB newcoming actresses, Christine Kuo (苟芸慧) and Eliza Sam (岑麗香), who both lost out to Mandy for the Most Improved Actress award. Christine and Eliza are not only part of Hong Kong’s new generation of goddesses, but also very popular among casting agents. This is something Mandy knows she must learn.
“I must learn to be aggressive,” Mandy sighed.
From Dancer to Flight Attendant
Born in 1982, Mandy was raised in a public apartment building in San Po Kong. Without a father, Mandy was raised by her mother, grandmother, and aunt. “I would be unhappy whenever it is Parent-Teacher Conference day. My classmates will always bring both father and mother to the conference. How come I can’t? It is something that I eventually accepted, and slowly, I became fine with it. It actually isn’t much of a big deal. Without fatherly love, I still had the love of my grandmother. I don’t even need to bear hatred for my father. I have learned one thing from my parents though, and that is this: choose wisely.”
Mandy used to watch Michael Jackson’s music videos and concerts on laser discs when she was younger. She fell in love with dancing, and even before her high school graduation, Mandy planned to enroll in the dancing department of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts accepted Mandy’s application, in which she applied for a major in musical dance. But after years of study, Mandy suddenly took an indefinite leave from college to apply to work as a stewardess.
“I did not regret it, and I do not think that I wasted my time. I had many unforgettable experiences in my time as a stewardess. But I was capricious. On summer vacation, I saw an ad from an airline in hiring stewardesses. Since they get to earn money with free vacations, I decided to apply. It is actually a very relaxing job. The pay is not bad, and if I continued with it, I would be living a life without worries.
“But sometimes, when the night is dark and the lights are off, I would look around the dark surroundngs of the airplane cabin and think to myself – why am I being so indolent? Every time I fly to New York or fly to London, I would think about applying to dance classes. Why was I still in the air?”
After two years working as a stewardess, Mandy finally decided to quit her job and return to her studies at the academy. She studied theatrical acting, but stage actors rarely get the success they deserve in Hong Kong.
“That’s when I decided to audition for Miss Hong Kong. With the educational background I had, I would not have much of a future if I don’t join the competition. In the last round, I was praying that I would not win the crown. I wanted to become an actress. I don’t want to be committed to other things.”
The Truth in Breaking Up with the Perfect Boyfriend
Before auditioning for Miss Hong Kong, Mandy had a stable boyfriend of four years. Mandy smiled as she recalled her first time meeting her boyfriend.
“When I first met him, I was still working as a flight attendant. I was working on a flight from Hong Kong to Singapore. Sitting in the first row was a young man. He was wearing a nicely tailored suit, sleek black hair… he looked exactly like Richard Gere. When the plane was landing, I sat across from him. I could not control myself from shaking – it was as if I was electrified.
“I noticed that he was scribbling on a small piece of paper. At first I thought it was because he wanted to get to know me, but in the end, he left his seat without turning back.”
But like many Hollywood romances, another man slipped that piece of paper into Mandy’s hand. They met up, and the budding romance began.
“He told me he was too shy to give me his email up front,” Mandy said with a smile.
Mandy broke up with her boyfriend soon after she auditioned for Miss Hong Kong. Mandy told the press that the reason for her breakup was because she wanted to concentrate all her efforts on filming, that she did not have enough time for dating. But was this all true?
“Actually, in the end, I knew there was a third party [in the relationship]. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It’s already been many years. I don’t want to affect him negatively.”
On recalling her breakup with her boyfriend again, Mandy said, “An artist and a businessman – how is communication possible? In the past, there would be times when we would not say anything to each other when we go out to eat together. We didn’t think we had problems, but after breaking up, I felt I’ve liberated myself. After all, his family viewed the acting industry with colored lenses. That just gave me more of an excuse to push myself into the industry, to support all actresses.”
Exposure Is Not Enough
Mandy first attracted the attention of Hong Kong viewers in 2009’s A Chip Off the Old Block <巴不得爸爸…>, where she portrayed Myolie Wu’s (胡杏兒) bespectacled younger sister, So Fung Lin. Mandy grabbed some headlines after the broadcast of 2010’s Suspects in Love <搜下留情>. Mandy finally achieved critical claim after 2012’s L’Escargot.
“Every once in a while, I would hit the news. But I understand that mere exposure is not enough. One year at an awards ceremony, I was hired to perform as a cheerleader. After watching seniors such as Wong Cho Lam (王祖藍) and Kate Tsui (徐子珊) walking the red carpet, I vowed to myself that I would be next in line to walk the red next year. But I waited year after year. I am happy that the audience is praising me for my performances, but what does this represent? In the past, I didn’t think there would be a need for promotion; just concentrate all my work on filming. If I had to wear anything too ceremonious or sexy, I get scared.”
Mandy explained that sometimes, it is not too good to go low-profile. If you want to achieve success in the entertainment industry, this is the lesson you must learn – promote yourself. Show off yourself. Doing well in a role is just not enough. Mandy has learned.
“I remain committed to my craft, and I will continue to better myself. I want the audience to know that my success is well-earned.”
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.