What is your favourite childhood memory?
In retrospect, when I was around three or four years old, and we were living on Yu Chau Street (Sham Shui Po). Looking back, that time and my relationship with my father is my favourite part of my childhood. Every afternoon, after school, I’d ask him for a cent to buy biscuits, for example. Since that time, our interactions grew fewer, and felt less pure.
Who was your first best friend and when were you friends?
Kwan Man-yin was my best friend from secondary forms one to three.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up and what did you think it’d be like?
I understood, because of my family background, that my dream had to stay a dream. I could never afford for it to be a reality, but I wanted to be a fashion designer. I had no concept of what it’d be like, but that’s what I wanted to be.
What was your most memorable trip?
Japan, when I was 17. It was my first trip abroad on my own; and it was at an age when you’re not yet an adult but try so hard to act like one. I joined a tour, and two other girls also on the trip lent me money to buy a dress I tried on, which they said looked good on me but I didn’t have the money for it. “Pay us back when we get back to Hong Kong,” they told me. And I did.
What are your rational or irrational fears?
My fears all have to do with my daughter. Nothing specific, it all comes from love, and some comes from, and I know this, the fact that I don’t always understand her. I know I need to learn to trust her, which I think will help ease some of my rational fears. Having said that, I know even if I do understand her, it won’t help with the irrational fears, like, “what if the train she takes to work isn’t safe? What if her plane crashes?”
Was 2016 a good year for you?
Yes. In 2015, my father died, and a few years before that I was ill. Last year was the year I was able to let my father go, and learn to trust my daughter. Before, my instincts were to not trust her, or not trust her fully. Now I choose to trust her. But, I should add, that it’s still a learning process.
Who in your life makes you laugh the most?
What is something you’ve owned for a long time and why have you hung on to it for so long?
A little egg-shaped piggybank with Snoopy on it. It’s been with me for over 30 years, and I’ve filled it with 50 cent pieces. I bought it at a time in my life when there were many 50 cents in my life, and that was a big amount to me. As I grew up, my situation kept improving, and I had fewer 50 cents in my life – they’re actually no longer in circulation. Now, I feel it’s witnessed the progression of my life, and is a mark of how far I’ve come. It makes me happy that today, the 50 cents are a collection item, and no longer essential for survival.
If you could shapeshift into any animal, real or imaginary, what would it be?
They’re not my favourite animal, but I’d be a cat. Definitely nothing with wings, they seem tiresome and too busy all the time, flapping about trying to find food. And I don’t want to be a dog; that degree of loyalty and need to get people to like me seems exhausting. A horse is skittish and easily scared, and that’s not my personality; so I wouldn’t want to be a horse. But cats get away with anything. They can do anything they want and people will find an excuse to like them. If they’re aloof, people say, “that’s how cats are. They’re low-maintenance.” If they’re clingy, people say, “isn’t my cat great? He’s affectionate like a dog.” I’d be a cat.
How do you deal with failure?
I attack it head-on. Since I was little I’ve understood you need to conquer what scares you. After you’ve conquered it, it doesn’t mean you’re no longer scared of it, but as long as it’s something you can’t avoid, you need to conquer it and find your own kind of success in your failure.
For example, my English was never good, but working at Armani meant I had to deal with English-speaking customers. So I learnt enough English to be able to communicate in a retail setting. I can sell to anyone in English, and I can buy from anyone in English. That was my kind of success: I didn’t need to be fluent in English, just fluent in the area that was relevant to me, and for me that was retail.
What was your biggest insecurity as a teenager and what would you say to teenage you if you could?
I still had baby-fat as a teenager and my brothers called me “fatty”. If I could talk to teenage me, I’d tell her, “there’s nothing wrong with you now, there’s nothing wrong with you in the future. Just trust yourself and keep going. Go your own way. You don’t need to make others happy or compromise yourself. Do what you’re doing now, and that’s enough.”
What is a cause you feel passionately about?
Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). It takes a huge amount of bravery to go to these places voluntarily to give to people who have nothing. It’s very meaningful.
Has there ever been a moment that deeply touched you?
When my daughter earned her undergraduate degree at Lingnan University, there was a moment during the day of her graduation ceremony when she turned to me, and both of us had tears in our eyes, and she said, “mum, we did it.” It was touching because she didn’t see it as a personal and individual accomplishment. She knew it was something we both sacrificed for and worked towards. It touched me that she knew that moment belonged to both of us.