Speak up against the odds
Bringing glamorous revenue or glory to TVB, the largest local television broadcaster, may be the goal for many of its artists, but a former Miss Hong Kong contestant chose to expose its dark side that the other 4,000 staff members dare not to touch on.
TVB's senior executives considered the young lady a threat to their corporate image as she “talked too much” publicly. One of the incidents triggering the termination of her contract with TVB took place when she offended them by opposing a “hidden guideline” for local artists – to behave politically correct, which means “to secure your job, say nothing about politics and religion.”
That might be the reason why, as she says, audience could always see celebrities strolling around in charity events but seldom see their faces in political activities.
“Those stars are proud of being a member of Hong Kong's entertainment industry but when asked if there are any constructive ways to contribute to Hong Kong, they could hardly utter a word.” She says eloquently. She looks smashing and confident in her casual jeans.
She soon left TVB with no regret and now she is a model, an actress, an online radio host, and a popular blogger. With her outspoken personality, people started to remember her name – Erica Yuen Mi-ming.
Recently, the 28-year-old lady has further steered her career towards a more provocative area – the political arena.
She was the first artist appearing as a political commentator in a news and political commentary programme of Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) called Pentaprism II, in which she commented on taxi fare increase and the Chief Executive's blunders in the two episodes shown in November and December last year.
She recalled that Tse Chi-fung, the producer of the programme, approached her after she expressed her views on the floor of the City Forum held in Victoria Park in October, criticizing Liberal Party's policy on employment.
“I believe RTHK employed me partly because I am a celebrity, having high publicity among citizens.” Another reason may attribute to her critical mind and sharp opinions, which have attracted viewership by the tens of thousands on Youtube.
She says she learnt to think critically and cry out against injustice when she was in St Stephen’s College. “My parents divorced when I was young. I was then sent to a boarding school since nobody had the time to take care of me as my Dad was travelling around for business.”
Ms Yuen then gained a degree at Tufts University in the US in 2003 majoring in economics. After that, she worked at a large business company in Hong Kong for a year and decided to take part in the beauty contest.
As “the pursuit of fame and wealth” remains a stereotyped image of showbiz, she admitted that her decision to enter the entertainment business was a hard one for her father and friends to accept until she started to write as a newspaper columnist and published a book. “They know I am not those gold-digging public figures after reading my articles, “she says relieved.
Whenever she has a chance to give comment in the public, she would first analyze the news and sometimes asks for more information from Lion Rock Institute, a Hong Kong based think tank she belongs to that promotes free market based public policy solutions where some members are columnists and editorial writers of Apple Daily such as Simon Lee Chao-fu. Her views are based on the principle of supporting democracy and free market policies.
Among the million types of flamboyant women on the planet, Ms Yuen and Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher may be categorised in the same group as their outspoken characters coincide.
Thatcher once said, “I love argument, I love debate. I don't expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that's not their job.”
Ms Yuen openly traded biting remarks with seasoned political commentator Albert Cheng Jing-han, nicknamed Taipan, over controversies in “Sunday Taipan”, a political commentary talk-show of NOW TV.
Sparkle is important in a talk-show. Partnering with Taipan, Ms Yuen says that it was “an exciting task as there are usually no scripts, no standard quotes.”
“I think Taipan wishes to mirror David Letterman in the style of hosting, but it's still a long way to work out an efficient approach.” She adds referring to Letterman, a world class talk-show host in America, who has won consecutive six Emmy Awards of the CBS show‘Late Show with David Letterman’.
Being green in politics, she says she is not qualified yet to occupy key positions in social advocacy. She also says that it is more challenging for her to be persuasive as the audiences know her showbiz background.
Yet, as an artist who has been frequently featured in Hong Kong’s tabloid magazines, she fits perfectly to “bust the bad guys” and tries to set the local entertainment business on “a more righteous footing” as she says.
She frequently uploads to her three blogs to express her viewpoints. One of her blog posts analysing the so-called “scandals” in local tabloid magazines has been translated into English and posted on EastSouthWestNorth, an English-language Web log that dealing with Chinese politics and media that is arguably the “most content-rich, reliable and illuminating,” according to a Reuters reporter.
Netizens respond powerfully and enthusiastically to her often sarcastic comments. Some agree with her, some admire her, some rebuke her and some even curse her. She says, “I am grateful to all interactions we have. They help me explore what human nature is.”
In 2006, her onslaught against female pop singer Stephy Tang’s practice of judging the quality of a book by just glancing over a few pages was quoted by Apple Daily as the day’s entertainment news headline. In a single day, her web-journal attracted about 300,000 hit counts. “Stephy is really popular I would say,” she says grinning with her eyebrow raised.
There are many reasons why young women participate in the Miss Hong Kong Beauty Pageant. Some may see it as a step up the career ladder, others as a way to become a Hollywood star. For Ms Yuen, it is a way to “let her voice be heard” as she says.
“So many behaviours in the showbiz industry are away from fairness. A lot of so-called ‘super stars’ are ‘privately’ outspoken. They grumble in their peer circle but never say it out loud. So the problem is never solved. If they’re victims, they will always be victims,” she says boldly.
She condemns the recent scandal over ten female artists in TVB concealed the identity of the offender after being sexually harassed.
However, she admits she had lost numerous commercial contracts as the clients disliked her blunt criticism. She insisted, “I will not alter my character to please anyone as long as I believe expressing overtly is worth doing.”
Talking about her future plans, the petite, feisty lady has big ambitions. Starting up a skin-care business, teaching investment strategies, producing TV shows, setting up a new political party and running for the next Legislative Council are all possibilities.
For such kind of person who is always going beyond limitations, she is capable in surprising ways to “let her voice be heard” in the future.