Diversity encourages equity and that is also important. More roles for the underrepresented doesn’t mean less for you, it’s not pie. I think especially of diversity in management and how it will lead to the rise of throngs of talented people who never would have otherwise been given the chance to shine because they were too broke or poor to pursue entertainment full time. I am especially thankful for my publicist at Niki Inc. for representing people like me especially when Asians are less frequently featured in film and television.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Josie Ho Chiu. Josie is a singer and actress from Hong Kong. She is the daughter of the Macao casino magnate Stanley Ho and is a Hong Kong Superstar with serious accolades in North America. Over the last 20 years, Josie has enjoyed a prolific acting career as an action figure and supporting actress. She has acted in over 30 films, playing both lead and supporting roles. While celebrated as an actor in Hong Kong and Europe, she has next to recognize her fullest potential in the US market. She has received several awards for her work including the “Time Machine” award at the 2018 Sitges Film Festival and a Best Supporting Actress award at The PIFFA Supreme Awards 2017. She has also earned the 23rd Hong Kong Film Awards.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Josie! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My name is Josie Ho Chiu. Thanks for interviewing me! I grew up in Hong Kong until grade 7, when my family migrated to Canada. I grew up in the limelight therefore I got to hang out with the superstars of Hong Kong. I watched and learned from the entertainment elite while they were practicing for their roles, during rehearsals and backstage before major appearances — gigs that I could only dream of having myself as a child in the industry. I still consider myself a fervent groupie of talented musicians to this day.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As lofty as it sounds, I was fortunate to be born into a very well off family and once I grew into my teenage years, I found that my lifestyle was lacking in many areas. With great wealth comes privilege and the looming threat of boredom. I had friends who existed solely to compare their wealth with mine as well as that of others. Status meant showing off what you had, or outdoing the other. When my sister eventually broke into the music industry, I got the opportunity to tag along, learning how fanatical people blessed with musical talent can be. In a split second, I decided I would not lose myself to high society but rather to work diligently as a musician and film actress.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
A really cool moment took place when I got to teach my hero how to swim at her concert practice for a piece that required stage movement with a massive water feature. She returned the favor by teaching me how to properly move on stage! I know right, swim for a concert practice? You needed to be there to watch the entire thing go down.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was moving in the worst ways on stage while performing for my lead Band Josie & The Uni Boys. Most performers can tell you that you need to be able to sing and dance at the same time when performing on stage. Novices are generally out of breath because it takes so much breath to be able to accomplish both at the same time. I wore giant black shades, paranoid as ever about how I moved. My record label told me to stop trying and eventually dropped me. The second record company suggested I lip sync because I was not good at multi-tasking. I had to learn how to take heat and work myself stupid to create an image that people could connect with in a genuine way. Entertainment is fun for the hobbyist, but when it’s a full time job, there is much dedication and fanaticism involved and that can become all consuming. I have therefore had to learn how to balance work and play carefully to benefit my mental well being.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I just finished working on a movie by Roger Avary called “Lucky Day” which is in theatres now. I’m playing a bit of a bitch. Hahahah. I just got a kick out of it. It’s really cool being able to channel some of the characters I want to purge from my insides. I just came back from filming on the set of my newest film called “Rajah” with Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Dominique Monaghan, directed by Michael Haussman. I finally completed a play which is the most avant-garde piece I’ve ever performed in. Now I get a chance to work on my music again, my band (Josie & The Uni Boys) and I have a few performances lined up in Macau and Guangzhou. My band and I like to cover versions of other famous songs like Cochise and Highway Star in one of our on stage gigs.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
- Yes, of course! Diversity is important because there are many different kinds of audiences and so it can only serve to reflect real life. Diversity is important for our culture because everybody deserves to know more about other cultures in order to better get along in the larger world. That’s how we learn to accept one another. There are 7.5 billion people living in this world, can you imagine? What if we each had a greater understanding of what someone else was going through, wouldn’t it make the world a nicer, kinder place to live in? What comes to mind when I ask you to think of an Asian actress. Is it Lucy Liu? Consider that Lori Tan Chinn should accept roles based on the character description and not on stereotype.
- Diversity encourages equity and that is also important. More roles for the underrepresented doesn’t mean less for you, it’s not pie. I think especially of diversity in management and how it will lead to the rise of throngs of talented people who never would have otherwise been given the chance to shine because they were too broke or poor to pursue entertainment full time. I am especially thankful for my publicist at Niki Inc. for representing people like me especially when Asians are less frequently featured in film and television.
- Leveling the economic field is also important so that everyone has the same opportunity to pursue financial growth. A conversation in Hollywood is beginning to emerge as the majority of roles are assigned to whites over people of color who are routinely paid less. Diversity means having representation at the table who says: “let’s fix that”. Speaking out isn’t always easy. America’s Got Talent had a falling out with Gabrielle Union when she said something about Jay Leno’s joke about Korean people.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. You might not love your hobby as much when it becomes part of your actual job
Reaching star status takes diligence and daily practice. It is much like an athlete who does drills every day to reach peak performance. I wish I had started training in my earlier years but was too busy stargazing until one day, it finally dawned on me that I wanted to be in entertainment myself.
2. It’s hard to put on a strong face when facing harsh criticism about my art.
I have played many roles, including portraying the parts of prostitutes, which were in strong contrast to my own wealthy upbringing as a billionaire’s daughter. For the film Exiled, I didn’t not work with a script, but pulled from a method acting technique. In my latest experience director Johnnie To basically tells actors what to do. Johnnie wants us to come to the set with our mind completely clean, like a white piece of paper. You have to cut through a lot of noise and make executive decisions.
3. Give gratitude daily. I wish I had written back to all my fans from day one. My fans are everything to me now and a source of strength when I feel down. Being thankful is a daily practice that should occur without effort. Expressing gratitude is also important.
4. Trust and believe in yourself no matter what you hear from others. When you are being true to your art, your passion, people notice. I can’t say this enough. Haters will fill your brains with nonsense. Maybe that because you were wealthy, you were given the chance or that you were too poor to fit in, that you are too fat, too old. None of this matters when you are fixated on your craft.
5. Stick by one or two strong people in your field. For me it was my musical coach and and my acting coach. This made up my entire team. I began to think of myself as a business led by me. They’ve taught me everything. My publicity team is now also part of my core group. We are all results driven.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
When it’s not fun, take a break. Nothing is worth your mental health or feeling of insanity. I wake up every day charged for the day to unload. Taking time out, time off, is essential to regenerating. I do this so that I can be a machine on set and deliver the best performance I can give.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
All of my heroes helped me along the way. They propped me up and kept me on life support after some of the cruel things I heard from record companies. I did suffer from depression for two years and I was given some solid advice by my friends from #LazyMuthaFucka who said I’m a fool to believe what any of these executives from a record label had to say to me. My voice coach is a 70 year old diva, I love her. My publicist Niki.inc is an award winning PR firm and I am living my dream with my North American debut Lucky Day. At the end of the day, I work for my fan and it is their feedback that matters most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Grow your own sensors for the BS you’ll be told in life, and you’ll be fine.
At the worst of it, my depression consumed me. I found it very difficult to do the day to day things in life or to find any passion for my craft. It was as if none of my former achievements mattered, I was back in a place where I had to confront something someone had said about my self worth. No amount of money can replace integrity, so do your part and sink hours worth of work into your craft knowing that it will pay off. I grew up in the casino world, so I have a lot to say about gambling.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have breakfast with Tilda Swinton. I love her in every way. Her work, her attitude, her depth and her versatility makes me a super fan. Actually, I hope she reads this and says yes! Let’s have a coffee, mate! But honestly I have a shy side, so I might barely make it through coffee!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Join me on instagram at @josie_ho_chiu.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!