Close-up

With the re­lease last month of her lat­est big-bud­get film—hello, Mrs Money—celina Jade is con­tin­u­ing to make waves. Marianna Cerini meets the ris­ing star to find out what she’s do­ing to shake things up

Hong Kong Tatler - - Contents -

With the re­lease of her lat­est big-bud­get film, Celina Jade shares what she’s do­ing to shake things up

elina Jade is a rare breed. To be­gin with, the 33-year-old has been rack­ing up suc­cesses in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try for half her life. Sec­ond, she’s a le­git­i­mate mul­ti­hy­phen­ate: she sings, she acts and she’s a pro at mar­tial arts. In a sec­tor in­creas­ingly dom­i­nated by re­al­ity TV stars and so­cial me­dia per­son­al­i­ties, she has real tal­ent—and she’s level-headed about it.

“Through­out my ca­reer, I’ve al­ways worked to the best of my abil­i­ties,” says the star, who as a 2018 Gen­er­a­tion T lis­ter ap­peared on the cover of the June edi­tion of Hong Kong Tatler with fel­low Gen.t mem­bers. “I started so young and what I’ve con­stantly asked my­self is, ‘Am I be­com­ing some­one I ad­mire?’ I have ap­plied that ques­tion to ev­ery project I have ap­proached and honed my skills to make sure I could an­swer yes.”

Born in Hong Kong in 1985 to Amer­i­can ac­tor and mar­tial artist Roy Ho­ran and Hongkonger Christina Hui, Celina en­tered the lime­light when she won an Asia-wide singing com­pe­ti­tion at the age of 14, after which Sony Ja­pan signed her. Within a few months her EP Good News Bad News was re­leased and she be­came a huge suc­cess in Hong Kong. That’s when she started think­ing about the ques­tion of whether she would be ad­mired and re­spected for her choices.

“I was a teenager and it was all ex­tremely daunt­ing,” she re­calls. “I didn’t write my songs. I was told what to say in front of the press. I didn’t re­ally have a choice in de­cid­ing what I would sing. I felt I wasn’t re­ally be­ing my­self. Then the com­pany asked me to quit school to fo­cus on mak­ing more al­bums and I said no. Giv­ing up my ed­u­ca­tion was out of the ques­tion. I didn’t want to be a singer— and a woman in gen­eral—who couldn’t hold her own 10 years down the line.”

She fo­cused on her stud­ies, grad­u­at­ing with a man­age­ment de­gree from the Lon­don School of Eco­nom­ics—“mu­sic is a business, after all.” She moved back to Hong Kong in 2007 with singing “still very much on my mind. I de­cided to give my­self two years to make it—and then the mar­tial arts thing hap­pened.” Dur­ing the record­ing of her first Chi­nese al­bum, her man­ager had called, ask­ing if she knew how to fight. “Which I did, given my dad’s job as the to­ken white guy in all the Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies,” she laughs. She met— and sparred with—chi­nese di­rec­tor Wu Jing and a few weeks later landed the lead­ing fe­male role in his 2008 ac­tion movie, Leg­endary As­sas­sin. “I told Jing I was an eco­nom­ics grad­u­ate who could kick but had ab­so­lutely no idea if I could act. I was afraid of fail­ing. But he saw some­thing, I guess, and con­vinced me to take the op­por­tu­nity.”

After Leg­endary As­sas­sin, Celina starred in a string of Chi­nese films and TV shows. Hol­ly­wood soon took no­tice and, in 2012, she landed her first role in a US film, The Man with the Iron Fists, and TV se­ries, Ar­row. Last year, she was re­united with Wu Jing in Wolf War­rior II, the first and only non-hol­ly­wood film on the list of 100 high­est-gross­ing films (it made US$874 mil­lion). Her ca­chet has only grown since.

“Act­ing has been an in­cred­i­ble dis­cov­ery,” she says. “It has helped me with the singing, but also in my pri­vate life. It has boosted my con­fi­dence and helped me through some tough times.”

In 2012, Celina suf­fered third-de­gree burns in a kitchen ac­ci­dent that re­quired surgery, and “work­ing in film be­came a sort of an­chor.” The ac­ci­dent also led her to a more holis­tic life­style. “The doc­tor told me I was go­ing to have keloid scars as the burns were so bad. My then fi­ancé [Chris­tian Mon­gen­dre, founder of veg­e­tar­ian restau­rant Mana!] pointed me to­wards a raw, or­ganic diet, and the wounds healed al­most com­pletely. Now they’re cov­er­able with a bit of make-up. I have been quite con­scious about what I eat since, though I am now pescatar­ian; sus­tain­ing a ve­gan diet when you’re in the mid­dle of nowhere film­ing in China can be quite chal­leng­ing.”

Celina is now fo­cused on broad­en­ing her act­ing range. “I’ve been mostly cast in fast, ac­tion-packed roles and I have en­joyed them. I have an aver­sion to the damsel-in-dis­tress type of fe­male char­ac­ter, and there are still way too many, par­tic­u­larly in China. But I also re­ally want to take my ca­reer to the next level, with com­edy and drama and in­die pro­duc­tions—and, of course, to go back to singing one day. I’d like to shake up the in­dus­try a lit­tle.”

Her lat­est film, the Chi­nese com­edy Hello, Mrs. Money, which opened in Septem­ber, is a def­i­nite step away from the ac­tion genre. So is another ti­tle she couldn’t dis­cuss dur­ing our in­ter­view but which has since been an­nounced as the Chi­nese fea­ture A Sweet Life, slated for a Chi­nese New Year re­lease.

And then there’s a project she’s de­vel­op­ing in­de­pen­dently with her part­ner, Chi­nese ac­tor Han Geng. “I’m writ­ing the script and it’s all very ex­cit­ing,” Celina says. “I’m re­ally in­ter­ested in creat­ing strong fe­male roles. It all goes back to that ques­tion—am I some­one I would ad­mire?”

Look­ing at her suc­cess to date and her plans, the an­swer can only be a re­sound­ing yes.

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