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A tigress unleashed

Some may say she’s Hong Kong’s sweetheart, but award-winning model and actress Kate Tsui Tze-Shan is more than just a pretty face. Having accomplished many accolades in just over a decade in the competitive entertainment industry, feisty Tsui is ready to show the world what she’s truly made of. By Koon Rho

What comes with the job

In Hong Kong’s celebrated entertainment scene, many pageant queens make it into Television Broadcasts Limited’s (TVB) circle of actors and actresses or decide to make a recording hit, but not many leave an impression. Our Deputy Editor, however, remembers Tsui as a villain in the 2008 grand production HDTV drama series, Moonlight Resonance (溏心風暴之家好月圓) — oh, how many of us held a grudge against that evil character Lo Ka Mei! In spite of all that, it gave Tsui a boost in her career and earned her a place in the top five Best Supporting Actress category at the TVB Anniversary Awards that year; from there on; and the rest was history.


“I enjoy any role that is challenging but it also really depends on the character, scenario or the genre of the film itself,” she said. “Whether it is a villain or protagonist role, either one doesn’t matter as they are very different from one another — I’ve tried playing the innocent and extremely evil one, action and dancing roles, and even crazy comedy! Whenever a new role pops up, I’d jump on it as long as it’s challenging and I can use it to project a different side to me. There are times when being an actress can be really passive because you don’t get to choose your roles, but I’m grateful that people see me as a versatile actress. It’s important to have that because you get to portray so many personalities – be it in films or soaps – and that’s the making of a good actress.”


Fame and fortune definitely went hand-in-hand when Tsui gained more popularity over the years in films and drama serials, but acting had a price tag to it. Given that she was only 24 when she entered the entertainment industry, Tsui took it like an adult although a lot of adjustments were implicated in her personal life. “I guess not being able to sleep was one of them (laughs)! I love sleeping a lot and it’s a major part of my life,” she exclaimed. ”It’s terrible, seriously! I’ve worked for three days straight without sleep and once, I even fell asleep in the shower.”


And to think we had it bad.


Friends in the business

With 30 dramas and 21 films to her name, Tsui didn’t stop at just making appearances on the big screen. In fact, she is a bit of a songbird and released an album in 2009. “I’d gotten a call from my boss offering to have me make an album, and I went, ‘What? What are we talking about? I don’t really sing!’” she said. “But they insisted and believed that I could pull it off. When people say, ‘We think you can do it’, I would just do it because I trust their vision, and that is something I don’t have. Although there were guidelines to how they wanted me to sing and dance, it was a good learning curve and experience as a whole.”


Performing on stage and in the studio may have been a lustrous addition to her résumé, yet it was obvious that Tsui knew how she wanted to carve her own path in life. “I tried to enjoy singing; I don’t think, however, I had the talent for it — it was work and most importantly, there were fans who loved it,” she explained. “As an entertainer, it is vital for the fans to support you and your performances but if no one wants to see or like you, there’s no point to it at all. The same applies to me: if there are fans who like what I do, I’ll continue to work on it. Perhaps that’s my life’s mission —to entertain people and influence others.”


As you can imagine, Tsui’s 12-year career including her joining the ranks of some of the most sought-after actors in Hong Kong, and 26 film and music awards later, she has eyes only for one man and his calibre… Nope, it’s not a secret lover! 


“It’s great that I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many people during the course of my acting career, but doing films and soaps are so vastly different from the other. Unfortunately with films, you don’t get as much time to warm up to your fellow cast members due to the short span of time you have to finish production,” she continued. “But I recall doing a comedy with Dayo Wong Chi-Wah and needless to say, he is the absolute god of comedy! If you know the influence he has in the comedy scene, imagine how much pressure I was in, knowing that I’d be acting alongside him!” 


“In reality, he is such a genuinely nice guy — he taught me so much on set, and that was a truly amazing experience. Although Wong looks very serious in public and off-camera, being his partner on set is an eye-opener. Towards the end of filming, we’d changed some of the script in order to touch the audience even more with our storyline and he was pretty hands-on in that aspect, to the point where he even ‘synced’ both our lines to make the flow better! You do come across actors who just care about how they look on-screen, but Wong’s not like that — he’s very proactive in making the partnership work… That’s the best part of it all. He’s such a good dai kor kor!”


One step at a time

Not many artistes would be willing to give it all up, especially when you work for one of the best broadcast stations in Hong Kong, and despite the news of her not renewing her contract with TVB, Tsui possesses a very different perspective to life in comparison to her peers. “What is a comfort zone in the first place? I don’t even know what mine is! You know, all I did was win a pageant title and people just started asking me to act; I didn’t even know that I could act and that alone was not a comfort zone,” recalled Tsui. “I’m constantly watching myself to find out who I am exactly and what my life’s mission is — by going through different things, working on various projects or dealing with people from different countries, that’s how we grow as a person as well as find out more about ourselves. So, you could say that I’m still in the process of defining my so-called ‘comfort zone’.” 


“Funnily enough, a lot of people perceive me to be ambitious – it may be because of my looks or something – but I am not; I prefer to go along with the flow. In fact, I didn’t join the pageant on my own accord. It was a friend who told me to and of all things in the world, I would’ve never imagined myself getting into showbiz,” she said. “Whether it is singing, designing jewellery or investing my efforts into a piece of green technology that I’ve just started called Hi-Bliss, I never really planned for any of them… They just came into my life!” 


“For instance, my jewellery line started only because a company in Hong Kong initiated a collaboration after seeing a design I did for myself. Yet I didn’t feel comfortable doing something without knowing it thoroughly, so I went for a jewellery design course,” commented Tsui. “I would have felt so insecure, especially if people asked me about how I went about the designing process. I didn’t want to feel that there’s no substance to it — I wanted to draw out the designs or choose the stones personally so that I would be more confident or, at the very least, more convincing.” 


Wearing one of her very own pieces at the photo shoot, Tsui could not be happier to share how she came across this exciting venture for the next phase of her life. 


“A friend had given me a book on philosophy and I’d picked up an idea or two from there. Whilst working on the designs, I thought to myself, ‘You know, your designs can either just look pretty, or be something that you like.’ On top of that, I thought of creating a jewellery line that would be meaningful for others as well as myself, hence the rabbit-duck illusion concept that was incorporated to the collection’s overall design. The upcoming collection – which is going to be due real soon – is quite interesting as well; it’s about ancient chinese scripts, so I’ll try my best to hurry it up (laughs)!”


On the surface, many would assume that it's another form of business for Tsui to focus on, but in fact it touches the actress on a much deeper and personal level that not many people can see. “Through my jewellery, I want to share things that I have been inspired by. I do tend to overthink things sometimes, so the rabbit-duck illusion reminds me that there are always other ways of looking at things. Even at the slightest difference in angles, things can turn out entirely the opposite or have a new interpretation altogether,” she explained. “So I’m really happy that nowadays on social media, my fans tell me how inspired they are by the collection via their personal stories and I really am grateful to have that channel to influence or make people happier, in general… I think it’s an incredible thing to do.” 


With a little bit of acting here and there and the jewellery line in the mix, Tsui has also been caught up with another important element to her life, that is the health and well-being of others and the Earth alongside the people who love her most. “I used to have gatherings for fans at different times of the year and we’d just take selfies and autographs, but I knew that I could do more than that!” she said. “Since my birthday last year, it has changed from parties to charities and one of them was organising fan trips to sea turtle conservation areas, where the experience was so amazing for the supportive fans! Although we were out in the scorching heat, everyone was having fun doing something meaningful and I wouldn’t have traded that for any other birthday gift. Since then, I’ve also been talking to a lot of my friends on how we can transform fan clubs into volunteer groups instead.” 


On top of that, being the savvy individual that she was, Tsui took advantage of the basics of an eco-friendly technology, Hi-Bliss. “I’ve always liked green technology or innovations, and because it’s so important for our future generations to have the things we have now, sustainability is what I want to focus on so much more,” she said. “I’m a lot like these new age people — medications are a no-no when I’m down with anything; even Chinese meds are not on my list! But Hi-Bliss is absolutely drug-free, which is something that I totally support. It’s all about natural remedies, plus it’s painless. You know, before heading to a session of treatments like acupuncture or gua sha (刮痧), the pain gets real when you’re actually experiencing it and you may think, ‘Ok, maybe this isn’t for me.’ With Hi-Bliss’ technology, it feels amazing and you see the effects/results instantly.” 


Being more than just the plain spokesperson, Tsui has actually been acting as an active brand partner since its launch this month to speak of her personal experience with Hi-Bliss. “I speak for myself, too, because during one of my travels to Singapore earlier this year, my lower back went really sore as I’d overexerted myself during a yoga session. What’s more, the long hours I’d spent sitting during the flight only aggravated the pain,” exclaimed Tsui. 


“My friend in Singapore then suggested that I try a new hydrogen therapy to relieve the discomfort and naturally — you can imagine that I was quite skeptical as hydrogen therapy was something unheard of. But since it was au natural, drug-free and non-invasive, I gave it a try and that was it — I was intrigued by the therapy’s effectiveness as my back felt so much better after only an hour of therapy. In fact, the soreness was barely noticeable after that!” 


“I went to the people behind the Hi-Bliss technology and found out more about its potential. Other than relieving muscles and joint pain, Hi-Bliss was also useful for relieving headaches and eye strains, boosting blood circulation as well as hydrating the skin,” she went on. “Almost immediately, it hit me that this great technology could do wonders for people whose daily lives have been hampered by these ailments, and how great it would be if more people enjoyed the benefits of Hi-Bliss’ therapy.” 


“In my own time, I also explored how I could help promote this technology because at the end of the day, I believe every single one of us is entitled to lead a pain-free and active lifestyle. That’s how I got involved in this project as a brand partner and it’s going to be exciting on how we collaborate on an international level as I want to spread the good news of Hi-Bliss. Indeed, it’s going to grow on a global basis as it’s very much in our future plans to make Hi-Bliss available in Hong Kong, too,” she said with a sparkle of excitement in her eyes. 


Well, at least now we know how Tsui got that inner glow!


Living the life

Although her life is ‘complete’ with work, work and work, Tsui still has her little indulgences that make her squeal with delight. When we asked about little luxuries that she’d picked up during her stardom, she answered almost instantly, “Are you referring to my extensive collection of high heels (laughs)? Before I entered Miss Hong Kong or got into showbiz, I only had that one pair which was about an inch high — I was the girl who’d wear sneakers all the time, so I had no idea what high heels really were. It didn’t take long for me to get obssessed with them, however, because the higher the better! It’s really hard to have a favourite pair; please don’t make me pick!” she exclaimed bashfully.


With such a charming personality to the actress, we had to let her go at that one tease. Nonetheless, the team was curious to how she dealt with the pressures of the industry, even when it meant having perfect facial features. What we heard next only made her look even more human, just like the rest of us. “Always make it a point to be yourself. When my contract with TVB ended, it was a period for me to recalibrate, to go back to my true self and do the stuff that I’ve been wanting to do,” Tsui explained. 


“Of course, day-to-day work includes doing certain things or talking to certain people whom you don’t like — it happens everywhere, all the time! And for that reason, I decided to pig out by staying home a lot, doing movie marathons, travelling and, of course, sleeping… Those moments have been the best! I think no matter what your job is, it’s important to step aside for a moment and know that the world is so big that you don’t have to pick on the small things in life when resources are in abundance. If you feel narrow-minded lately, it’s time to get away!”


Given that she’d just completed a course in jewellery design in the States, a part of Tsui still desires to prolong her time as a student. “I wish I had stayed in school longer. I enjoy being a full-time student because you get to do amazing stuff all the time,” she contemplated. “Then again, if I went down that road, I may not have been in the entertainment industry today... Things could have been so different!”


By now, the sun had set and the crew was all packed up. But before she left us, Tsui gave us her last thoughts on her life so far. “It’s about living life without regrets. I really wish I knew what was going to happen next, but isn’t it amazing to wait and see what unfolds?” she smiled. “Have little surprises in your life — in fact, the best way is to enjoy yourself in the moment, be happy everyday and look forward to what’s coming your way. I always say, no matter if it’s acting, showbiz, jewellery design or Hi-Bliss, these little things have been delightful surprises in life! I don’t mind having more in my life but I would really love to do more community work.”