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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Gigi Lai's Last 20 Years: "My Life Is Like A Movie"

Gigi Lai Chi's popularity has increased enormously due to "War and Beauty." Her salary has increased from $5,000 (HKD) to $45,000 per TV episode recently.

Gigi is currently 34 years old, but she has been in the entertainment industry for 20 years already.

In this interview, Gigi spoke about her childhood, the hardships that her family endured as well as the last 20 years of her life as an actress.

Gigi's grandfather, Lai Man Wai, was considered one of the founding fathers of Hong Kong cinema. Her grandmother, Lam Chaw Chaw, was one of the of the first generation of movie stars. And Gigi's aunt is actress Lai Suen.

With this kind of background, you would expect Gigi to have grown up in luxury. But Gigi said that on the surface, her background appeared to be glamourous. In reality, she grew up under very poor circumstances and her life has been like a movie.

Values Acting Opportunity More Than Appearance
Gigi has always loved to look beautiful. In the past, Gigi would turn down roles if they affected her appearance onscreen. But now Gigi has changed, placing greater emphasis on acting opportunities rather than the need to appear beautiful onscreen.

"I am filming 'Super Cops' with Moses Chan Ho, Yoyo Mung, and Yuen Biao. In the series, I act as a fashion designer. The director requested that I look plain for the role, wearing thick glasses and revealing my gums when I speak. The director said that in the past, I have always played beautiful roles. He said this role will be a change for me. It's quite a challenge and I like it."

Reporter - "But in the past, you refused roles that would make you look unattractive?"

Gigi - "That was many years ago, when I was still young. If I had to play unattractive characters, I would refuse the roles. Even if I was filming death scenes, I would still be busy re-applying my lipstick. But now, it's different. I hope to play more challenging roles. I will prove that Gigi Lai can act."

Reporter - "Many fans think of you as the #1 beauty."

Gigi - "I am really grateful to my fans. I know they love me. But being beautiful is not my most desired wish now. I don't think beauty can be judged by your external looks. It is about your inner beauty and compassion. Now when I don't have to work, I don't apply make-up and will just wear jeans and t-shirts. I don't like to dress like an actress. Actually I think I look the best when I don't wear make-up, as this is my true self.

Growing Up Under Harsh Circumstances
People who glance at
Gigi's family background will think that she grew up in luxury and wealth. However, the reality is the complete opposite. After Gigi's grandmother died, Gigi's father, aunts, and uncles all divided the family's assets. Since Gigi's father had hearing loss, his siblings were prejudiced against him and did not think highly of him.

Gigi's mother had to work as a driver delivering goods in order to support the family. When Gigi was only 14 years old, she entered the entertainment industry and earned money to support the whole family. She also paid for her younger brother's education expenses. [Gigi's younger brother is now a successful doctor with his own skin care clinic.]

"When my father was young, he got Meningitis and only retained 20% of his original hearing. Now he is 70 years old and his hearing is only worse. Our family was always bullied by the neighbors. [As our apartment did not have its own bathroom, we had to share the bathroom in the hallway with the neighbors]. But I was afraid to even use the bathroom in the hallway [due to the neighbors bullying us]. Afterwards, my father built a make-shift toilet for us in the kitchen so that we don't have to use the one in the hallway. We tried to purify the air, but during dinner time, you can still smell the toilet odor."

Reporter- "Since you entered the industry when you were only 14 years old, did your aunt, Lai Suen, introduce you?"

Gigi said, "No, actually when I was 13, my father was working at a gym at the time. Coincidentally, Sam Hui Koon Kit was a gym member there. It was Sam who introduced me to the movie production company. I started out as an extra in the movies, earning $300 (HKD) per day. At the time, I was only in junior high school. I brought my homework assignments with me to the studio to complete. Whenever I had a break at the studio, I would be doing my homework; I even did it while I was at the toilet."

"During your toughest times, did your aunt, Lai Suen, help you out?"

Gigi laughed wryly, "Maybe at the time, she was having difficulties herself. Actually so many years have passed already. I have to look forward and can not be upset about the past. Now, our entire extended family will gather for dinner once a month."

Gaining Fame Overnight
Gigi's youth and beauty allowed her to quickly ascend in the movie industry, taking on important roles. In the past, her popularity shot up because of "The Young and Dangerous" movies, playing Ekin Cheng's girlfriend. The years that followed however, Gigi faded from the spotlight and there was a time that she did not have any acting opportunities. She even thought about retiring from acting.

"What happened at the time? How come you seem to have disappeared and did not have any acting roles?"

Gigi said, "Seven years ago, I didn't know how to put my heart into acting. I was like a workhorse, just kept on working. I didn't know how to act."

"Even if you didn't know how to act, it doesn't mean there is no market. For example, Rosamund Kwan Chi Lam also took on many 'flower vase' roles. Since you are so beautiful, you could have played the same type of roles. Do you think it may have been due to the way you dealt with people that caused problems?"

Gigi thought for awhile, "Yes I admit that. At the time, I was still a young girl. I didn't know how to communicate with people. If I came across problems, I would lock myself in a room and keep it inside myself. Also I didn't have a lot of confidence in myself."

Reporter - "How long did the dark period last? What was the most difficult challenge that you faced?"

Gigi said, "On and off, altogether a total of 10 years. It was common for me to not have any roles for 1/2 year or 1 year at a time. I had to pay for my family and my brother's education expenses. I was feeling very helpless. I really didn't know if I still have a chance to act again. But I didn't even attend any prepartory classes; I don't know what other jobs I can do. Also other jobs do not pay as much as acting does."

Gigi lost out on many opportunities, for example Wong Kar Wai's "Days of Being Wild." The role required Gigi to shave her head so she refused it. Now Gigi hopes to be able to work with directors such as Zhang Yimou and Fung Siu Kong.

"Did you refuse 'Days of Being Wild' because you didn't want to appear bald?"

Gigi - "I was too naive. I didn't consider Wong Kar Wai's ability nor value. Actually, I don't have a lot of confidence in myself. After I shave my head, I didn't know how I would play the role."

"Do you regret it? If Wong Kar Wai were to ask you now, would you not refuse him now?

Gigi - "Of course. If he were to ask me now, if I had to film without any fees, I would do it. Now I am no longer acting in order to pay for living expenses. I am doing it because of my interest; I hope that my acting can have a greater breakthrough."

Love Life
In the past, one of
Gigi's most talked about relationships was with Wong Yuk Long. Although many rich men have been attracted to Gigi, she have not been moved.

"What kind of man do you like?"

Gigi - "A man who can take on [responsibilities]. Someone who is experienced and mature. I do not care how he looks or what kind of car he drives. The important thing is that he is kind-hearted and has compassion."

"Accordingly, you are very good in price bargaining. You should be very capable in managing a household."

Gigi - "Yes I am very good in price bargaining. I feel that money is not easily earned. Of course you should not spend it so carelessly. Although I am well off now, I never buy things without considering the price. I will try my best to bargain it lower."

"How much do you normally pay for your clothes?"

Gigi - "There are expensive clothes and less expensive clothes. In the past I thought that by buying a Louis Vuitton handbag, people will think you are beautiful. But whether people regard you highly is not dependent on the designer labels you own. Whether your heart is noble and have dignity are more important."

"Many actresses are very competitive in appearances and clothes; are you not afraid of comparison?"

Gigi - "Price and designer brand are not imporant in clothes. Rather, if you can match it to your own looks and personal style, it will look good."

[X] credit: Jayne @


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