It’s rare for me to take the time to translate articles about artists (or entertainment-related news) that I’m not too familiar with or that I don’t care too much about. This has always been a huge factor that I take into consideration when I choose articles to translate or artists (or entertainment-related news/events) to write about, since I have very little time to dedicate to writing and don’t want to waste it on something meaningless to me. Of course, this little ‘rule’ of mine isn’t going to change anytime soon, but there will always be those occasions where an ‘exception’ comes into play – the article below is one such ‘exception’.
For the record, I’m not a fan of Angie Cheong’s by any means. Sure, I have seen many of her TVB series – including her most representative work, A Kindred Spirit (真情) – and feel that she’s a pretty good actress who is comfortable to watch, but that’s about it. To me, she is just like most of the other actresses whom I’m ‘neutral’ towards in terms of acting – I don’t object to watching her in a TV series if she happens to be part of the cast, but I wouldn’t seek out a series to watch just because of her.
With all that said, my sentiment toward Angie as an actress hasn’t changed and probably never will – but after reading the below interview that she did with Mingpao Weekly Magazine, I’ve gained a lot of respect for Angie as a person….more specifically, as a woman and a single mother. I will admit that when I first read the article, it moved me to tears, perhaps because it struck a chord with me and it echoed some of the same sentiments I have toward children. Reading Angie’s story, the things that impressed me the most are her positive attitude toward life, her perseverance in the face of adversity, her tremendous strength and courage in light of the difficult circumstances she faces daily (i.e. being a public figure and a single mother in a largely ‘traditional’ Chinese society that’s also home to a ‘relentless’ tabloid culture), and most important of all, the absolutely unconditional love she has toward her adopted son.
This article reminded me once again that, at the end of the day, when you remove all the ‘glitz’ and ‘glamour’ of the entertainment industry, celebrities are ‘ordinary’ people who go through the same trials and tribulations just like the rest of us. With all the negativity and controversy in the entertainment industry as of late, it’s very refreshing to read such a heartwarming, uplifting, positive interview!
Ming Pao is actually one of the few ‘respectable’ Media outlets left in HK that still consistently publishes in-depth, non-sensationalized, worthwhile interviews with Asian celebrities / entertainment people / public figures – of course, I attribute much of this to the veteran reporters at MP (such as Wang Man Ling, Wong Lai Ling, Tsui Yong Yong, Charles Fok, etc.) who have built trusted relationships with artists over the years due to their good reputations and work ethics (though it’s also a testament to the overall direction that the MP editorial crew as a whole has taken over the years).
The below article is definitely a worthwhile read – hope you find it as meaningful as I did!
Mingpao Interview – Angie Cheong learns the meaning of true love from adopted son: “No more regrets in life”
Source: Mingpao Weekly, Issue 2370
Article originally published 4/11/2014
(Original interview written by MP veteran reporter Wang Man Ling 汪曼玲)
When she started her acting career back in 1993, Angie Cheong (張慧儀) portrayed a lot of ‘sex symbol’ roles, both in television as well as film. In 2003, she was involved in a relationship dispute with her (now ex) boyfriend, which caused her to leave Hong Kong and settle in Beijing instead. After 10 years of working abroad, Angie returned to HK once again in 2013 to film new TVB series Never Dance Alone (女人俱樂部).
For today’s interview, Angie brought along her adopted son Hanson, who sat next to her as she chatted with me [veteran reporter Wang Man Ling]. Despite sacrificing so much for Hanson, Angie expressed that she has absolutely no regrets -- in fact, she actually finds great joy in taking care of her son and finds the entire experience very rewarding. For Angie, Hanson is definitely a gift from God.
Hanson’s impact on Angie’s life has been tremendous, to the point that she plans on opening up a special needs facility -- Angie’s Home – in the near future, with the goal of helping even more children who may need special care and attention. Through her son as well as other special needs children, Angie made an important discovery: ‘true love’ – a love that is unconditional and doesn’t ask for anything in return -- really does exist in this world! Because of her son, Angie no longer has any regrets in life.
Even though Angie Cheong took the ‘sex symbol’ path for much of her early acting career, she did have her limits in that she always refused to ‘reveal all’ in front of the camera. Returning to the acting world now, so many years later, Angie realizes how much she has truly matured. “In my younger days, I was very headstrong and unruly. I was constantly chasing after romance in a relationship and at one point, I actually felt that I had found the right man to spend the rest of my life with – in the end, I found out how wrong I had been.”
Angie met her ex-boyfriend through her passion for dancing – he was a professional dancer and when the two of them started dating, she admired him greatly. Being young and immature at the time, Angie naively thought that enjoying the romance in their relationship was equivalent to finding love, so she didn’t really bother with trying to establish a deeper understanding of her boyfriend’s character. It wasn’t until after they had announced plans for marriage that Angie finally discovered her boyfriend’s true colors – all along, he had never been loyal to their relationship and actually had X number of girlfriends. “That was back in 2003 during the height of the SARS outbreak – the two of us went from ‘discussing’ his infidelity to ‘arguing’ about it and in the end, it became a physical altercation.”
Battered and bruised, Angie called the police for help. Unfortunately, the situation got out of hand from there, to the point that she had no choice but to hold a press conference to explain the situation to the media as well as the public. “After that, I felt that I could no longer stay in Hong Kong -- every time I saw people whispering behind my back, I felt that they were gossiping about me.” She eventually chose to leave HK and settle in Beijing, where no one knew who she was.
With the hope of healing the wounds from her past relationship, Angie fled to Beijing all alone – she had cut off contact with her friends and had zero income. When she arrived, the first thing she did was rent a small flat so that she would at least have a roof over her head. In terms of her career, Angie felt that she no longer had the drive or passion to pick up acting again in the Mainland: “Back in HK, I felt a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction pursuing my acting career, but in Beijing, I somehow lost that drive and motivation.” She realized that it was time for her to leave the entertainment industry and her acting career behind her – in order to survive, she had to find other means.
The path to business was not easy
All alone by herself in a foreign country, Angie understood that she had to find a way to make a living in order to sustain herself. Since she is originally from Malaysia, Angie came up with the idea of starting a business importing specialty fruit spreads from her home country. “Being in an unfamiliar environment, I didn’t have many options. To get things off the ground, I basically went to the local supermarkets, looked up the names of agents on the labels of various products, then went ‘door to door’ trying to find a suitable company to collaborate with.” Playing down the situation, Angie continued, “In the end, I was able to find a distributor to collaborate with. To tell you the truth though, fruit spreads actually aren’t very popular in Beijing, so the path to starting the business wasn’t easy at all. Initially, I was only able to make just enough money to survive and stay afloat.” Angie didn’t give up easily though – she took the time to learn about running a business and slowly built her foundation. Eventually, the friends she had made in the business world were touched by her sincerity and perseverance, so they started giving her leads and introducing her to associates, which helped her to build up a network of connections. After 9 months of hard work, Angie finally experienced a major breakthrough – she was able to successfully persuade a famous dessert shop from HK to open stores in Beijing and in the process, she was able to earn a nice commission as well as consultant fees from the project.
Later on, Angie and her friend opened up a printing shop and the business was quite profitable – that is, until the banking crisis occurred in 2008, after which business started declining drastically, so she decided to close the business and move to Guangzhou. “[In Guangzhou], I also did not know anyone and was unfamiliar with my surroundings, so I went back to doing my fruit spread business. I found a place to live in a small city that was about an hour’s drive from the main city.” One by one, Angie built up her business connections once again: when she got her hair washed at the local salon, she would strike up a conversation with the hairdressers as well as customers there; when she saw her neighbors around she would chat with them and get to know them – eventually she was able to build up a wealth of knowledge about the business environment in her city. Seeing that there was a pretty large market for ginseng and herbal tonics in Guangzhou, Angie opened a store that specialized in selling herbs. Over the years, she was able to build up a consistent customer base that would sometimes place orders for several hundred thousand dollars at once.
Despite the success she has been able to achieve with her business ventures, the path that Angie took to get there was anything but easy. As an example, Angie recalls her experience with the dessert shop project back in Beijing, “That dessert shop had no idea who I was and I actually wasn’t familiar with them either. I did some research about them online, found the phone number to their corporate headquarters, then utilized my many years of business experience and skills to slowly persuade them. The efforts paid off -- I was able to speak with the CEO and eventually close the deal.”
The amazing amount of persistence, endurance, and perseverance that Angie exhibits toward her work is indeed worth complimenting, however she insists that her son Hanson should get the credit instead. Having adopted Hanson in 2006, Angie is tremendously grateful for all the valuable lessons she has learned from him. One of the biggest lessons she learned from her son is to never give up in the face of adversity – instead of being discouraged whenever things go wrong, she takes a positive approach and views the situation as a gift from God, a blessing in disguise; as long as she is willing to persist and never give up, things will get better.
Her son was once in a coma for 9 weeks
Since her company serves as distributor for many different products, Angie’s schedule can get quite busy, but that has not prevented her from devoting all of her personal time to taking care of Hanson. A few days a week, Angie would go pick up her son from school, feed him his dinner in the car, then take him with her to the product launch events she had to attend – he would sit there quietly as she went onstage to introduce the product and wait patiently for her to finish her work. By the time the event ended around 8 or 9 o’clock at night, Hanson would be so tired that he’d fall fast asleep – gently carrying her son in one arm, Angie would carry his backpack, lunchbox, and the bags containing her company’s products in the other arm and head home for the night. Any ordinary person facing such a difficult situation might not be able to endure for long and Angie certainly was no exception – initially, the fatigue and helplessness she felt would bring tears to her eyes, but then she would look at her son and be reminded of her blessings from God -- immediately, she would swallow her tears and continue on.
When I [MP’s reporter Wang Man Ling] invited Angie for this interview, she asked if she could bring her son along with her, to which I replied, “Of course!” After meeting the two of them, what I found is that Angie actually can’t bear to part with her son for even a minute – plus the day of the interview was a Sunday, so of course Angie wanted to spend as much time with Hanson as possible. All along, I had heard that Angie’s son has health problems, but when I first set eyes on Hanson, he didn’t look any different than kids his same age (10 years old) except for being a little bit on the skinny side.
It turns out that Hanson has congenital heart disease and has been seeing a specialist doctor since birth. With his complicated medical condition, treatment has definitely been expensive -- an ultrasound alone costs 5500 HKD while the best pediatrician from Queen Mary Hospital costs more than 4000 HKD per visit. Angie expressed that her son was one reason why she decided to return to HK: “When I received Eric Tsang’s phone call inviting me back to film a TV series, the first thing that came to mind was that the medical facilities in HK would be able to provide my son with more comprehensive treatment, so I agreed to return.”
Back when Hanson was only 4 months old, doctors had to perform surgery on him because his weak heart was not pumping enough oxygen to his brain and the rest of his body – he was in a coma for 9 weeks and though he survived, the repercussions were damaging. Due to his condition, Hanson will need to go through another even bigger surgery in the future that is high risk and bears only a 50% survival rate – with his young age, the doctors won’t even consider the surgery until he is older and his body is able to handle it. Angie expressed, “It wasn’t until I listened to the doctor’s detailed explanation that I really got scared and worried for my son. All I can do now is pray and turn the situation over to God.”
The blood oxygen level for ordinary people is usually 90 percent or above, but for Hanson, it is constantly only at 70 percent. Because of his fragile condition, many hospitals weren’t willing to take him in at first, but later on, Angie was able to find a hospital that would accept him and help him get the treatment he needed. Angie describes Hanson’s condition as similar to being at a high altitude all the time while severely lacking oxygen, “Because of this condition, Hanson cannot get overly tired and exhausted. I also have to be careful not to let him catch a cold, as his body temperature must always remain at a certain level.”
The sudden cry of ‘Mommy’
Looking back, Angie expressed that adopting Hanson actually was not a part of her plan at first. While in Beijing attending an event for a brand of chocolate that her company distributed, Angie met the chair person of Pingan Inn (平安之家) [TN: Pingan Inn is a charity organization that works with orphanages to provide special needs and handicapped children with medical care and other services]. Since Angie was interested in doing some charity work anyway, she agreed to pay a visit and see what she could help with. Perhaps it was fate, but that visit ended up changing Angie’s life forever. The first time she saw Hanson, the volunteers at the organization were giving him a bath – she noticed the little boy’s purplish skin as well as how thin and frail he looked. Then later on, Angie was observing a group of kids playing and eating ice cream when Hanson, who was playing happily nearby, suddenly ran up to Angie and yelled out ‘Mommy!’ “When I heard that sudden cry of ‘Mommy’, my heart instantly melted! I could feel the blood rushing from my feet to my head -- at that moment, I had the urge to pick up that little boy in my arms and carry him home with me!”
Despite Angie’s affinity with Hanson, the process of adopting him would not be easy -- it turns out that a family in the U.S. had agreed to adopt him and were already working through the paperwork at the time. Angie was not deterred however – every day for the next three weeks, she would go to Pingan Inn to take care of Hanson; rain or shine, she would be there from early in the morning to late at night, devoting almost 100 percent of her time to caring for him. Angie expressed, “I don’t know if it’s because my hidden motherly instincts suddenly came to the surface – I just knew that I really really wanted to adopt this little boy.” Seeing how attached Angie was to Hanson, the chair of Pingan Inn made an exception and allowed her to take Hanson home to care for temporarily until his adoption paperwork was completed. Miraculously, Angie was notified a few months later that the family in the U.S. decided to give up on adopting Hanson, which meant that Angie would now be able to adopt him.
For her son, Angie is willing to sacrifice anything. In addition to spending a lot of money on tuition for international school as well as all the medical fees for his illness, Angie also devotes a lot of time and energy taking care of him. Anyone else in the same situation might find it too exhaustive physically and mentally to care for such a child – Angie, on the other hand, finds joy in caring for Hanson: “Taking care of him, I feel that I am surrounded by happiness!”
The baby left under a bridge
Every morning, Angie wakes up at 6am, cooks breakfast for Hanson, prepares his lunch, then at 8am, she heads out the door to take him to school – from there, they take the ferry to North Point where Hanson’s school is located. While Hanson is at school, Angie goes to buy groceries at the local market and also takes care of matters related to her business; at 5pm, she picks up Hanson from school and then heads home to cook dinner.
Since adopting Hanson, Angie has kept her social life to the bare minimum – she doesn’t go out unless it’s absolutely necessary, as she doesn’t want to leave her son alone by himself. When she had to film TVB’s series last year, she hired a part-time nanny to help her take care of Hanson at night until 6am in the morning. “When I returned home from filming at 6am in the morning, I would immediately take over, making breakfast and taking Hanson to school…sometimes I would also have to shoot a few scenes during the day, then go pick up my son and head home to cook dinner -- I actually had no time to rest. I almost didn’t make it through the end of filming, so I had to hire another nanny to help me out during that time.”
Hanson was born with a heart defect and was abandoned as a baby. A good Samaritan found the abandoned baby under a bridge and took him to Pingan Inn, where Angie met and adopted him 3 years later. According to experts, babies that were abandoned at birth will usually grow up with a heightened sensitivity toward being left alone by themselves. Because of this, Angie is often weary about leaving Hanson alone. She recalls one time when she and Hanson were playing happily at home, she opened the door and walked outside for a minute to throw out the trash – immediately, Hanson started crying loudly, as he thought his mother was leaving him. At that time, Angie realized how afraid Hanson was of being left alone and being abandoned once again. Understanding her son’s temperament, Angie vowed never to leave Hanson at home alone by himself, even for a minute. “I truly can’t bear to hurt him in that way [leaving him alone].” Angie explains to Hanson that the two of them are best friends in this entire world and nothing will ever separate them, “To have this kind of life now, I’m very grateful! Through Hanson, I’m finally able to understand what ‘true love’ really means – sometimes, it’s not necessary to be in a romantic relationship in order to experience true love.”
Asked about whether she would consider dating again, Angie expressed that she is happy with her life currently and being loved by Hanson is more fulfilling than any romantic relationship. She emphasizes that if she were to date again in the future, her other half must be able to accept her adopted son, “Any man who loves me must love Hanson as well and treat him as his own son. He also must understand my love for Hanson and the sacrifices I’m willing to make for him.” Since adopting Hanson, Angie did try dating a few times, but cut off the relationship once she discovered that the guy did not share the same love she has for Hanson. “I’m the type of person who, if there’s a little bit of food, I will let my son eat first -- I would rather starve than let him go hungry. My son is number one priority in my life.”
The fact that Hanson has been able to live this long is already a miracle. Because of his illness, his kidneys and liver are damaged and the constant lack of oxygen to his brain also affected his speech – to this day, Hanson still has difficulty articulating his thoughts clearly. The first few years were especially difficult, as Hanson’s speech was severely limited and he mostly relied on nodding or shaking his head to communicate with others – Angie had to carefully and patiently observe his body language to understand what he needed. “Now that we’ve been together for 8 years, we understand each other extremely well. He already knows what I want to say before I even open my mouth and I already know what he wants to express before he tells me.”
Seeing Angie’s selfless love and sacrifice for her son, I can’t help but praise her heart of gold; feeling a bit uneasy, Angie humbly responds, “In my mind, what I’m doing isn’t anything special -- there are many people out there doing greater and more outstanding things than me. For me, being able to feel so blessed and experience true happiness are more important.”
Asked about Hanson’s current condition, Angie expressed that she has already prepared herself mentally and emotionally to accept whatever may happen: “I understood a long time ago that Hanson being able to survive this long is already a miracle. Perhaps because he is surrounded by love, he is able to live a happier and more fulfilling life. I can’t control life or death, but I can do my best to give Hanson the best quality of life possible and pass on that love to other special needs children in the future. I don’t want my existence in this world to be in vain. When Hanson does leave me, I know that we will eventually see each other again in Heaven.”
Even at such a young age, Hanson can already sense that he is ‘different’ from other children. When he first noticed the scar on his chest from the surgery he had as a baby, he would innocently ask Angie, “Mommy, why am I like this?” to which his mom would tenderly reply, “Hanson, you’re a little angel that God sent to change the life of a woman named Angie Cheong -- because of this ‘mission’, you had to suffer a little bit of pain. In the future, when we’re both in Heaven, I’ll be relying on you to take care of me!”
Right now, except for Hanson, nothing else matters in Angie’s life. “I’ve come to realize why ‘true love’ is so important for many people. When the two of us are together, we feel complete happiness and joy. Even doing the simplest things such as having dinner together or taking a walk outside, we are able to find great happiness in it. Hanson sleeps with me in my bed and every night, after I tell a story and he falls asleep, I stare at his face and feel so much love and warmth in my heart.”
Love has indeed changed Angie’s life forever. Her heart is more at peace and she is able to take a more optimistic, proactive approach to life. In the past, when she was still active in the entertainment industry, Angie was a ‘night owl’ who often stayed awake until 1 or 2am in the morning; since Hanson entered her life, she has adjusted her lifestyle and now takes on an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ routine. “My mom used to worry about me all the time and wanted me to find a good man to take care of me. When I visited my family in Malaysia recently, they saw firsthand how much I had changed. My mom was so surprised that I went to bed even earlier than her!”
As for her career, Angie states that she will continue to work hard at it, but she already has a plan for the future: some day, she will return to Malaysia and enjoy life with her family. “My life will then truly be without regret!”