By Lauren James
June 04, 2020
Rock star, actor, producer and provocateur—the unstoppable Josie Ho desires to get the final chuckle
Josie Ho arrives for our cowl shoot, floating into her dressing room to ink her personal jet black flicks of eyeliner whereas pondering out loud in a languid, smoky drawl whether or not London or Los Angeles is healthier for scoring probably the most badass classic leather-based jackets.
“Girls!” she shouts.
Two attendants snap to consideration, producing a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. She exhales a plume of smoke over a poster board pasted with pictures of outfits Tatler’s editors have chosen for the shoot—all evocative of shadows and sultriness—and chooses to put on her personal clumpy black Buffalo trainers as a substitute of a pair of patent stilettos.
“Powerful woman” is a label Ho rejects. That’s not the way in which she sees herself or desires to be portrayed, regardless of a profession as a rock star, actor and movie producer that reaches again 30 years. She insists her power lies within the community she will be able to name upon. “My sisters Pansy and Daisy are the powerful women. Me? I’m tiny,” she says, shaking her head. “My power is a strong phone book.”
Ready to Rock
While it’s true her siblings gravitated in direction of the enterprise finish of her household’s appreciable empire, Ho has utilized a powerful work ethic throughout Hong Kong’s movie and music industries. Now, world pandemic or not, she has by no means been busier, making ready a number of movies for launch, in addition to writing new songs together with her different rock group, Josie and the Uni Boys. Instead of using purely on her household identify, Ho has all the time strived for authenticity by doing issues her manner and on an equal footing.
Once the studio lights are illuminated, she involves life, her diminutive determine all of a sudden magnetic as she slinks by means of a repertoire of poses. Later, bored with countless black outfits, she pulls out her personal trunk of favorite stage costumes and selects a banana yellow, Big Bird-esque, feathered, three-piece Gucci go well with, neon inexperienced gloves, Saint Laurent zebra print platforms and an outsized sailor’s hat that was a present from her father, Stanley Ho, who based the Turbojet ferry firm, amongst many different companies, and who died simply over two weeks after this interview occurred.
She stands revelling within the stares from the assembled stylists and assistants. The ensemble isn’t simply loud; it’s ear-shattering. This is how Josie Ho desires to be seen. It’s how she has all the time been—first as a young person rebelling in opposition to the conformity of Hong Kong society, then as an grownup reengineering a tepid starting in Cantopop into an intimidatingly fierce and uncompromising persona nearer to rock stars like Courtney Love, Joan Jett or Siouxsie Sioux.
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The following day, as she sips chamomile tea and eats cookies within the backyard at The Upper House, Ho’s feline options peer out beneath her trademark Cleopatra-meets-Karen O bob, nonetheless shaggy with lacquer from the earlier evening’s shoot. She wears a distressed denim jacket over her personal band’s T-shirt, and indigo shadows underline her eyes, owing to not rock’n’roll antics, however late nights spent on convention calls with Hollywood as her manufacturing firm, referred to as 852 Films after Hong Kong’s worldwide dialling code, prepares a raft of images for launch.
This consists of the upcoming Habit, an indie flick set within the 1960s with a plot involving Bella Thorne enjoying a celebration woman with a Jesus fetish who pretends to be a nun to flee the fallout of a violent drug deal. Ho seems as a beehive-sporting villain alongside Paris Jackson (daughter of Michael Jackson) as Jesus, Gavin Rossdale, and Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, aka genre-defying rock duo The Kills. In quick, the DNA of the movie is Josie’s, by means of and thru. “I get to torture Gavin with a meat hammer,” she says with a unclean chuckle. “It was hard to shoot because we were all having so much fun talking about music.”
The native press has lengthy labelled Ho because the “queen of rock” in Hong Kong, although she desires it to be identified that it’s the court docket jester she identifies with most: an itinerant entertainer who likes to trigger a stir and make others chuckle, even at her personal expense. “Onstage, I’m a joker and do spontaneous things. I shock the hell out of the crowd and I’m funny. I don’t mind rolling on the ground. I love when people are laughing at me,” she says. “When I was 11 and the tabloids were shooting photos of my family, I already knew I’d never be able to get away from the media eye and would be judged forever. So, I thought, why not make something of myself and control my own image?”
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Stanley Ho’s enterprise dealings dated again to the Second World War when he made a fortune smuggling items from China to Macau. He owned 20 casinos estimated to make use of one in 4 staff within the playing hub. The billionaire magnate was additionally famed for an intensive household tree spanning 17 kids with 4 girls. Lucina Lam gave delivery to Ho’s eighth youngster and seventh daughter, Josephine “Josie” Ho Chiu-yi, in 1974, simply as Hong Kong was changing into identified for wealth, extravagant dwelling and stratospheric property costs.
In an effort to forestall her from standing out, Ho’s dad and mom despatched her to high school with pigtails and a hand-me-down satchel, which had the other impact. “I was a chubby nerd and everyone knew who my family was,” she says. “I had heavy bronchial asthma and allergic reactions and needed to eat lunch with my ah ma at college day-after-day whereas my buddies ran round. I simply wished to slot in however I used to be ignored by the favored youngsters.”
Encouraged by her eldest sister, Pansy, and impressed by Cantopop icons and household buddies like Anita Mui and Danny Chan, Ho fell in love with music and singing and can be introduced onstage to entertain friends at glittering society capabilities, the place she carried out classics by crooners like Chet Baker and Tony Bennett. At the center of one in all Asia’s most non-public but distinguished dynasties, right here was slightly woman who cherished to entertain—and there was little her dad and mom might do about it.
In a metropolis as dense and claustrophobic as Hong Kong, the scrutiny surrounding the household was suffocating, peaking with a risk of kidnapping made to Lucina focusing on Josie when she was nonetheless a small youngster. It was solely after her mom decamped the siblings to Toronto within the mid-Eighties that Ho lastly felt free to specific herself totally. At boarding college, she honed a rebellious streak, convincing friends to do her homework or sneaking out to smoke after darkish, and creating raunchy outfits and routines to mimic her hero Madonna at college expertise exhibits. Her grades had been abysmal however she excelled in sports activities and the humanities. By the time she returned to Hong Kong in her late teenagers, her sights had been mounted on a future on the stage.
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She’s a insurgent
She credit Pansy with serving to her make connections within the music business and convincing her dad and mom that their daughter was gifted sufficient to carry out professionally, and he or she signed her first music contract in her father’s workplace, when she was simply 18. “He was a supporter of my potential, but he was also afraid of the dirty things people do, like [what would now be called] ‘Me Too’ stuff,” she says. “But that was never an issue for me.”
A sardonic glint in her eye, she provides: “Like, could you afford to screw me? It might cost more money than you have.”
Released in 1994, her first album was titled Rebel, however her look and sound by immediately’s requirements had been petal-soft and commercially secure. After years spent being proudly completely different, Ho discovered herself in a world the place she was required to evolve to her administration Capital Artists’ concept of the performer she ought to be. This prolonged from the garments she wore to the physique beneath them, prompting her to take harmful measures.
“The CEO liked my singing but he told my sister I was chubby and didn’t know how to dress. She took a long time before telling me, to avoid hurting my feelings. Then, I decided to lose weight no matter what. For nearly 10 years I took appetite suppressants and all kinds of stuff. I looked perfect but I felt weak. I had no voice. I couldn’t sing. I didn’t have the energy. Because the pills contained amphetamines, my brain was going 100 kilometres per second and I was jumpy.” Ho says her household was unaware of the measures she was taking. “They just thought I grew up and I lost weight.”
Finding Her Path
After her label fired her for what she claims was one off-key look, Ho entered a number of wilderness years when she tried excessive sports activities and arduous partying. During this time, she met the irreverent Hong Kong hip-hop group LMF and music producer and actor Conroy Chan Chi-chung, her future husband. Her new-found buddies inspired her to go impartial and make the form of music she all the time wished to make, paving the way in which for Ho to grow to be the unabashed icon she is immediately.
After dabbling in appearing earlier in her profession, she additionally started to take a position extra time in small roles in native movies. She ultimately got here off the load loss medicine when director Teddy Chan forged her alongside Daniel Wu and Emile Chau in 1999’s Khmer Rouge motion blockbuster Purple Storm and instructed her she wanted to be sturdy sufficient to carry out stunts. The strain to remain skinny hadn’t fully dissipated, however she discovered contemporary confidence together with gaining bodily power and threw herself in headfirst.
“I dropped the pills but still dieted and did everything to keep my weight down, but I looked right for my role: buff. I didn’t feel weak any more. I had the courage to do new moves they taught me on this set, and I went for it. I knew people would look at me differently due to my family background, so I wanted to prove to them I was no princess. You want me to do it this way? You want me to do cartwheels? You want to put a wire on me and pull me up seven floors? I say nine. I do my own stunts,” she says, giving a defiant jerk of her chin.
A string of award nominations set the tone for her appearing profession from then on: she sought probably the most difficult, complicated and edgy roles in area of interest photos that excelled at worldwide impartial movie festivals. She immersed herself in finding out theatre, particularly comedy, studying Stanislavsky and Chekhov and taking classes with clown grasp Philippe Gaulier.
Her most lauded and memorable function was portraying a high-school instructor who falls in love with a feminine singer-songwriter in 2004’s Butterfly, which elevated her to cult standing throughout the Chinese-speaking LGBT neighborhood. In 2007, in response to a scarcity of high quality roles accessible to native feminine actors, she shaped 852 Films with Chan, who she married in 2003, with a mission to “create films that can break barriers”.
A 2008 New York Times profile heralded Ho’s numerous portfolio and tendency to go in opposition to the grain in Hong Kong’s “commercial and conformist” leisure business, describing the actress as “genuinely a bright star in Asia’s burgeoning independent cinema scene”.
She additionally nurtured a proclivity to shock. Visitors to 852’s web site are instantly greeted by a violent scene from the 2010 slasher Dream Home, wherein a person having intercourse with a lady is knifed to loss of life by Ho, giving a glimpse into her manner of doing issues, which regularly consists of stepping in to barter on her husband’s behalf in conferences. “He is always Mr Nice Guy. He does not like to fight with people. I am the bad cop, which I hate because I don’t want to b**** out my manager and my agents. But someone has to do it.”
“She’s so playful as a performer and musician. I think it’s naturally part of her,” says Roger Avary, director of 2019’s Lucky Day, wherein Ho performs a Beijing artwork snob who’s got rid of in characteristically Tarantino trend with a bullet to the crotch. “I wanted it to be cheap and fast, so I said, ‘Just shoot me in the c***’,” she says. Avary provides: “She creates this great mood on set, but she brings improvisation and wonderful ideas. We were all just laughing together by the end.”
She is herself, unapologetically
Through triumphs and setbacks, Ho has all the time relied on her sense of humour. With the Uni Boys, her creativeness runs wild, manifesting as elaborate stage exhibits and sculptural costumes evoking avant-garde performers like Björk, and he or she is exploring digital avenues in songwriting this yr. The band’s 10th anniversary tour in 2017 discovered the singer on the peak of confidence in her personal pores and skin and sound, although she nonetheless couldn’t escape scathing and shallow tabloids. Two years in the past, Chan was hospitalised with acute liver cirrhosis and diverticulosis and Ho needed to care for him and assist him stroll throughout his restoration. “I gained weight due to the stress and the paparazzi took pictures of me on the street without make-up. People were saying how bad I looked.”
Instead of hiding away or launching into an aggressive weight reduction programme, this time Ho noticed a chance to lastly increase a large center finger to anybody who had ever tried to govern her picture or make her really feel ashamed of her physique. During a run of concert events in 2018, she stepped out on stage sporting a gown that includes a closely padded torso and rear finish.
“It was a parody. We wanted to create ‘all-you-can-eat’ clothes,” she grins, taking a well-timed crunch right into a cookie. “The crowd loved it and embraced my body.” It was a strong gesture, symbolic of a born entertainer whose creativeness is her solely restrict. Throughout the dialog, concepts consistently pop up and are mulled over. Maybe she’ll run a classic retailer in LA? Or open a floating nightclub in Hong Kong? Or create a brand new gig venue-meets-art gallery-meets-Champagne-bar?
“I really can’t say I’m a power woman,” she says once more. “I’m very hard-working and aggressive. And I have these beyond crazy ideas. I’m like the Joker: I’m courageous and not afraid of challenges. And I’m shameless. I’m definitely not afraid to put myself out there.” But, she provides, most of all, “I really feel I’m very lucky and spoiled. I’m dwelling my dream.
“Yeah,” she sighs. “I’m so lucky.”
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