STAR IN THE MAKING I started modelling when I was 14. I was wandering the streets of San Francisco when two Italian photographers spotted me. They booked me for my first editorial shoot. I still have the spread - when I look at it now, I think it's obvious I had no idea what I was doing. But I guess that's what they wanted for that particular shoot - a young and innocent look. After that I started looking at fashion magazines and practising poses. When I first came to Hong Kong, I noticed that modelling [here] is very different compared with [how it is done in] the United States. Asia is a completely different world - the styling, the expressions, everything. Gaining experience in Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong was something of a process. But at the end of the day, you just have to be comfortable being yourself. Sometimes you are asked to do very uncomfortable things while modelling, but you have to try to relax and enjoy the moment. After more than a decade in the industry, I still love it. Though sometimes it feels like 'been there, done that', it's always fun for me. Trying to express something through fashion is like art. It's particularly pleasurable to work with a strong team, [when there is] quite a magical spark. I don't consider myself a gifted actor though, because I'm not good at [public] speaking. Unless they want me to play a mute girl who didn't have to talk in the film ...
LIFE IN THE LIMELIGHT When I came to Hong Kong, models were models - they weren't celebrities. In the past few years it's become less about what you wear and more about who you are dating. It's important to be savvy with the press and with the paparazzi. Things have been written about me that I didn't even know had happened. It's like I was living this completely different life that was fabricated by gossip magazines. It's really strange, but I get it - it's just a part of being in the entertainment business. It goes hand in hand with becoming famous. People start to know about you and they want to know more. Most of the time the paparazzi are nice when they take photos. It's just what ends up on the magazine covers weeks later; I didn't realise I had so many problems! I guess one picture is worth a thousand words. The press portrays me as having this wild lifestyle, but actually my life is so calm. Although I know the stories are untrue, I can get upset like all normal people. But I get over it.
THE KING AND I [With husband Leon Lai Ming], it's more about being the wife of someone I truly love [than being the wife of a pop star]. The side to him that many people see is not the real him. I didn't grow up in Hong Kong, so when I was young I didn't know much about him. When I met him, it was the other side to him that I got to know. Of course, yeah, I married a famous pop star, but that came a lot later. It's not easy to balance work and family, but it can be done. For example, when he woke up this morning, I had already prepared breakfast - I knew what my husband would like to eat. My helper helped me finish up everything I had planned. I've already told her what's for dinner and she is doing all the marinating and prep work. So when I finish today's modelling job, I'll go home and do the cooking. That's a balance right there. I try to cook as much as possible. Leon loves eating - we're both foodies. In five years, I'll probably be even chubbier. Still eating, cooking and becoming a wonderful chef. Probably having kids. We'll try one [before planning for another]. It doesn't matter whether it's a son or daughter, I just want him or her to be healthy and happy.
COOKING GOOD I grow my own papayas, mangos, tomatoes and chillies, and I have a herb garden at our house in Sheung Shui. Herbs are very important for cooking but not so easy to buy, so I grow my own. I harvested about 60 mangos this season and gave some to colleagues. I learned to cook when I had to travel alone for modelling jobs. My signature dish is lamb rack. Cooking is therapy for me, along with good wine and a long bath. I always spend holidays with my family and the festivities are never without food.
TRINKETS AND TREASURES See this gold necklace? I love it so much that I wear it all the time. It's a tiny, delicate key pendant with a fine gold chain - very versatile. To me, fashion is about trying new things and having fun with clothes. But I try to stick to my character. I'm not too into prints or florals - I'm more into solid colours and textures. I'd say my style is 'rock chic'. Also, I never leave home without my iPhone. I need it for the games. I'm loving the Words with Friends app. I'm addicted to it. I play with 30 friends from Hong Kong and America, so there's always someone online.
WORTH THE WEIGHT When I was a runway model, I worked hard to keep fit. But now I do more commercial endorsements, I can afford to eat. I was at least 10 pounds skinnier when I did runway shows. I was younger, I was always working and I barely had time to eat. I eat chips and burgers these days, but it's all about portion size and how often you eat them. I love eating but tell myself, 'Gaile, you don't have to eat them all today. There's always another day.'