Juno Mak Is Hong Kong's Anti-Social Icon
The celebrity has grown from a Cantopop idol to independent artist, singer, filmmaker and designer.
I was born in Hong Kong. I moved to Vancouver when I was in second grade, then came back when I was in sixth grade. When I was 16 years old, I joined an exchange program in Shanghai. One day I was singing karaoke with classmates and someone took a video. The video was forwarded around my classmates, someone’s relative saw it, and then I got an offer.
I signed a contract with Universal Music as a singer. I lived in Japan for a year, and learned to dance from my master Sam [of legendary Japanese pop group TRF]. I came back in 2002, at the age of 18. Universal Music is such a big company. There are many different departments and strategies for artists. They designed a fixed image for me, such as a standard hairstyle.
I couldn’t be my real self. It was exhausting. I left the company two years later, and started working on music that I liked. I grew up in the world of words and stories. What they were showing in the cinemas is very different from now, when we have 30 new movies every week. So I was heavily influenced by the music in films. It was planted deeply in my heart.
That’s why many think my music is very cinematic. It’s from my childhood. Every time I start working on a song, I do it just because the subject attracts me. I gain a lot of satisfaction and happiness from the process. I never think of the result. The so-called “commercial” or “alternative” labels are always judged by audiences. How audiences categorize my song, whether it is commercial or alternative, is something out of my control.
Screenwriter, songwriter, film producer—these are just titles. To me they are all the same, with the same nature: to create. I cannot control what other people call me. To work creatively is what I’m addicted to.
I am a quiet person. I never watch news. I have a television at home, but I don’t have an antenna cable. I just plug in a Blu-ray player, and watch movies I like. I love reading all kinds of fiction. Real life events are of no interest to me.
Being trendy is a short-term thing. Being timeless is what I look for. When I write a song, I’m not worried about whether it has a hook or is appealing at a particular moment in time. I’m not after this moment. I want it to be a song which I still like after tens of thousands of loops, or after 10 years. Nothing in this world can last forever.
I’m preparing for my next movie. I can’t work anywhere but at home, and I absolutely enjoy being alone. I’m afraid of noisy crowds. You could say I’m an anti-social icon. My communication and social skills are horribly lacking. I rarely talk to others.
There are two types of people in this world: those who like you, and those who don’t. If you want to do something you believe in, you have to take risks. Many people in showbiz set their goals to achieve success, or to be popular. Happiness comes from achieving your dreams. Being successful and famous is just a bonus.
A version of this article appears in the November 27, 2015 issue of HK Magazine as First Person.