The award-winning actress who gave Asia's richest man three grandsons is making a Hong Kong comeback through theatre, saying motherhood has matured her acting skills.
Isabella Leong Lok-sze, former girlfriend of Li Ka-shing's youngest son and PCCW chairman Richard Li Tzar-kai, will star in stage comedy Sign of Happiness following a near six-year hiatus from local show business.
And her former partner had no role in her professional life, the 25-year-old said. "[He] does not stop me from doing anything," she told reporters yesterday. "Now I'm an independent girl. Acting is very important to me."
Leong was named best actress at the Fantasporto film festival in Portugal for her role in Isabella in 2006. She reportedly met Richard Li in 2008 on the set of The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor through Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng, a co-star of the Hollywood blockbuster.
Despite the age difference - Leong was 20 and Li was 41 at the time - they became a couple, giving birth to their first child Ethan Li Cheung-chi in 2009. Twin sons were born the next year and were known to the media only as N. Li and H. Li. They split up in 2011.
Leong did not reappear in showbiz until last year, when she took on a role as a painter in Sylvia Chang's feature film Nian Nian in Taiwan.
Sign of Happiness is written and directed by comedian Jim Chim Sui-man, who was Leong's acting coach when she was 15. It tells the story of a speech and language therapist played by Chim, who strives to enrich the life of a lonely deaf-mute girl played by Leong. "I'm more mature because of my experience as a mother," she said. "There are more layers and texture in my emotions now."
Her director concurred, saying the rich life experience she had undergone as a mother of three at the age of 25 had raised her potential as an actress. "This is the kind of actress whom all directors are after," Chim said.
Leong said she had no plans to relocate from Canada to Hong Kong and had not been in a relationship for a while. "I have three little boyfriends and they keep me very busy," she said. "In the past, romantic relationships mattered most. But now I want to focus on my career. I have other film projects coming up and I hope to go on tour for this show."
Sign of Happiness will run from May 30 to June 2 at the Grand Theatre of the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui.