Mary Jane is a small Causeway Bay lounge bar decorated with kitsch wallpaper and furnished with cosy armchairs. To get to it, you must take a creaking lift to the second floor of a run-down residential block, cross dirty mosaic tiles in a starkly lit foyer, follow a brick-lined corridor and wrestle open a heavy wooden door. On this Friday afternoon, Mary Jane's clientele consists of several young couples, who are unperturbed by the arrival of a camera crew. It is an unlikely place to find a scion of Hong Kong high society. Josie Ho Chiu-yee, 31, daughter of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun, has spent most of her life trying to hide from the flashbulbs of the media. To say she has a love-hate relationship with the press would be an understatement. But, the person who once made headlines by throwing hot coffee and a string of expletives at reporters, is now having to court those same adversaries to promote a movie and an album. It has been a whirlwind day for Ho, with numerous appearances on radio and television - and she's promised her family she'll be home for a Mid-Autumn Festival dinner. Far from being curt, however, once she has returned from a quick trip to the bathroom to refresh her make-up, Ho's demeanour is warm and courteous. 'Would you like to start with a drink?' It turns out Ho is an investor in Mary Jane, one of several 'hideouts' she keeps in which to relax with friends, and the drink she is offering is of the health smoothie variety. 'I need some places where I can just have conversations and meetings,' she says. 'I really can't go anywhere in Hong Kong without someone following me. They know my licence plate.' Unlike her father, who travels with an entourage of at least three - bodyguards and assistants - in his Rolls-Royce Phantom, Ho claims she is trying to live a 'regular' life. But isn't choosing a high-profile career - as a singer and actress - asking for trouble? 'All I want is for people to appreciate my craft,' she says. 'I have thought about leaving Hong Kong and I have the courage to do that; to live somewhere else and just come back to work. But this is my home. I don't want to give up this place for the tabloids. [The paparazzi] know I am easily provoked and they push me to do things, and they have succeeded. They pushed me to do something really stupid. Photographers bang their cameras on my windshield just to get me upset.' It was a relief then for Ho, the female lead in Johnnie To Kei-fung's new movie, Exiled, to experience a different kind of celebrity at the Venice and Toronto film festivals. Ho walked the red carpet and met journalists who knew or cared little of her family's background. Although neither Ho nor Exiled came home with any awards, she feels the film was a breakthrough for her. 'I've always been a big fan of Johnnie To. I was so happy to do this even though I didn't get to read a script [beforehand],' she says. 'We had a briefing and I was trying so hard to ask him about the movie, but the brief he gave me was one word: survive.' The film, touted as the sequel to To's 2000 work The Mission, is a gangster movie with a heart. Starring alongside Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Francis Ng Chun-yu, Lam Suet and Nick Cheung Ka-fai, Ho plays the long-suffering wife of ill-fated Cheung, a triad member from Macau with a contract on his head. Cheung's character dies early in the movie, so Ho's role required her to act alone and distressed. 'There was so much pressure because we were not working with a script,' Ho says. 'On the first day, To just asked me to walk back and forth across a room. I was like, 'That's it?', and he just told me to keep walking.' The film was shot in chronological order, which helped Ho find some grounding in her character. 'Sooner or later I [began trying] not to calculate too much and just to do my best. I was just thinking about 'surviving'. To is someone that if you are doing OK, he won't say anything, so I was able to slide some of my own interpretations of the part in there.' Ho's accomplished co-stars gave her confidence. 'We treated each other like family. I was like a sister.' As in her previous movies - such as Butterfly, Purple Storm and the 20-minute short Tai Tai - Ho wanted to experiment in Exiled. 'Julianne Moore is my favourite actress and her choice of roles has been amazing. I want to be like her in my career path, in doing so many varied things,' she says. 'I think I've had a real hit-and-miss career to get where I am now.' Since starring in Ching Wing-keung's Victory in 1994, Ho's acting career has stuttered. 'When I first started, my parents told me the most important things are to follow directions, respect my bosses and be obedient,' she says. 'I did that and it was getting me nowhere. I was trying to do everything I was told to do, blindly following orders.' Her rich-girl image didn't help. 'The family thing just wasn't working in my favour. People always thought that I didn't need the money so it was alright to fail. They'd ask me, 'Gosh, you are so rich, why don't you just create your own projects and hire your own director?'' she says. 'But inside, I couldn't care less about [the status of] my family. I was always the black sheep anyway and I wasn't interested in the family business or anything. I couldn't just have a normal, mainstream career. I was very angry and uptight.' Branded a rebel, the press had a field day when Ho cast herself as a crotch-thrusting, trash-talking rocker, especially when she joined forces with hip-hop collective LMF in 2001. It was her marriage two years ago, to celebrity Conroy Chan Chi-chung, that finally gave Ho the grounding she needed. 'I look tough on the outside but I am actually very weak inside, like my character in Butterfly.' In the 2004 film, Ho plays Flavia, a closeted lesbian whose surface life as a happily married teacher belies inner torment. 'I tend to sway a lot and my husband is like my guardian. He's very philosophical and he's taught me to lighten up. It's just been so balancing,' she says. 'It doesn't help that sometimes he gets fiery with the press when they are following us around, but sometimes the two of us will just chill in our home with the dogs [she has seven], where I will not even get dressed - or wash my face or brush my teeth.' Fans of Josie Ho the pop star will be relieved to learn that music hasn't taken a back seat to her acting. As Exiled hits Hong Kong screens, Hell's Kitchen, Ho's latest album, is being racked by the city's record stores. Produced by Paul Wong Kwun-chung, guitarist with local rock gods Beyond, Hell's Kitchen is so named 'because basically that's my life'. When asked whether she has visited the rough, blue-collar New York district of the same name, the answer is no. 'Hell's Kitchen is more of a concept. It kind of represents the chaos that my life is sometimes. I feel like more of a 'desperate housewife' to be honest,' says Ho. And which Desperate Housewives character does she most identify with? 'Lynette, for sure. She's the one who's trying to balance everything: family and working life. 'Film is my craft but music is where I get to express myself. I was involved with the writing of the lyrics; I wanted the music to tell my story.' Originally, Ho had wanted Hell's Kitchen to be a hard-rock album, but Wong suggested she tone it down. 'He said, 'Why not make it pop rock instead, because it gives more people a chance to listen to you?'' That seems to sum it up as far as Ho is concerned. All she wants is to be heard and seen, if possible on her own terms. When it comes time for the photo shoot, Ho soon seduces the camera, following the photographer's directions to a T. She is casually dressed in a jumpsuit and ankle boots, but there is something about her deep-set eyes that gives her more depth than you would expect from a spoilt little rich girl who wants to be a star for fun. Ho says her short-term plans include spending some time with her family and paying 'for a recent shopping spree at D-Mop'. 'I just went to buy a lot of clothes and now I have to go back to the store and pay for them,' she says. 'I love to shop, I especially like [Greek designer] Sophia Kokosalaki.' It may be an indulgence that reflects her privileged life (only top customers can walk out of a boutique without paying for the merchandise upfront), but that's who Ho is. 'I used to be uptight and stiff but I am just trying to live life on my own terms. When I need to get away from it all, I go hiking in the mountains.' Hear the interview in full at technology.scmp.com/techmain/podcasting.html.