The outpouring of emotion and respect from fans towards Hong Kong icon Lydia Sum Tin-ha (also known as Lydia Shum) certainly attests to her enduring popularity and place in the hearts of local audiences. Judging from the past two weeks since her passing, it seems some of that humility and homespun connection may have rubbed off on her daughter Joyce Cheng Yan-yee. The Vancouver-raised 20-year-old has endured more than her share of hard knocks since returning to Hong Kong, trying to follow her mother's footsteps into the entertainment field. Like any privileged child of a celebrity, she could easily have become a spoiled brat with an over-coddled sense of entitlement. Actually, she was like that for a while, photographed by the tabloid drinking and partying in Lan Kwai Fong when she wasn't riding her mother's long coat-tails. Not surprisingly, the public impression was that she barely had to work as her mother would ensure this neophyte, barely literate in Cantonese, a career in the industry. It didn't help that Cheng was also an obese child which made her the butt of many unflattering words in the media. When she dressed like Snow White to sing on a TVB variety show some years ago, people actually wrote to the Broadcasting Authority to complain that she was not pretty enough to be on TV. Yes, that was overly harsh, and also a very big reality check for someone just out of her teens. But mummy's little girl managed to lose the excess weight - and chronicled it all in a book. Kudos to her for the effort, but it did seem to be a self-indulgent bit of publishing vanity. However, as her mother's health gradually declined, Cheng steadily grew in maturity in her manner and composure. What made so many people take Sum to heart was her generosity. She was known never to be aloof from fans and her reputation for helping fellow performers was widely acknowledged. Maybe some of that decency has now passed to her daughter. Since Sum's death on February 19, Cheng has carried herself with more composure and dignity than most adult celebrities twice her age. It's an ironic coincidence that at the same time a bunch of shallow young stars disgraced themselves in one of the most sordid episodes of Hong Kong's entertainment scene, a sad personal tragedy was a catalyst for one young woman to emerge with self respect, esteem and honorable modesty. 'I will be good,' Cheng tearfully pledged the day after her mother's death. 'I will try my best to be a responsible woman.' To many, that little pledge demonstrated far more personal accountability than a contrived and scripted semi-confession such as: 'I was naive and stupid.' At 27, the Twins' Gillian Chung Yan-tung was still trying to sell herself with an innocent, virginal image when the photo scandal broke. Other than that confession, when have you ever heard her say anything serious or meaningful? I know who I think is a more mature person. You could almost see the resolute strength in Cheng during Sum's televised memorial last Sunday. Her father, actor Adam Cheng Siu-chow, divorced 'Fei-fei' to be with another woman when their daughter was just nine months old. This is partly why some of Sum's old friends were hostile to Chow even at the service. When he turned to his daughter and asked for permission to explain his absence, it was as if they switched roles: Joyce played the protecting adult, defending her father when the audience started heckling him. In a short time, this spoiled object of ridicule has come a long way. Obviously, she can no longer be a pampered princess and she knows it. In Sunday's service booklet, she wrote, 'I used to cringe and become fairly embarrassed whenever people said I was like my mother. But I've come to realise that if I could hold just a slight resemblance to mum, and if I could be just a sliver of her greatness, I'd be more than satisfied.' It's hard not to feel something for her. The question is: will the public's sympathy just be temporary? Cheng's big dream is to be a singer and she was working on a debut recording before Sum took ill. After winning over so many Hong Kong people, the temptation is to strike while the iron is hot. Let's see now if she can maintain this dignified behaviour.