Raven Tao isn’t your average model, actress, TV host and radio personality—she also has “real estate agent” and “law student” on her résumé. She tells Andrea Lo about being different from other kids, falling in love with real estate and being a geeky bookworm.
My mother is Chinese-Nepalese and my father is English-Polish. I went to the French school here, and spent summers in Canada. We moved to New Zealand in 1997 because my mother was a little worried. From there we moved to Australia.
It was pretty confusing when I was younger. Now I definitely identify the most with Hong Kong, because it is in itself so incredibly multicultural.
My best memory growing up here was visiting the [now defunct] Tiger Balm Garden. I remember it as a beautiful experience. You step into this different world that happens to exist in such a metropolitan city.
I seemed to have this weird knack of attracting wild animals. While out camping [in Canada], other kids would be doing social things and I would be alone. My sister and other people came back to me surrounded by chipmunks and birds.
When I was 12, my best friend made me promise to go into a model agency one day—because she thought I was pretty.
I thought she was crazy for doing so, because I looked like Mowgli. If you put a picture of me next to Mowgli, it was like cut and paste. My sister still calls me that.
I went to different agencies and got rejected by every one.
I came back to Hong Kong four days after my 18th birthday. Turns out I just needed this market.
It was a surprising success. I didn’t expect that because I’ve always been a geeky bookworm.
I started to work obsessively. It’s the Hong Kong way—but it’s also my family’s way. Busyness is never something that tires us out.
It makes Hong Kong a really good fit. If you can work really hard all the time, they love you.
At 18, when other people may be interested in partying, I just showed up to jobs and read books while working.
Nobody chooses to be a geeky bookworm. If you’re an inherently awkward person, then you just kinda stay that way.
Even now—sometimes people are standing around with drinks and things, and I don’t know what to do.
I was eager to explore and have adventures in different areas of media. I find challenges really fulfilling.
If someone wanted to put me in a martial arts movie, I’d be really up for it. I want to be a sneaky ninja.
When I was 12, I saw a little house on the side of the road in New Zealand. It looked like something out of a Roald Dahl book. I got my mom to pull up and it was a real estate agent’s. I thought I wanted to follow that path, so I could see beautiful homes and interiors.
I started writing a blog called “Big City Small Apartment.” I wrote about Hong Kong streets and areas that were cute and different.
Through doing this blog, I was asked to be an ambassador and agent for Engel & Völkers, the luxury real estate agency.
I love the Chinese idea of family. The idea of being able to find people safe, beautiful places for their family makes me really happy.
I like the legal part of it as well. In modeling, I was doing my own contracts when I was 19. I’m studying for a law certificate at HKU.
I think a lot of things depend on perception. My relaxing happens to look to other people like being productive.
Someone might call relaxation having a beer at a pub. I don’t drink, so for me, that would be stresful and boring. I relax by writing my blog—I get to look at pretty pictures.
A lot of people [party and take drugs] for different reasons. Some people do it just to try it, because of peer pressure or because they’re lonely or stressed. I didn’t have any reasons to do them.
It’s not to say I haven’t tried—I figured I would try them since other people seem to find them so interesting. They’re not quite for me.
Sometimes I wish I was more like other people, but all we can do is accept what we are like and be the best that we are. That can be a little bit tough sometimes.
I envy people who can go out, drink, stay out late and be the life of the party—I’m really not that person. It’s not that I wish I was, but I love people who are.
People are either happily and confidently how they are, or slightly uncomfortable and insecure. The happiest people are just the people that, whatever they are, they’re just that.
A light bulb is a light bulb, a chair is a chair. A light bulb that wants to be a chair is gonna be an unhappy light bulb. But we all want great light bulbs.
You want the nice, glowy, yellow ones that make your house really warm. They’re the best.
I’m very much a big believer in just following what is truest to you, because your path will wrap around you.
I would never have had all those animals come to me if I had followed the kids. I would have been annoyed and miserable while going for a hike, or whatever they were doing.
Staying true to what makes you happy will lead you places you’re meant to go. Whatever you’re good at, you’ll get better at it—because there’s no limit to how good you can get at anything.