Gloria Yip Prefers an Education to a Husband
The actor-turned-artist left the entertainment industry in the 90s, but has found herself back in the spotlight.
I was born in Hong Kong in the 70s. I joined the entertainment industry when I was 13. Back then there really were talent scouts on the streets, looking for people for commercials. I started as a model in commercials. I wasn’t planning to get into showbiz—it was all a coincidence. I did a lot of commercials. Some movie producers saw them and thought I was suitable. My family didn’t like it at first. They would accompany me to the shoots. But they were open to me trying things I like as long as it didn’t affect my studies. I decided I should at least finish my cert level exams [at age 17] to get a “complete” education.
My manager was also quite strict with me. He didn’t let me have a cell phone or credit card, because he didn’t want me to be spoiled at such a young age. Even when airlines offered me first class seats, he would say “just business class is good enough.” You can get bad influences from every industry, so it’s not like showbiz is more complicated than others. For a young girl, her own personality is very important—if she’s going to turn bad, she’ll turn bad. I was in showbiz for eight years, and I spent a lot of time overseas. I did movies in Hong Kong, but I also did a lot of promotion tours and developed my singing career in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. I would spend just three or four days a month in Hong Kong.
“My character was a housewife who didn’t know much about anything. Many people thought that was me.”
I left the business because I thought it wasn’t suitable for me. I didn’t know that when I was still young: I just thought it was a lot of fun. But when I really devoted myself to the job, I realized that it didn’t fit my personality. I also wasn’t very close to anyone in the business because most of them were a lot older than me. I didn’t really think I belonged in the industry. I thought about going back to school, but in the end I decided to get married.
Looking back now, I don’t think marriage is such an important thing. Maybe back in the day, people would think that two people need marriage as a commitment to maintain their relationship. But does the marriage system still work now? I have reservations about that. Everyone should make his or her own choice and should not be judged. I’d always wanted to study more and I decided to go back to school [after my marriage]. I think graduating from university was like completing a step. And I also wanted to educate my kids by using myself as a good example.
I got a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in fine arts. I’ve always loved the arts. I returned to the limelight after graduating because an opportunity arose—there was this TV drama [2014’s “Never Dance Alone”] and many of the actors in it were my friends, so I thought, why not? I wasn’t trying to get back into the industry at all. My character was a housewife who didn’t know much about anything. Many people thought that was me. That’s why people have reacted so strongly when they see me actively participating in society.
Take for example my yellow ribbon initiative during the Occupy Central movement [Yip encouraged people to tie yellow ribbons all around Hong Kong], I saw it as a community and interactive art initiative to bring the entire movement to the next level. Many people were surprised that even a “housewife” could do such thing, but that’s not true. I see myself as an artist and this is what I do. I used to be a movie star, but I’m not any more. I can have other roles in society. The thing is, the Gloria Yip people know is reported by the media: They don’t know the real me.
Most of my artworks are about feminism. There’s been more about feminism in society in recent years, so I think that it’s time to have a solo exhibition and present my art. Asia is still a male-dominated society, but Hong Kong is already a better place for women. Public figures have a social responsibility: Saying something one time can have the effect of others saying it 100 times—especially when it comes to the ridiculous things happening in our society.