Lawrence Osborne was in town this month to discuss the portrayal of Hong Kong and Macau in French and British literature at the Asia Society - ironic, as these are two cities the nomadic British-born travel writer hasn't lived in. The Cambridge- and Harvard-educated wanderer has jobbed as a journalist in Mexico, searched for fossils in the Morrocan desert and spent two years "barely surviving" working menial jobs in New York. His greatest success has been as author of the novel The Forgiven , while his Volcano was featured in the anthology The Best American Short Stories , alongside a work by fellow-Ivy Leaguer Julie Otsuka … The Japanese-American writer studied fine art at Yale and Columbia but, having neglected painting to read books in cafes, in 2002, she proceeded to write one herself. When the Emperor was Divine was inspired by, but not based on, her family's internment during the second world war - they talked "very little" about it, she says. In 1971, the family left Japan and nine-year-old Julie moved to the affluent area of Palos Verdes in California. That year, 4,000km away, a future sports star was born. Seven years later, his family would also move to Palos Verdes. The warm climate allowed the longer practice hours that would eventually make a legend out of Pete Sampras … In 2005, Tennis Magazine named Sampras the greatest player of the game since 1965. The Grand Slammer was the youngest man to win the US Open, defeating Andre Agassi aged 19. His bullet-like serve earned him the nickname Pistol Pete, which inspired one rising rap star, whose lyrics "Serve like Sampras, play fake rappers like a campus" featured on his 1996 track Can't Knock The Hustle . By this time, Shawn Corey Carter was already known as Jay-Z … A knack for both verse and business has made Jay-Z a powerful figure. He campaigned for Barack Obama's re-election and apparently still gets the odd friendly text from the United States president. Jay-Z claims he has no designs on the Oval Office - "politics is too much about the perception of perfection. And I'm not perfect" - but some perhaps feel he should. In 2012, civil rights activist Harry Belafonte accused Jay-Z and his wife, Beyoncé, of "turning their back on social responsibility". Jay-Z replied with a scathing verse in his single Nickels and Dimes . But the final word on the feud was a diplomatic "both [are] right" from mutual friend and fellow powerhouse entertainer Oprah Winfrey … The richest African-American of the 20th century, Winfrey had a particularly harsh childhood. Raised by her housemaid single mother, she lived with her grandmother until she was six and apparently wore dresses made out of potato sacks. Now a world famous celebrity, her unique chat show style led The Wall Street Journal to coin a new word: Oprahfication - meaning public confession as a form of therapy. In 2009, another rags-to-riches personality shared a spot with Winfrey on Time magazine's "heroes and icons" list: Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao … A phenomenon with a lore-like trail of championship victories, Pacquiao has been establishing himself in the more (physically) restrained arena of politics. In 2010, he scored a landslide victory against a political stalwart to become a congressman. In 2011, he graced the cover of Newsweek magazine (Philippines and Latin America editions), under the headline, "Boxer. Godfather. Politician. Can Manny Pacquiao Do Everything?" The report inside was written by British author and journalist Lawrence Osborne.