23 October 2016
Louisa Mak is fighting back against her detractors after an unflattering response to a TVB documentary about student life in Cambridge University.  Photo:
Louisa Mak is fighting back against her detractors after an unflattering response to a TVB documentary about student life in Cambridge University. Photo:

Louisa Mak confronts a blessing and a curse

You would not expect anyone to use “L-shaped” to describe Louisa Mak, the reigning Miss Hong Kong.

But believe it or not, Hong Kong’s latest economic buzzword (remember the “authoritative figure” who used it to describe the Chinese economy?) is being attached to her.

It turns out Mak’s popularity has been experiencing an L-shaped trajectory.

It all began with a TV documentary about her college life in Cambridge University after being a straight-A student in Hong Kong.

In one episode, which aired recently on TVB, she asks: “So can you walk straight to Cambridge with 10 distinctions?”

Her own answer: “No way. You still have to work hard.”

Perfectly reasonable, even self-deprecating.

But when she begins to pepper her interview with references to how “prestigious” it is to be a Cambridge student and how one time she bumped into former Hong Kong governor Sir David Wilson, netizens moved in to deflate her airs.

A Starry Homecoming, a two-part series meant to be an uplifting depiction of the experiences of a young, wholesome, bright Hong Kong student in her time at a world-class university, came crashing down to earth.

And it may take a while before Mak’s popularity recovers after bouncing along the bottom. 

In all honesty, I enjoyed the series but I can’t say I was not irritated at times.

Audiences (myself included) can only fancy themselves being in a top college, let alone Cambridge.

Who doesn’t know Mak is a smart, 25-year-old woman who aced her public examinations?

Who doesn’t remember her the night she was crowned last year as Hong Kong’s best and brightest young woman, the epitome of beauty and brains?

But it was all too much for some people when she kept reminding them who she is and how good she was.

Her self-congratulatory tone did not help lift her stature because her quiet achievements — until she herself broadcast them — had already put her on a pedestal.

That she is that good and popular is both a blessing and a curse.

It was her name that gave her an early lead last summer in the Miss Hong Kong pageant because it quickly linked her to her academic exploits.

But people also liked her when she was more like them — average, vulnerable and down-to-earth.

In fact, many forgave her when she lost in this year’s Miss Chinese International Pageant where she failed to make it into the final five and some people questioned her qualification as a beauty queen.

In the Cambridge documentary, Mak hit a reputational low when she was secretly filmed being escorted out of the Spring Ball because she looked like an impostor.

The incident was reported by the student newspaper Tab.

That little gate-crashing episode was not shown in the series, only a smiling Cambridge Student Union president welcoming her to the ball reception.

Mak took to Facebook in her own defense, saying she does not want to be stereotyped.

“Perhaps I have a grudge and don’t want to conform,” Mak wrote.

“One does not have to be a professional after graduation. Miss Hong Kong can be a bit rude and absent-minded. A serious person can be zany. Trust me, I want more than anyone else to change the labels on me.”

She goes on…

“What if you pass a public exam with flying colors? You still need to work hard to get into university.

“What if you graduated from a top university? There are graduates from good schools who can’t find a job, much less afford a home.

“What if you won Miss Hong Kong? You still need to work.

“So what if all I do is keep fighting. We have to fulfil our potential, we have to dream and try to turn that dream into reality”.

Need I say more?

Is Miss Hong Kong the real deal? (March 8, 2016)

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EJ Insight writer

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