None of them started off with ambitions to be influencers – but their undeniable talents and star power propelled them into the social media sphere. #legend100 influencers HILARY FAN, YVETTE KONG, JUSTINE LEE, IRISA WONG and ZELIA ZHONG share what influence means to them as they model the newest Louis Vuitton Capucines x Fornasetti collection
Despite growing up in the public eye as the daughter of supermodel Janet Ma and renowned actor Michael Wong, Irisa Wong commits to staying true to herself with an authentic, down-to-earth approach to life.
Often reflected on Instagram, Wong subverts the stereotypes of being an influencer and confesses, “I don’t really consider myself one!” she laughs. “It’s such a gray area now, in my opinion.” On her feed, you’ll find the inside scoop of her day-to-day shenanigans featuring friends, her adorable dog Johnston, and what she gets up to in her downtime.
Although she has followed in her mother’s footsteps as a budding model, Wong admits that she’d never considered it when she was younger. “As a pretty shy person, I don’t like to be the centre of attention and constantly thrust in front of the camera.” Being brought up in the spotlight can come with heavy criticism, but Wong says that she remains unaffected, having established her own personal style and persona in the industry long ago. “I feel like I’m my own person so I don’t take it too seriously,” she explains.
When it comes to style, Irisa says, “I always choose comfort over looks” — as proven by the relaxed sweater and biker shorts outfit that Wong has worn to our shoot today. Citing the late Princess Diana as one of her style icons, it’s clear where her current ensemble takes its inspiration from.
Besides being an influencer, Wong is eager to spread her wings and explore other areas of the industry, possibly venturing into acting. “I would love to be on a Netflix show,” she says enthusiastically while hinting at a move to Los Angeles and possibly starting her own brand one day. We can’t wait to see what she gets up to next.
A swimmer from a young age, Yvette Kong has battled the fierce nature of competitive sports, as well as her own demons, throughout her journey. Although she may seem superhuman in the pool, she recognises that she is simply a normal human being at the end of every race.
“The first time I dreamt of competing at the Olympics was when I was seven, while watching the Sydney Olympics on TV. So, it feels like I’m completing a full circle now.” Kong is referring to her fellow Hong Kong Olympians participating at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. “Sometimes, a full circle can also signal a full stop,” she continues, having accepted her newfound path to encourage athletes like herself to be more vulnerable and fight for the resources that are quintessential for their personal growth and development.
Advocating for a variety of causes ranging from youth empowerment through sports to issues surrounding the stigmatisation of mental health – particularly in Asian cultures – Kong beams with pride as she talks about being a founding member of mental health charity, Mind Hong Kong.
“One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it made people pause, stop and think about what really mattered to them. They understood the importance of mental health better and so, in that light, I think it was a good wake up call,” she says. Having established a platform that actively encouraged individuals to voice their concerns years before the pandemic struck, Kong aims to leverage the situation to be able to acquire more information as well as resources that could benefit society as a whole.
“I think that employing a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset is something that sports as a whole can effectively teach children,” she explains, since some of the most challenging moments of her career have risen from within. Following her own failures and setbacks, Kong has now found the strength to recognise the gravity of her mental health issues. “Having the courage to open up to people and being vulnerable was the first step of my comeback”, she shares, crediting her newfound strength to her altered mindset.
The Olympic swimmer’s inspiration may come off as a bit of a surprise but nonetheless, quite accurately reflects her iron-willed nature, both in her competitive and day-to-day life. “My ultimate #legend would be Wonder Woman – she embodies a good mix of strength and compassion.”
Arriving to our photo shoot right on time, Justine Lee looks ready to go with a coffee in one hand and a large tote bag in the other. Calm, cool and composed in a sleek, all-black jumpsuit, Lee’s impeccable taste in fashion transpired from a young age, when she would flip through her mother’s magazines for inspiration. Over time, her passion for fashion turned into a well-established career as a fashion stylist.
Lee studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York, one of the major fashion capitals of the world. “Growing up in Hong Kong was great but being immersed into the fashion scene in New York was definitely different,” she says. “It allowed me to be on the ground gaining hands-on, valuable experience at all times, such as at New York Fashion Week, for example.”
As the former Fashion Director of a lifestyle publication, Lee is used to styling photo shoots and members of the city’s elite. “What led me to start my own Instagram was documenting things behind the scenes, whether they were first-hand clips of on shoots or from Fashion Week,” she says. “I love dressing up and I’d just photograph that too. So, influencing was quite organic.It was just a way for me to show people a glimpse behind the scenes.”
When traditional media began to go digital, it proved to be quite the challenge for the stylist. “We were constantly searching for a balance, trying to work on how to leverage what you have in print and make it relevant in digital because images and many other aspects don’t directly convert on the website and social media,” she explains. And with the pandemic throwing the fashion industry into a loop – especially with no traveling for a year – Lee is still adjusting. “I’m a bit of a homebody so I don’t miss travelling as much, but watching shows on digital platforms is just not the same.”
Now a highly sought-after stylist and influencer in Hong Kong, Lee has this piece of advice for newcomers to the industry: “No one starts immediately at the top so it’s all about learning on the go and not being afraid to ask questions or for help as you move forward.” Looking to the future, Lee laughs as she says, “I’m a very easy-going person – I like to go with the flow, so we’ll see!” Watch out for a few upcoming collaborations, including an Italian boot drop with Ilio Smeraldo lined up for next month.
As the daughter of former Hong Kong actress Anna Ueyama and with over 57k followers on Instagram, Hilary Fan is surprisingly shy for being a model and influencer. She explains why influencing for her has been entirely unintentional, saying, “Within myself, I knew that if I took on more projects, I would definitely gain more attention but I don’t think it came from a place of already wanting to be an influencer specifically.”
Even today, Fan struggles with certain aspects of influencing that go hand-in-hand with the job. “Sometimes, you never really know just how much to share on social media,” she says. “I would definitely want to raise awareness about going green and sustainability, whether fashion- or environmentally-related, but I’m still trying to figure out what the middle ground is.”
Busy working on a diverse range of collaborations, Fan has turned to different hobbies and activities to help her destress. “Yoga and high-intensity workouts help me a lot, especially when I have a lot on my mind or if I’m feeling stressed out for no reason,” she says. “Since I prefer being outdoors, kayaking and hiking are a few activities that help me destress and feel more energised.”
“Amidst all the lows, the one thing that makes me the happiest has been spending time with friends and family,” says Fan. “Due to the pandemic, I’ve been able to catch up with those who were usually jetting off every few weeks because they’re grounded in Hong Kong now. What’s next? Fan plans to continue to pursue what makes her happy, using her social media platforms to her utmost advantage. With a potential personal project underway, she says, “I look forward to being able to work with my friends in the future – that is the ultimate dream collaboration for me.”
Walking into our photo shoot in a monochrome suit jacket and pants combo, Zelia Zhong is incredibly chic, stylish and professional. This is no surprise, given that the model has over a decade of experience under her belt. Now with over 292k followers on Instagram, Zelia Zhong is ready to take a different step in her career by making an appearance in the film industry later this year.
A natural in front of the camera, the ever accommodating Zelia asks, “Shall I do one more set of new poses, so we can have more options to choose from?” She was born and raised in China, so adapting to Cantonese has been a huge struggle – though it hasn’t stopped her from taking on new challenges such as acting. Recognising that you need to take risks to succeed, she says, “I don’t define success easily, because I don’t want to restrain myself from improving. You have to always experience the breakdown before the build-up.”
Besides being in front of the camera, Zhong reveals that she also loves to go behind the lens. Having once shot singer Shiga Lin for her album cover and concert poster, she says, “I’m not a professional, but I am passionate about capturing people’s emotions, just like how I enjoy listening to people’s stories.”
She adds, “The better your understanding of emotions are, the more convincingly you can portray the characters.” When it comes to acting, which Zhong hopes to do much more in the coming years, the model-turned-actress offered a few tips: “When you read a line from the script, think of four to five different ways to say it. Acting is not a mechanical movement, it requires wisdom, knowledge and daily practices of observation.”
CREDITS Photography / The Buffacow Styling / Daniel Cheung Wardrobe / Louis Vuitton Handbags / Capucines x Fornasetti collaboration Text / Kamakshi Gupta and Carlotta Traverso