Navigating the world of romance is scary, exhilarating, risky and wonderful. Just ask social activists and engaged couple Kayla Wong and Elaine Chen-Fernandez
In the fast-paced, swipe-happy world of dating today, making and maintaining genuine romantic connections can be a tough hill to climb. Now throw in the fact that you have famous parents, are not inclined toward a heteronormative relationship and live in the traditionally conservative society of Hong Kong, and the hill becomes that much steeper.
But not too steep for Kayla Wong and Elaine Chen-Fernandez to conquer. The daughter of supermodel Janet Ma and American-Chinese actor Michael Wong first met the granddaughter of Hang Lung Group co-founder Thomas Chen at a sustainable fashion event – “I felt comfortable very quickly; I remember thinking ‘I can’t believe I’m opening up so much to a person in such a short amount of time!’” Wong recalls – and got engaged in September 2020. Now they’re using their position in the public eye to promote love, acceptance and equal rights for all.
“Representation matters; seeing people who you can relate to makes a difference and gives you a confidence boost,” says Wong, who has spent her life in the limelight and has become accustomed to the constant pressure and judgement that comes with it. “I put our relationship out there so people can see that it’s normal and not something we need to hide.”
Joining us on set for their #legend digital cover shoot, Wong and Chen-Fernandez are indeed love personified. Chen-Fernandez is nervous, new to being in front of the camera having spent over a decade as a professional photographer. “I was like, ‘Wow! But why me?’” she recalls of being asked to appear on the cover. “The fact that we’re able to be on a Valentine’s Day cover in Hong Kong, in Asia, is a sign that we’re moving forward, and we’re able to embrace different types of relationships and different types of love.”
For Wong and Chen-Fernandez, the message is simple: do what you want, love whom you want. Despite kicking up their heels in Hogan’s Rebel Society sneakers, which champion rebellion, the couple sees being in a same-sex relationship as a sign of authenticity and a celebration of their true selves. “I’m going to be me, no matter what,” Chen-Fernandez says. “I’m not going to apologise for being me.”
As well as drawing attention to LGBTQIA+ issues, both women run business ventures that are community-based and eco-friendly. Chen-Fernandez’s The Wild Lot is an experimental space for Hong Kong’s creative community to share ideas, make connections and promote their work. Wong, meanwhile, founded sustainable fashion brand Basics for Basics to encourage a more ethical, low-waste lifestyle.
Together they’re hoping to encourage others to pursue their dreams and celebrate love in whatever form it takes. “I don’t feel the need to hide and if I can help young people going through the coming out process, then I will,” Wong says. After all, it led her to Chen-Fernandez and a proposal that changed the couple’s lives forever.
“Elaine is not very good at surprises, but it was really heartfelt,” she says, smiling. “Nothing extravagant, very personal and intimate. Just her and I, middle of the night, very quiet, everything around us at peace.”