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Digital cover: State of Grace
April 28, 2021
Ever since she burst on the scene as Miss Hong Kong 2013, Grace Chan has faced her fair share of fans and detractors. The actress, TV host, entrepreneur and mother talks to Natasha Gillespie-Wong about living her truth under the glare of the spotlight
From beauty pageant winner to TV host, actress, entrepreneur and mother, Grace Chan has explored many aspects of her character over the years. But trying on a more masculine silhouette for her #legend cover shoot made her apprehensive at first. “I’m used to being girly,” she admits, laughing. True to form, however, Chan soon found her stride and posed effortlessly in Breitling’s classic timepieces.
Indeed, the Hong Kong-born and Canadian-raised talent has gotten where she is through a deep understanding of what’s important, what motivates her and how to take haters with a pinch of salt. Chan’s first taste of the limelight came in 2013, when she realised a childhood dream of entering – and then winning – the Miss Hong Kong pageant. Seeing pageants as a “platform for originality”, she went on to earn the title of Miss Chinese International 2014, the first person to hold both titles in 14 years.
Being catapulted into the public eye wasn’t as easy as Chan may have made it appear. “Pageants helped with my confidence on stage, but I would also say it had the reverse effect at times,” she says. “When you’re in that environment and in the spotlight, people are not only observing but also scrutinising your every move.”
And the beauty queen was not the only one in her circle under the microscope. In the whirlwind after winning Miss Hong Kong, the media began hounding her family and friends. “I didn’t realise that winning Miss Hong Kong would affect my family as much as it did,” she says. “As an individual, my stress was my responsibility, but the media like to propel your family into the spotlight too as a way to get more info on who you are, your upbringing, how much money your parents earn – everything.”
Little did Chan know that this would only increase the onslaught of unsolicited feedback about her subsequent performances. “It was tough,” she admits. “I didn’t really have any prior acting experience. I don’t blame others for saying that I might have acted poorly, because looking back I do think that there were areas where I could definitely improve.”
Learning to deal with the newfound attention, Chan valued the constructive criticism but was taken aback by the amount of hate she received. “As strong as anybody is, it can get overwhelming,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s positive thinking or just being realistic, but you can’t avoid criticism, no matter where you go. Everybody always has an opinion, so at the end of the day, you have to understand why you’re receiving that criticism. Is there truth behind it? Or is it just people being mean-spirited?
“Once you’re able to make that distinction, you’ll learn to question what you can do to avoid further criticism. Speak with your actions. That’s what I did.”
Despite the hurdles, acting is something Chan chose to invest her time in and it’s obviously paid off with her receiving multiple nominations for favourite TVB Actress and favourite TVB Female TV Character.
When it comes to awards, however, Chan is nonchalant. “I feel like everybody deserves an award,” she explains. “I know that’s not realistic, but acting is so subjective. I could watch a film and think it was amazing, but then you could think it was rubbish.”
Ever gracious, Chan praises her husband, Hong Kong-American actor and singer Kevin Cheng, for his unwavering support. “My husband has always been so straightforward and stayed true to who he is, but I please people in order to gain confidence in myself,” she says. “He’s always reminding me to just be Grace.”
Taking a break from acting after the birth of her first son in early 2019, Chan embarked on another new adventure – that of an entrepreneur. Capitalising on a gap in the market, she founded Snow Queen, a beauty brand specialising in cotton facial pads, alongside Hong Kong beauty influencer Sharon Yung. Even with the pandemic hindering production in Taiwan, Chan remains undeterred.
“[Starting a business] was definitely a jump for me,” she says. “But my business partner is great and has really guided me. I think having my face on this product was a good way to let people know that this is what I’m trying out now.”
Chan, who emigrated to Canada at the age of five, is also hosting a parenting show alongside TVB stalwart Mimi Lo and Hong Kong Film Awards Best Supporting Actress nominee Candice Yu. “I grew up in a more Western culture, so I wasn’t following Hong Kong culture quite as much,” she explains. “I’m so impressed by my co-hosts; I don’t want to do anything that makes people who have been in the business longer feel disrespected.”
Even as she navigates so many diverse projects, Chan’s feet remain firmly on the ground. “Criticism definitely helps keep you grounded,” she says, smiling. The self-proclaimed perfectionist, fiercely protective mother and stickler for good manners is a firm believer in spontaneity and letting what may be, be.
“I’m definitely a spontaneous person,” she says. “It’s important to be able to judge things in a very straightforward way. Sometimes I don’t make the right decisions and then they come back to bite me, but that’s how you learn.”
Indeed, life is a journey and at 29 years old Chan is still learning her way. Now a mother of two after welcoming son Yannick in July last year, she says, “Sometimes I want to go home and just, you know, not talk to anyone for a couple of hours.” So relatable. And that, perhaps more than anything else, is Chan’s most endearing quality.
Photographer & Videographer / Gordon Lund
Creative Director / Gordon Lam
Artist / Grace Chan
Styling / Alex Loong
Photographer assistant / Peter Ng
Videographer Assistant / Eddie Chan
Production assistant / Sui Wui Li
Lighting operator / Brian Choi
Make-Up / Henry Li
Hair / Sue Cheung
Special thanks to:
Location: Bertie Cigar Lounge
Location: The Beau Barbershop
Location: Breitling Entertainment Building