Q&A: Vinci Wong on LGBT Equality and chairing Hong Kong’s foremost charity

October 12, 2017

I had to interview Hong Kong celebrity Vinci Wong at Kerry Hotel this month, but I couldn’t include a lot of what he said in the actual article that got published. So here’s a post on some of his more candid stories.

If you didn’t already know, Vinci Wong is a former TVB star, founder and chairman of 3 Kings Holdings Ltd and incoming chairman of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals charity.

Vinci Wong at Kerry Hotel, Photo by Neville Lee

What vision do you have for Tung Wah as its chairman going forward?

This charity organization has been nearly 150 years in Hong Kong; everything is so well established that you can’t change a lot of things, but you can add some new ideas. The first thing I want to do is try to make younger people understand what we’re doing. I want to change people’s perception of this organization. Many people think ‘Oh Tung Wah, it’s so old fashioned. Only old people would run this organization.’

Some may be quite surprised that I joined in the first place, but although I look young I’m not that young [laughs], so maybe it’s good timing for me. There have been a lot of people in the past who have actually been chairman in their twenties.

Since I came from the media and entertainment industry, a lot of people in Hong Kong maybe still know me, so hopefully that gives me some influence to make the everyday Hong Konger understand this organization more.

In the past when I was young, I would see the annual charity gala show on TV and think negatively: ‘The people on here just want to make themselves famous, wear nice clothes, be seen on TV donating a lot of money.” It’s not a good image. Since I joined the organization I’ve realised it’s not just about donating money, it’s also about giving time and effort to manage the money that not only you but the people around you donated.

Even better than donating the money, you can decide what to do with it to help others… like revamping schools and hospitals. We launched a lot of apps to supplement our services; for the elderly we are teaching them how to use the app to call for helpers to come. We also have the food and beverage service for elderly at home. If they want cleaners they can book through the app.

When you married your partner of 7 years, Kevin Chow, in Vancouver last year – congratulations by the way! – it made the headlines in Hong Kong as the first same sex marriage in the local entertainment industry. How did people react to the wedding?

It wasn’t an event we had long planned for. It was actually ad hoc. Last year when we thought of having a wedding we just had 2, 3 months for preparation. I didn’t tell a lot of people, we didn’t think that much, we just wanted to get married.

It just so happend that last summer our families were in Vancouver, weather was great and I had free time. We planned it on such short notice; we didn’t get to tell our friends, so in the end only 50 people including our family and close friends and some relatives, showed up at the wedding and dinner.

So were people back home surprised?

I really had a feeling that people would accept our marriage… Kevin is someone I’ve known for seven years already. I always went to public events with him. He may not be under the spotlight, but my friends and the media all knew him.

Maybe getting married itself was a surprise, but the fact that I’m gay and that I’ve had a boyfriend for quite some time – with whom I have a good relationship – it’s not something new. We just took everything a step further, I’ve given people a lot of time to accept all of this.

After 13 years at TVB, you left to join your family business. But your personal life changed as well, right?

When I was still working with TVB and emceeing, I had no relationship at all, never. I had no chance to meet someone suitable. In the old days, we had no dating apps. It was so hard especially for a gay to meet another gay unless you get introduced by your friends. Otherwise how would you know that someone is gay on the street?!

I didn’t think of it too much when I was active on screen. When I left TVB, I wanted to change my lifestyle because I didn’t want to wait ’till it was too late to try new things. So I went clubbing and met a lot of new friends. First I went to straight clubs like Volar and dragon-i [laughs]. And then I got to know gay friends who brought me to Propaganda, it closed down now, but it was the most famous gay club then.

I started going to gay bars and started getting to know a lot of gay friends. I felt more comfortable being with them since I didn’t need to pretend or hide, I could just be myself. I started falling in love with different people since I was meeting a lot more gays. I made a lot of mistakes, it was a lot of trial and error… I went crazy for 2 years.

Was that when you met Kevin?

The irony of life is, when you are very eager to meet someone, it never happens. if you’re dressing up well hoping to meet someone on a night out, your expectations are never met. I think the right person only appears when you least expect it.

I still remember the night I met Kevin, the second day of Chinese New Year 2009. I was with my other group of gay friends, a lot of people. We went to watch a movie and after the movie we went for drinks and clubbing.

 The irony of life is, when you are very eager to meet someone, it never happens.

I had a little quarrel with one of my friends in the group that night so I didn’t want to sit with them [laughs]. I went around on my own instead of sitting there drinking in a bad mood. I bumped into another friend from Macau – a hairdresser / stylist. He had brought his friends over for that holiday, and Kevin was among them.

Kevin and I were introduced then the rest of the night we were just talking and dancing together. It was love at first sight. Looking back, if I hadn’t had that squabble with my friend, I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to meet someone new!

Tell us more about Kevin.

He was born in Hong Kong but raised in Macau. When he was 13 or 15 he moved to LA and stayed in the states for 15 years without once coming back. He only returned that year because his mom got sick, so he was accompanying her to the doctor for her treatments.

Kevin’s mom got better and he decided to go back to LA for his green card. He was supposed to stay in the US. A few weeks before he went back to the States, he went to that party in Hong Kong and in the end decided to forgo his green card so we could be together. He ended up going back to LA, but only to pack his stuff – and then moved to Hong Kong for me.

That’s real love! How was it during the early days?

In the beginning Kevin didn’t know his way around here, he didn’t even know where Causeway Bay was [laughs]. For me it was easier, because he didn’t grow up watching TVB, he was separate from that culture. I didn’t have to deal with someone who already thought they knew me.

That’s nice, so you started very fresh. Let’s talk about your role in Hong Kong’s LGBT community. How do you see yourself helping to shape it?

I would forward my advocacy for equality in the different roles I hold. For example when I entered Tung Wah I had to handle a committee. One year I chaired the HR department because we have over 10,000 employees. There was a travel reward for loyal employees with tenure. If you’ve worked there for 10 years you can apply for a HK$20,000 travel reward. You can bring your immediate family with you like parents, siblings, or spouse. But where’s the space there for a gay partner? I said can they bring friends, and they said no but I said why not if they are happy? In the end what I meant by friend was same sex spouse and after a lot of meetings they finally changed it. So that’s what I’m talking about, making a difference in my own spheres whenever I can.

What are your hobbies?

Travel and eating. I eat anything from dai pai dong street hawker food to fine dining. I love going to new places and seeing different cultures. Getting away from Hong Kong – especially as sometimes it’s so busy and people so uptight – enables me to understand something new.

I like London a lot. I always think if I can stay in one place for the rest of my life without going anywhere else, it would be London. The city has great food, culture, history, fashion shows, arts… I’m not such an outdoor person, but Kevin loves activities. It’s good because we have such different characters, you’re not just facing a mirror at home. When we travel we do things to suit both me and him throughout the same trip.

Thank you!

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