I Am Generation T: Celina Jade
November 11, 2018 | BY Melissa Twigg
The actress, model, singer, martial artist and star of the highest-grossing Chinese film ever talks ambitions, inspirations and her desire to be an Asian lead in a Hollywood box office smash
If you see yourself as one of life’s overachievers, then you obviously haven’t met Celina Jade. One of Hong Kong’s foremost actresses—perched on the edge of major stardom, with a slew of box office hits looming—she also has a pre-fame CV to make you weep. Fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English, she released a number one single at just 15 years old and later graduated from the London School of Economics with a first-class degree.
For such a talented performer, it’s no surprise that Jade’s acting career is going from strength to strength. Internationally, she is best known for her role as Shado (and Mei) in the television series Arrow. In Hong Kong and mainland China, however, she has already reached mega-fame levels after starring in the 2017 blockbuster Wolf Warrior 2, the highest-grossing Chinese movie of all time—and one that was selected for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. She also stars in this year’s big-budget Chinese comedy, Hello, Mrs Money, as well as director Cao Baoping’s forthcoming Perfect Blue, alongside Fan Bingbing.
What was your biggest professional ‘ah-ha’ moment?
When I was 15 years old, I was signed to a Japanese producer called Tetsuya Komuro. I was still in school because my father put me on a contract that said I had to finish my education. Although, once my first CD came out and was successful, the Hong Kong company wanted me to quit school. It was a difficult choice because my dream was always to become a singer. So, I asked myself one question—‘am I becoming someone I admire?’ And I realised the answer was ‘no’. As a result, I let that go and pursued an education in economics and management. I realised that not having an education meant I wouldn’t understand the business behind music—and that would never make me happy.
Where do you seek inspiration?
I go to an ashram each year. I think everyone has an inner voice and that it knows the answer to your problems—you might not know where you’re going but your heart does. It’s essential to find that voice, whether it’s through meditation, chanting or, for some people, going for a run or climbing a mountain.
What is your ultimate professional ambition?
When people tell me I’m a star, my response is to say that when we see stars, they’re often already dead. And my name, Celina, actually means the moon—the moon itself doesn’t have its own light but it reflects the light of the sun. My ultimate goal is to reflect the light of other people through the roles that I play because I tell other people’s stories and then make connections with a wider audience.
What are the habits of successful people?
Honestly, waking up early. And exercising. Also, learning from other people while knowing when to listen to your own heart. A lot of people say that in order to be happy, they need to be successful or rich. But what they’re not thinking about is everything they need to sacrifice to get there. Successful people are willing to make the sacrifice.
See also: I am Generation T: Keshia Hannam
What do you think will be the next disrupter in your industry?
When Hollywood uses an Asian actor or actress as their lead—and [the movie] does extremely well in the box office.
Do you want to be that lead?
What is going to make that happen?
The economics. Everything is about money, unfortunately. The reason why there are so many comic book movies coming out is that they do well in the box office. Today, the US box office market is going down, which means international sales are becoming more important than domestic sales. This creates an audience crying out for diverse roles and actors—we want to see movies that reflect the real world. It’s inevitable. A beautiful inevitability!
See also: I am Generation T: Vince Lim
If you could talk to 15-year-old Celina, what would you say?
I would probably say trust in yourself—have faith. Don’t try to be someone else because no-one can be a better version of you than yourself.
What are a few things every aspiring female leader or actress needs to be armed with to succeed?
Humility, perseverance, respect. And I would say the same for men. I believe in the equality of opportunities between men and women, but I think that men and women are different and it’s important to respect and appreciate the difference between us.
What’s something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I love cooking. There are two sides to me—I do martial arts and I can come across as quite masculine, which means many people see me as like a power woman. But I’m actually kind of feminine too. I love to cook and I’m a real homebody, even though I’m very extroverted. I’m a walking contradiction.
See all 50 of the game-changing young talents on the Generation T List 2018.
Photography: Callaghan Walsh | Styling: Christie Simpson | Outfits: Theory
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