Jul 19, 2012|
I was born in Shanghai and moved to Hong Kong with my family when I was three years old. I basically grew up in Hong Kong. In 1995, I won Elite Model Look, which was the first major model contest in Hong Kong. For me, it was kind of like overnight fame.
Then I started to work and study at the same time. My major in university was accounting. I moved to New York right after I finished my studies to become an international model. I was based in New York, and worked in Paris, London, Sydney and Tokyo regularly.
I remember the longest that I had to work. I was filming a movie at the same time [as I was] modeling. It was my first movie, “Yesterday You, Yesterday Me.” So basically I had [to work] 48 hours non-stop, it was like: fashion show, movie, fashion show, shootings, school. It was crazy.
When I started modeling, [I was] very, very young, and my priority was always work, work, work. You don’t care about weekends or after hours—when there’s a job, you work.
When I moved to New York, I kind of changed my perspective. In New York, everybody only works Mondays to Fridays; nobody works on weekends. I was booked for a big campaign for Brooks Brothers and our quota was five days. New York is nine to five only, so from 7am to 9am and 5pm to 9pm it was considered overtime, so we got double-paid on those hours. And then they also sent a car to pick us up. It was just so different.
I also started to become a columnist in 1996 for Wen Wei Po, a major Chinese government newspaper. Gradually I started writing for magazines—Cosmopolitan, Elle [in Hong Kong].
Six, seven years ago, I started to be a regular [food] columnist at the Hong Kong Economic Times and also at U Magazine. For those few years, I had been very actively involved in food.
There was a TV program on TVB called “Beautiful Cooking” [in 2006] where they invited models, celebrities, singers—people who you don’t think can cook—and they put you on the spot, they gave you ingredients, and you had to cook it in 20 minutes [against competitors]. I was lucky enough that I came in second [place] in that program.
It was great fun. During that competition, a lot of people were really shocked—OMG, Vanessa Yeung can cook? The judges commented that my food was very tasty, very delicious, so that kind of made me feel really good about myself.
I’m fortunate that I don’t have that attitude, like, “I’m a supermodel in Hong Kong.” Whenever I live in New York or model in Paris, even when I go to 10, 20 castings a day and don’t get anything, that’s just normal.
People consider me a multimedia artist. If I could only choose one [profession], right now of course I would say writer.
I always look up to people who work hard and dedicate [themselves] to their dreams. I’m a big fan of K-pop. There’s this group called Big Bang and the leader is G-Dragon. He’s such a talented musician, but very hardworking. When I see people like that I always feel inspired to work harder.
I think right now out in the market there are two major categories of cookbooks. One is those created by Michelin-starred, world-renowned chefs that probably are really thick. Maybe half the dishes in the cookbook are very complicated, beautiful to look at, but difficult for an amateur cook to try to remake. The other type I would say are [for the masses], with dishes that you might not find very interesting to cook or look at.
About three years ago, I was hoping to find something easy enough to make but also interesting enough to make people want to go into the kitchen. I came up with the idea to go around the world to interview all the great chefs and ask for two simple recipes. Altogether I actually met 45 chefs, [with my book, “For Two in 32 Minutes,” featuring 26 of them]. I’m already planning a sequel.
I still find [what I studied] useful. In the future maybe I’ll have a really tiny store, a newsstand or stationery store, but whatever it is you still need to know how to read your balance sheet, look at your PNLs [profits and losses].
Yeung’s book is available in all major bookstores. Also find her at the Hong Kong Book Fair on July 22 from 2:30-3:15pm for a book-sharing session, and at Times Square’s Page One on July 28 at 3pm for a book signing.