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Source: the star online
By MICHAEL CHEANG
From beauty queen to Hong Kong starlet, Bernice Liu has done pretty well for herself.
SHE initially set out to learn Mandarin as a second language but in 2001, Bernice Liu went from an unassuming undergraduate to being voted one of the most beautiful Chinese women in the world.
The leggy 29-year-old first entered the spotlight when she won the Miss Chinese International crown in 2001. She subsequently entered the Hong Kong entertainment industry with a role in long-running TVB series Virtues of Harmony (Gai Dai Fun Hei). Since then, Liu (known as Liu Pik Yee in Cantonese) has been one of the top-earning TVB artistes of the year thanks to her various endorsement deals.
Recently, she was in Malaysia as an ambassador for fashion label Voir.
“I'm honoured to be chosen to represent the label. I think the reason they chose me was because through my characters, I represent the modern woman in being casual, working in the office and being glamorous as well,” she said during a one-on-one interview in Kuala Lumpur recently. Liu was born and raised in Prince Rupert, Canada, which is a small town near the border to Alaska, where there were only 200 Chinese people.
“The town's history is only about 100 years old – my great uncle was born there and the aquatic centre was named after him!” she said with a laugh.
It was while studying at the University of Vancouver that she practically stumbled into the entertainment industry.
“At first I was studying in a science programme but I opted for a marketing and finance course later. Unfortunately, I did not have a second language that was needed to fulfil the criteria for an international business degree,” she recalled.
Although Liu subsequently enrolled herself for Mandarin lessons, she didn't have enough time to fulfil the full credit of the course before her big oral exam for the international business degree. Her classmates then told her to submerge herself in the language at the TV station where everyone spoke Chinese.
There, she was subsequently invited to join the Miss Chinese Vancouver pageant and the rest is history.
“Initially, I joined the Vancouver pageant just for fun but I didn't know I actually had to go on to the Miss Chinese International pageant in Hong Kong as well!” she said. “But I'm glad I did – it was the experience of a lifetime for me, meeting so many girls from all over the world and travelling to Hong Kong.”
After winning the pageant, Liu jumped at the chance to get into the Hong Kong entertainment industry, beginning with Virtues of Harmony in which she played the character “Princess” (a nickname that has subsequently stuck with her throughout her career). She then went on to star in other popular TVB dramas such as Steps, Loving Bond, and Healing Hands III; as well as films like My Wife is 18 in 2002 and My Dream Girl in 2003. She's even dabbled in a little singing as well, mostly performing tracks from the soundtracks of her shows.
Liu said her career has been fortunately smooth so far.
“I think I've been quite lucky with the path I took – I've been able to stay healthy, do something I enjoy and every year I get to try something new such as singing, dancing or a whole new character,” she said.
The reception of Hong Kong's audience towards her has also been crucial in her development as an artiste.
“Even though I was still considered an overseas Chinese, the Hong Kong audience was very open about me. When TVB cast me in Virtues of Harmony, they were not sure if it would work. However, the audience reception towards me was good and they gave me many chances because they understood how hard it was for me.”
Though she is now fluent in speaking Cantonese, not being able to speak the dialect at all was also a problem for her at first. Thankfully, her cast and crew of Virtues of Harmony came up with an ingenious plan to force her into learning it quickly.
“Every time I spoke a word of English in the studio they would fine me HK$10! You learn Chinese very quickly when you have to buy supper for everyone almost every day!” she said with a laugh.
She feels that her five pet dogs have helped her stay grounded in an industry that often leaves an artiste with his or her head in the clouds.
“This industry can be overwhelming sometimes. People will keep praising you, and sometimes when you get your head in the clouds you tend to stay there,” she said. “But when I go home, I have to pick up the dog' faeces and clean up after them. That really brings you back down to earth!” she laughed.
“I think it's important to go home to something you can relate to. I don't have a maid at home – I do my own laundry, shower the dogs and do everything on my own. Doing chores makes me feel normal and it is something my parents taught us since we were little.
“When I have my children, I want them to do chores as well, because it'll make them spend more time at home with the family.”
Speaking of family, having her father around her almost all the time has also played a huge role in keeping her “normal”.
“I think having my dad by my side has made it a lot easier for me to cope. If there is anything I don't understand, if I have any problems, he is the one I always go to. Our relationship has also gotten a lot closer because of this move as well,” she said, adding that her mother in turn has to do all the travelling, visiting her in Hong Kong as well as her four siblings in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Beijing.
As for her future, Liu is currently filming period drama The Greatness of a Hero, which is the most traditional Chinese period role she has ever taken on.
“The drama is set in the Tang Dynasty and the dialogue is very old-styled and poetic as well. That is the hardest part for me because I can't read or write the language, and my father has to help me translate the scripts into ‘pin yin' (phonetics) everyday,” she said.
She is also looking to finally finishing her long-delayed undergraduate degree one day.
“I have a 10-year extension on my course but it's already been six years, and I'm trying to transfer my degree to Hong Kong or look for another option,” she said. “I really want to finish and get my undergraduate degree. I also think that a good education is really important. It's an intelligent decision made for the future – when I get tired of the industry or just want to get away, at least I know I have something to fall back on.”
Edited by hippokathy88, 04 May 2008 - 09:25 PM.
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