The Name to Know: Josie Ho

With deep roots in music with her rock band Josie Ho & the Uni Boys, as well film as a respected actress for over two decades, multi-hyphenated artist Josie Ho is still keeping her fans guessing. Here, the Hong Kong-based singer-actress reveals who she looks up to, her latest film projects, and tips for travelers checking out her hometown.

As a Chinese actress, musician, and producer, how do you rise above stereotypes in Hollywood, as well as the music industry?

“As a Chinese actress, musician plus producer, my secret is absolutely ‘No Secret’.  I just work hard and wait for a good role; or a wonderful song that my band composes.  Since I’ve been acting since ’94, what I do seems so natural.  I give credit to having started early and having good mentors.  One time in the mid ’90s I almost left the industry because my record company’s A n R told me that I, ‘couldn’t sing for shit.’  My contract got discontinued, and that really brought two years of unhappy days for me.  Fortunately, I met my friends who are in a metal rap group called LMF (Lazymuthfuckas) and I also met my husband who told me to ignore these big labels and start my own indie Hard Rock band. 

Who were your biggest influences growing up?

“My biggest music influences when I was young were Madonna, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Blondie, Cindy Lauper and Depeche Mode, along with Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung plus numero divas.  I used to hang out with our Hong Kong divas, underage clubbing.  They taught me tons of performing tricks and essentials. In Hong Kong, singers will act in movies–Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung were excellent in performing both on stage and in movies. They treated me like a little sister and invited me on set.  As a result, I had lots of opportunities to sing at lots of private parties.  I was discovered by Jackie Chan and Johnathan Lee from Rock Records who started my singing career. I feel it’s only natural for the crafts of acting and singing to overlap with each other.  In the ’80s and early ’90s, these singer-actors shot nine films in the same period of time, then they would go on tour–they were able to separate work from their own lifestyle.”

You recently worked with academy award-winner Roger Avary on Lucky Day. What drew you to the role and how was your experience shooting the film?

“Regarding the role in Lucky Day, I thought it was one of my best performances yet in a Western film. I thank Roger [Avary] for giving me the opportunity to play such a wicked personality; I’ve always wanted to try these comedic roles of playing high society people.  I was born in the limelight, so I had such pleasure to play those adults in my young years and got such a kick out of it.  I guess deep down in my heart, I really wanted to make fun of high society people since I was little–you know how we all like to mimic people that we find fascinating! But to answer your question as to what and why I was drawn by Roger–the answer is: it’s just Roger Avary!  I had such fun on set.”

You’ll currently filiming Rajah alongside Jonathan Rhys Meyers. What can you reveal about the film?

“It’s such an honour for me to work with a spontaneous actor like Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Rajah.  I don’t know how much I can tell you about the story, but Rajah means a top chief of counselor or a Leader in Sarawak, Malaysia. The film is about the first Rajah from England and is a true story about this legendary person “James Brooke.”  I got to play his ex-girlfriend who’s also a female warlord from Guangzhou in the year 1825.  It’s my first time in an epic period piece, so I tried to be very careful with my character’s behavior. I hope you all enjoy this film; the cinematography is beautifully done.  We’ve got a very meticulous director who has also shot one of Madonna’s music videos.  Again, I’m proud to participate.”

Lastly, as a Hong Kong native, do you have any travel tips for anyone travelling there for the first time?

“If you like shopping, stores are centralized in one mall or in three streets like Bond Street or Sloan Street.  If you are a sight-seeing person, you must go to The Peak of Hong Kong side in summer, autumn or winter and ride on the peak tram from Central.  You need to save two to three days to deal with sight-seeing around Lama Island, check out The Big Buddha, and travel around Macau.  Mui Wor has some wild animals – if you find an expert to teach you waterfall climbing, you will see some rare huge butterflies or spiders.  Last of all, FOOD!  Whether it’s Hong Kong or Macau, we have cuisine from all around the globe and the local cuisine is very good too.”

Photography by Mia