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Specializes in popular culture, gender, youth identities, global media and communication, cultural policy, and creative industries
Probably the only male professor at CUHK wearing makeup and donning a skirt
What is the social significance of making up and dressing up?
In an international city like Hong Kong, your outward appearance is as important as your abilities. Making up and dressing up is an integral part of one’s professional image, as well as a social etiquette which greatly contributes to image building and effective communication.
How did you first start to wear makeup?
I started to appear for TV shows from time to time since some 20 years ago. A professional makeup artist would help me put on makeup. I later decided that it would be better to take charge of my own image building than relying on someone else.
Why did you design your own clothes?
Ready-to-wear clothes generally do not fit well and are undesirable because they fail to convey the image and message I try to get across. For that reason, I sketch my own patterns, choose the fabrics, and have my clothes custom-made. If creativity is an essential element of communication studies, then fashion design is the vehicle for the expression of my creativity.
How do you communicate your ideas through fashion?
The first things to consider are the occasion and the context. Formal attire is required for administrative meetings, while a dose of exaggeration and inconformity is acceptable at cultural meetings. I once ordered a custom-made translucent suit suitable for formal occasions, and that was an acceptable departure from the norm. When I am teaching gender studies, I would wear skirt as a repudiation of gender stereotypes.
Have you ever been questioned about your sexual orientation on account of your appearance?
Yes, I am frequently asked by people I know well. Many strangers approach me, riveting their gaze on my clothing but are too timid to ask. Many people think that I am gay, but I am not annoyed by that. There should be more diversity and tolerance in our society. I would make use of people’s curiosity about my sexual orientation to initiate communication.
Did your parents have any gender-stereotypical expectations of you?
My parents never told me what a boy should or should not do. When I was small, I often helped out in the kitchen, and did grocery shopping and laundry. My dad gave me a great deal of freedom, and the only rules were going to bed early and no sleeping over at someone else’s home. Growing up in this environment, I learnt to contemplate what’s right and wrong at an early age, and take responsibility for my own actions. When it comes to parenting, isn’t the imparting of values more important than gender stereotyping?
Then how about your schooling?
I went to Wah Yan College for my secondary education. The Jesuit fathers were very open-minded. As long as you didn’t wander off the right path, you could pretty much do what you like. If you wanted to be absent from class, he wouldn’t reject your request outright. He would decide whether your reasons were justified or not, and encourage you to think independently. Therefore I was quite good at managing myself upon entry into university. I did not lose my self-control and descend into indulgence even when I enjoyed a lot more freedom all of a sudden.
How do your family see the way you dress up?
My wife, daughter, and I are all independent thinkers, and we respect one another. We don’t interfere and judge, but will only give constructive advice. After marriage, I moved into our new home with boxes of personal care items, which outnumbered my wife’s. She didn’t raise an eyebrow at all. Well, she’s also a journalism graduate. My daughter would take me to Sephora to check out its beauty products. She doesn’t have any stereotypes of what a dad should be, and I am quite proud of that.
This article was originally published in No. 523, Newsletter in Sep 2018.