Inkstone
    Apr
    02
    2018
    Apr
    02
    2018
    A Hong Kong gay icon, remembered
    A Hong Kong gay icon, remembered
    ARTS

    A Hong Kong gay icon, remembered

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    by
    Vivian Chen
    Vivian Chen
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    It was 15 years ago on April 1, 2003, that Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, one of the brightest stars in Hong Kong entertainment, died. He was 46.

    Cheung enjoyed great success as a pop star, starting out as a teen idol in the 1980s. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Cantopop.

    He later also took on film roles, building up a notable career and a fruitful partnership with auteur director Wong Kar-wai. 

    Openly bisexual, Cheung was and remains an icon for Hong Kong and China’s gay community.

    Singer Leslie Cheung during his days as a heart-throb to teenage fans.
    Singer Leslie Cheung during his days as a heart-throb to teenage fans. Photo: SCMP
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    His role as one half of a turbulent gay couple in Wong’s 1997 film Happy Together helped to foster dialogue about homosexuality in Hong Kong and Chinese society.

    Cheung is best known internationally for his award-winning performance in Chen Kaige’s 1993 film Farewell My Concubine, set during the middle of the last century. The film focuses on the lives of two men performing in a Peking opera troupe and the woman who comes between them.

    The actor won the 1994 Japan Film Critics Society Award as best actor for his performance, and the film won the 1993 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in France.  

    In later years Cheung suffered from severe depression, and he committed suicide by leaping from the 24th floor of Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental hotel.

    Today, Cheung is still loved and remembered by hundreds of thousands of his fans around the world.

    The archives of the South China Morning Post contains rare black-and-white photographs taken of the star during his early days, before his struggles became so apparent to the world. 

    1. A future star starts to shine

    Cheung first entered show business after placing second in the Asian Amateur Singing Contest in May 1977.

    A 20-year-old Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing holds up his trophy after winning first-runner-up the 1977 Asian Amateur Singing Contest. He sung Don McLean’s ‘American Pie.’
    A 20-year-old Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing holds up his trophy after winning first-runner-up the 1977 Asian Amateur Singing Contest. He sung Don McLean’s ‘American Pie.’ Photo: Robin Lam Kit

    2. King of the stage

    Cheung was a chart-topping singer, holding records in Japan and Korea. 

    Leslie Cheung during one of his early concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
    Leslie Cheung during one of his early concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Photo: Peter Tse
    Singer Leslie Cheung dressed in a Chinese costume during one of his early concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
    Singer Leslie Cheung dressed in a Chinese costume during one of his early concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum. Photo: Peter Tse
    Leslie Cheung performs during a concert.
    Leslie Cheung performs during a concert. Photo: SCMP

    3. Celebrity friends 

    Cheung counted celebrities such as singer Anita Mui, actress Teresa Mo and stylist Eddie Lau as his friends. 

    Jackie Chan (right) holds aloft his action direction award at the eighth Hong Kong Film Awards in April 1989 as Leslie Cheung looks on.
    Jackie Chan (right) holds aloft his action direction award at the eighth Hong Kong Film Awards in April 1989 as Leslie Cheung looks on. Photo: SCMP
    Leslie Cheung (left) with fellow singer Alan Tam Wing-lun in January 1986, when they were Hong Kong’s two most popular Cantopop stars.
    Leslie Cheung (left) with fellow singer Alan Tam Wing-lun in January 1986, when they were Hong Kong’s two most popular Cantopop stars. Photo: SCMP

    4. Pop and film idol

    Cheung starred in seminal Hong Kong films including John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986), and Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990) and Ashes of Time (1994). 

    Leslie Cheung performs at an annual 30-Hour Famine hunger awareness charity concert in Hong Kong.
    Leslie Cheung performs at an annual 30-Hour Famine hunger awareness charity concert in Hong Kong. Photo: Robin Lam
    Pop singer Leslie Cheung poses for a publicity photograph.
    Pop singer Leslie Cheung poses for a publicity photograph. Photo: SCMP

    5. ...and a style icon, too

    Cheung took part in several world-tour concerts, including his flamboyant, gender-bending Passion Tour in 2000, in which he wore outfits created by French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. 

    Pop idol Leslie Cheung receives a gift from a fan during a concert.
    Pop idol Leslie Cheung receives a gift from a fan during a concert. Photo: Chu Ming-hoi
    Leslie Cheung dances with a microphone stand during a 1988 concert.
    Leslie Cheung dances with a microphone stand during a 1988 concert. Photo: Chu Ming-hoi
    Leslie Cheung sings during the Miss Chinese International Pageant in 1988.
    Leslie Cheung sings during the Miss Chinese International Pageant in 1988. Photo: SCMP
    VIVIAN CHEN
    VIVIAN CHEN
    Vivian is a contributor to Inkstone. She is the Deputy Editor of STYLE Magazine at the South China Morning Post.

    VIVIAN CHEN
    VIVIAN CHEN
    Vivian is a contributor to Inkstone. She is the Deputy Editor of STYLE Magazine at the South China Morning Post.

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