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April 4, 2010

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Timeless HK beauty now a charity queen

IT'S a sunny afternoon in Shanghai's early spring. The interview with "the most beautiful Miss Hong Kong" in history, Loletta Chu Lo, was at Fountain Cafe in Xintiandi, a perfect combination of modern and old Shanghai, and it enhanced Chu's perennial allure.

Chu was sitting on a sofa on the second floor wearing a casual, camel color leather jacket, her makeup perfect.

Time has been kind to the celebrated Hong Kong beauty who still looks as pretty as 33 years ago when she won the title "1977 Miss Hong Kong and Miss Photogenic."

"I am always well-prepared for the camera," said Chu with a smile befitting a young girl. It's hard to image that she was born in 1960 and is a mother of three adult sons.

Born into a Cantonese family in Myanma, Chu was a part-time model when she entered the beauty pageant and won the title, instantly propelling her into the glamorous life of a celebrity.

The win provided an entree into Hong Kong's frenetic entertainment business but, unlike others before and after her, Chu only featured in one TV series as a leading actress.

What made her better-known to Hong Kong people was her marriage to Timothy Tsun-Ting Fok, the eldest son of business tycoon Henry Fok, ranked 181 among "The World's Richest People" in 2006.

Timothy Fok is a member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, representing the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication functional constituency.

Chu was only 18 when she wed the 32-year-old Fok, a union that ended after 27 years in 2005. Three years later, she married the exceedingly wealthy Hong Kong businessman Vincent Lo Hong Shui, who has a raft of successful investments in property, including Shanghai's trendy Xintiandi arts and entertainment precinct.

While the public is more than curious and perhaps envious about Chu being able to marry two rich husbands, the only topics she is interested in talking about are her charity works and her healthy lifestyle.

Chu was visiting Shanghai recently for her first solo charity photo exhibition, "Beautiful Nature. Blessed Sight," in support of "Seeing is Believing," a global fund-raising campaign sponsored by the Standard Chartered Private Bank.

Forty of her photos will be exhibited at South Block Piazza in Xintiandi from April 6 to 18.

An auction of her work got underway in February when 40 of Chu's photographs were offered in a silent bidding process.

Potential buyers were subsequently invited to a private auction dinner on March 1 in Hong Kong.

The event raised HK$7.76 million (US$999,275) to treat preventable blindness.

The auction was a hive of excitement, with one piece entitled "Mutual Attraction" selling for HK$1 million, far exceeding its modest HK$38,000 reserve.

"The theme of my photography this time is flowers. A photograph entitled 'Spring Bliss' is of Shanghai's city flower, the magnolia and it's particularly for Shanghai," she said.

Chu has been shooting photos for almost 16 years.

"I have studied photography under the tutorage of Mr Chan Shiu Man since 1994," she said and her photographic talent seems to extend far beyond her short screen career.

As an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS) in the UK, she was awarded third place in the "Top 10 Worldwide, Nature Print Exhibitors - Photographic Society of America (PSA)" in 2001.

Her works have also been exhibited a couple of times at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum - in 2001 for the "Vision Beyond - Hong Kong Art Photography 1900-2000;" The Society of Worldwide Ethnic Chinese Photographers "Tradition and Innovation" and "The Rhythm of Emotion" in Hong Kong in 2004 and in Shanghai in 2006; the World Wildlife Fund Hong Kong's "Mai Po - Hong Kong's Living Treasure" in 2005; Wai Yin Association's "Wai Yin 25th Anniversary Arts and Crafts Exhibition" in 2007; and the Chan Shiu Man Photographic Alumni "Annual Exhibition" 1995.

Her passion for photography is obvious as during the interview she talks with our photographer about professional cameras as her hair stylist sets to work for the "shoot."

"I photograph all subjects, from flowers, landscapes and travel to theaters, villages and sports events," she said, her eyes sparkling as her favorite hobby takes over the conversation.

This visit Chu is helping others with her photography and all income is being donated to help the blind.

"Nature is so beautiful and I always appreciate having healthy eyes to see it. I want to help the blind see again, to change their future."

Since being crowned Miss Hong Kong in 1977, Chu has never been stopped being involved with charities. She donated her photos to benefit women's health care in Hong Kong in 2007 and Sichuan earthquake victims in 2008.

She calls her participation in charity events as "charity works," but doesn't call it a "charity career."

"I feel strongly that life and nature are fragile," she said. "I am happy if I can help, it's a blessing to give. If I have the ability to encourage the public to contribute, it's the best way to make use of my title."

Chu has her own definition of a successful woman. "There are two important aspects, one is in public life and the other is private family life," she said.

Chu is devoted to being a good wife and a good mother. "Accompanying my husband is my most important work at this moment," she said.

In public life, she takes her social responsibilities seriously and charity work is one of them.

"I am doing my best to keep them in balance. Keeping healthy and active both physically and mentally is the only secret to staying young forever," she said.

With more than 30 years in the celebrity spotlight as Miss Hong Kong, as an actress, or a member of a celebrity rich family, Chu is practiced in front of the camera and in public functions.

"I am always prepared to face the camera and I expect that, but only on public occasions," Chu said. In private life, she doesn't want to be disturbed by reporters and gossips. "Sometimes I am impatient but it's the price you pay as a celebrity," she said.

Chu has been a regular visitor to Shanghai in recent years due to her husband's business.

"I follow him flying here and there. When he attends business meetings, I go out with my camera and take pictures," she said. "I am enjoying my life."

Taking photos everywhere, keeping fit and attending various charity events, Chu has got her ideal lifestyle in balance. She is anticipating being in Shanghai for the looming World Expo.

"I will definitely visit often with my husband. It's a good chance ss to open your mind and interact with people from so many international countries," she said.Celebrated former beauty queen Loletta Chu has spent all her adult life in the public eye thanks to her pageant win and marrying two wealthy husbands. But she uses her fame to assist others through supporting various charitable causes, Nie Xin reports.


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