Youtuber Hana Tam Hang-lam was vlogging with her newly-purchased handheld gimbal camera. “Look at the SCMP office ... it’s humongous,” she exclaims. “And now I gotta do an interview. Bye for now!” She waves goodbye into the camera and turns towards Young Post. “I’m ready, fire away.”
With over 350,000 subscribers and 44 million accumulated views, Tam is one of the most successful Youtubers in Hong Kong. She is most known for her beauty tutorials; teaching us how to put on make-up for a “I’m Finally Dating look” or get creative with “Chinese New Year Eyes”. In a video for a “Sadness From Inside Out look”, Tam paints her face blue and gloomily recommends using waterproof eyeliner because Sadness cries so much.
“I just can’t stand being bored,” says the 26-year-old. “There’s no point in doing a video that’s already done, so I try to put my own spin on things.” One of the reasons Tam’s videos are so popular is because she’s not afraid to goof around and be silly. She’s comfortable being on camera without make-up, and sometimes speaks with her mouth full. Best of all, she offers a lot of handy tips she discovered through research or from her own experiences.
“Recently I discovered how to get a nice curve when you push you hair to one side. Some people’s hair just falls flat. But if you push it the other way first and blow-dry the roots before pushing it back, you get this amazing curve,” she says. “I found out about this while blow-drying my hair. I don’t know why. I could be wrong. But I just share how I do it.”
It’s no surprise that she has so many tricks up her sleeve. At the tender age of three she was already playing around with her mother’s lipsticks, and by the time she was six she pleading for heels. “My older sister is a bit of a tomboy, so my mother would spoil me,” she recalls.
Part of being a vlogger means getting hate comments. Tam has been criticised all over, called ugly, and even had her family insulted. But Tam says not a single one of them has gotten to her. “I’ve never cared about what other people think of me,” she shrugs. “Maybe I’m just cold-blooded!”
As a student, she liked messing around. She and her classmates would hide forbidden items such as phones, perfume and cigarettes on top of the ceiling fan in the classroom, wreaking havoc whenever it was turned on. She would also sneak into the disciplinary teacher’s office after school to “take back what was mine”. She never took her studies seriously, or thought much about her future.
That changed when she was 16, and her father died following an illness. For the first time, Tam realised she had to be responsible and help take care of her mother. After completing Form Five, she worked for a year as a Calvin Klein underwear salesperson before fulfilling her mother’s wishes of studying in the United States. While abroad, she saw that both TVB and ATV were accepting applications to their singing contests, and at her sister’s encouragement, she decided to give singing a shot. She bought a flight ticket back to Hong Kong, and became a contestant in ATV’s Asian Millionstar. Despite being eliminated after four episodes, the TV station offered her a one-year contract.
But a star’s dream doesn’t come true so easily. Even though they signed her, ATV didn’t give her any job opportunities. Tam lived nine months cooped up in her home, living on the basic salary of HK$600 per month. She was angry and confused; and felt guilty at having to rely on her mum’s support. “I didn’t know what to do. I was about to go back to the States but I went to a fortune teller and they told me my opportunity would come soon. So I stayed on,” Tam recalls. Sure enough, two weeks later, her first job came in the form of a New Year celebration programme with actress Nina Bao Hee-ching. More jobs rolled in after that. “Sometimes I only had one shoot in the morning, and I’d get off work by noon,” says Tam. “And like I said, I hated being bored, so I went about looking for stuff to do.”
She decided to give herself additional exposure by putting her own videos online. “I knew people would only watch videos with gimmicks, so I thought beauty would be a good place to start. Then in between I can slip in some music covers and perhaps they’d watch it too,” she says. Her first beauty video was a nail tutorial. “I was too shy to show my face. I just filmed my hands,” she laughs. A couple of months later, she was shocked to see that her video had racked up more than 10,000 views. Motivated, she began sneaking into ATV’s editing room after work to ask for advice on filming and editing. In addition to making beauty videos, she also started vlogging, acting and singing on her channel. After her contract ended with ATV in 2014, she had developed a wide fan base and began working as a freelancer.
Tam says a key factor in becoming a successful YouTuber is to work hard. “I almost do not sleep,” she says. “I go by two hours a day. More than 60 per cent of my life is spent making videos.” So how does she still have such great skin? “Also by working hard,” grins Tam. “I use a lot of facial masks, usually while I’m editing late at night, and I drink a lot of water.”
She says it’s also important to show your character, because ultimately that’s what will attract people to watch your videos instead of other YouTubers’. “Sometimes I make myself laugh so hard I cry, even though I’m in my room recording by myself,” she says. But most important of all, Tam says you just need to get started and upload videos.
With a strong online presence, Tam is using her voice not only to promote other people’s products, but also her own. Two years ago she opened her own gym, PT Pro, in Kwun Tong. “I basically started it because I just wanted a place to work out where people wouldn’t be pushing me to pay for expensive membership plans,” she explains. “So I thought by opening a gym where people can train at ease, and plop down on a sofa to watch a movie afterwards, I’d be doing something good for society.” Already the gym is making profits, and Tam is hoping to open another one. Recently, she also organised her own Lunar New Year Market, featuring fashion and food stalls.
As she becomes more successful, one thing remains the same: all the money she earns goes straight into her mum’s bank account. “Isn’t it sweet to still get pocket money from your mum every day?” she says with a smile.