Defying her parents wishes was a bold move, but for Phoebe Sin Man-yau, it was the correct one. When Sin, 27, decided she wanted to enter the Miss Hong Kong Pageant, she chose not to tell her parents because she knew they would disapprove. It was only when she appeared in a newspaper did she finally let the cat out of the bag.
“They were angry when I told them,” Sin told Young Post. “But they could do nothing about it.”
Sin, now an emcee for local broadcasting channel TVB, saw the 2016 pageant as a springboard for a potential career in the entertainment industry – something her parents were very much against. Even before she had even put pen to pageant application paper, Sin knew her parents would not like it.
“My parents told me I wouldn’t be able to do it,” Sin recalled. She had asked them (long before actually doing it) how they would feel if she became a Miss Hong Kong contestant, or entered show business. “They said I was too shy, too introverted, and that I knew knowing nothing about performing. They said I wouldn’t be able to handle how complicated the industry can be.”
Sin was upset by her parents lack of support, but put it to one side as she went to university. After graduating from the University of the Arts London in Britain, she returned to Hong Kong to become a fashion stylist, and gave art lessons to children. It was a good enough life, but Sin was not satisfied.
“The design industry in Hong Kong is very different from the one in London – I felt lost, and unsure on what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
It was around that time Sin saw a call-out for participants for the pageant. She got one of her cousins to nominate her as a contestant, though, as Sin added, they “also didn’t think I could make it”. Sin said her parents disapproval was at the back of her mind, but she used their words as motivation.
“I guess I wasn’t really thinking – I simply felt desperate to do something to change my life.”
It was a gamble that paid off. Sin continued to stay in the competition through the early stages, but she found it increasingly hard to hide her participation from her family. Once she was shortlisted as one of the final 10, she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret any more.
Her parents were understandably upset, but Sin took the opportunity to explain to them how frustrated she felt with her life. “I told them how lost I felt being a fashion stylist, and they started to accept my decision [to enter the pageant].”
Sin never got past the final 10 round – but she didn’t let the lack of a title or a prize stop her from pursuing her longed-for career. This April, half a year after the pageant ended, Sin began appearing on TVB’s Kids, Think Big, a weekday variety show for children.
“I entered the pageant because I didn’t want to teach kids any more. I wanted to get away from them,” she laughed. “Maybe this is fate.” At any rate, she certainly knows how to get them to behave – one time, two of the children on the show were arguing backstage and distracting her from learning her lines.
“I told them, ‘if you two want to fight, do it outside and come back after you’re done’. They stopped!”
Sin considers herself an entertainer one with “out-of-office hours”. “Outside my working hours, I don't really think about how I present myself,” she said with a smile. “I go to the gym, go for walks or hit the streets without make-up on.”
Still, being in the public eye means Sin has to choose her words and actions very carefully, lest she is criticised for saying or doing something wrong.
“Sometimes, journalists will ask me questions that I don’t know how to answer,” she said. “It’s something I’m still pretty scared of, and I know I need to sharpen up my answers.”
Young Post thinks she’s pretty much on top of her interview game, actually.