Hong Kong’s newest superstar is 9-year-old singer Celine Tam, who rose to fame with breathtaking performances of My Heart Will Go On and How Am I Supposed To Live Without You performances on America’s Got Talent.
Celine’s audition video has received 32 million views since it was uploaded in June. Her powerful voice — together with her adorable persona captured the hearts of the American audience — who voted her into the show’s semi-finals.
Despite the standing ovations and incredible amount of praise that Celine received overseas, the Hong Kong audience is somewhat sceptical of the little diva’s success. Controversy of her father’s integrity aside, some Hongkongers, especially on the internet, are critical of Celine’s singing skills and borderline over-the-top attitude when asking for votes.
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However, Celine is not the only aspiring local star that receives unfavourable reception from the Hong Kong crowd. People in this city tend to be overly harsh and judgemental of celebrities from their hometown and, that is a big reason our society has become so depressed and stifled.
Celine is just one of many talented performers who, unfortunately, do not get along well with the local crowds. Before her, there was MC Jin, G.E.M. Tang Tsz-kei and William Chan Wai-ting — who were either underestimated or criticised for their supposed lack of talent and personality. But their careers all took flight when they went overseas and, I believe this is no coincidence.
MC Jin, for instance, is growing in popularity lately after appearing on The Rap of China — a Chinese rap reality show — after six years of rapping in the city to no avail.
This phenomenon is not limited to the entertainment industry, it is also applicable to the business sector. The local start-up GoGoVan, which provides on-demand ride sharing service, had to resorted to Singaporean funding after experiencing difficulties attracting Hong Kong-based investors.
“There are a lot of funds available in Hong Kong, but investors are unwilling to invest in local start-ups,” said GoGoVan co-founder Steven Lam Hoi-yuen.
When GoGoVan integrated with a mainland delivery services company last week, some Hongkongers rejected this billion-dollar merger deal as they were appalled at the thought of economic collaboration with China. So, the question is — do Hongkongers fail to detect talent, or do we simply have too high of a standard for talent?
In Hong Kong’s defence, their strong judgement may stem from political controversies as well as a perfectionist attitude. The former is a complex and personal issue, while the latter is a quality that revolves around the reputation of the city. While there are people who are able to step aside from these issues in order to appreciate and support local talents, unfortunately, we have created an environment where it is nearly impossible for local performers to thrive unless they go abroad.
It seems hypocritical — writing an article that criticises people for being too critical. But my intention is not just to criticise — but encourage Hongkongers to be more supportive and open-minded towards people with talents and aspirations. Learning how to appreciate does not mean you have to ignore all flaws and mistakes, or blindly support someone just because they are local. We need to understand that no-one is perfect — but a little imperfection should not take away from someone’s amazing potential.
We need to appreciate the bravery and effort of people chasing their dreams. It is easy to criticise, but far nicer to take a step back in order to realise, there is beauty in imperfections.
Hongkongers can either wait for an exceptional success story to end this loop of negativity, or they can do it themselves by spreading support and positivity. I sincerely believe that love and hope can put Hong Kong back on the right track.
I would like to bring up the message Celine delivered in her quarter-finals: “who knows what miracles you can achieve - when you believe.” I believe we can do better with a little less criticism, and a little more kindness.
Edited by Ben Young