Baby steps to self-expression
2014-05-23, Andrea Deng

Everybody wants to be a real individual — especially when you’re in school and wrapped up in a school uniform meant to eradicate individuality. Blossoming into full self-expression presents challenges in a culture where life’s most embarrassing moments could turn into ammunition, on somebody else’s Facebook Timeline.

“I talked to a few post-90s girls and as I had guessed, it’s very easy to have a negative spotlight shone on you,” said Jonathan Li Lik-chung, a fashion consultant at I.T. and a wardrobe stylist.

“It’s so easy to be ridiculed in Hong Kong and people can be really harsh. It’s such a small city made smaller by the Internet. If girls are not confident about the way they look and what they have to say, it’s unlikely they would put it out in the open subject to ridicule and derision. In the United States, you might still be criticized but it’s much less likely that you will become some sort of infamous, city-wide online sensation,” said Li.

For the young Hong Kong netizens, an example of “city-wide known online infamous sensation” would be Ruby Tang, born in 1993 and active in around 2010, posting self-made videos on YouTube. Tang posted videos about her life, sometimes offered beauty tips. She was loved by a large fan following — at least she was for a while.

In April 2010, however, she made a video in which she mocked her peers, in flawed English, for speaking in flawed English. Her social miscue touched off laughter and ridicule all aimed at her. The ebullient young woman deleted most of her videos and faded away. She posted one more video in 2013. Her YouTube channel still had 9,319 subscribers.

It took Tina Wong a while to be encouraged by her friends to put herself under the spotlight. The 18-year-old started to post her fashion and beauty tips videos on YouTube late last year, posting her “outfit-of-the-day” on Instagram and running a blog to showcase all her fashion sense.

“I was not that into school work. But I find huge passion in fashion and love contriving what clothes to wear and how I can match different items.”

“But I was so afraid,” she recalled. She made some videos and didn’t upload them online. When she did upload those videos, and received a few negative comments, she felt upset even with comments saying that she “moved too much” in the video.

“I think Hong Kong people can be very critical and they seem easy enough to be able to just pick 10  flaws that you have. I don’t like such environment and it makes the city looks all the more narrow-minded,” said Wong.

After a few months of frustration, the 18-year-old, however, has become more and more confident and decided that she would want to be a stylist. “I would not quit what I want to do just because of what others think of me,” she said. She has now 17,000 followers on Instagram and more than 3,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel with each video viewed 6,000 to 8,000 times. The numbers grew from late last year and are still growing.


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