When Lisa Selesner is talking and laughing heartily while sporting hardly any makeup on her face, there are still traces of that ‘horrible child’ she claims she once was. This kid, she reckons, hated – and was verbally abusive to – her mother and stepfather for no reason at all. She once stole their car, in fact. And she decided to start modelling at the age of 14 just so she could get out of the family house faster.
The highly competitive fashion world forced the American teenager to mature quickly through a barrage of hard times but it also crowned her with fame and glamorous success. Now, at the age of 37 and married to filmstar Daniel Wu, the Monte Carlo-born, Hong Kong-based supermodel, famously known as Lisa S, has decided to steer away from the industry.
“It was so tiring,” she whispers. “I’m thankful that I’ve done billboards and I’m on newspapers all the time but at some point I got sick of myself. I just realised at one point that I wasn’t getting as much pleasure out of my work in fashion. I started getting a bit angry at work. I think that’s when you need to start getting away.”
Lisa S’s latest role is as host of an RTHK English programme called The In Show, talking about the latest happenings around town with various DJs, entertainers, fashion designers and lifestyle junkies. “I feel like there’s a pop culture in Hong Kong,” she claims. “It just needs a voice. I think there’s a lot of stuff going on around town that people just don’t know about. I want to be the conduit for all of the cool things that are happening.”
Having been in Hong Kong for 12 years in the fashion industry, Lisa S admits her rich experiences of modelling and networking in countless parties and clubs have enabled her to know almost every fashion house, artist and DJ in town. “I didn’t realise until I started the show how many people I know in Hong Kong,” she says.
Hosting seems to suit Lisa S. It’s a natural career path which follows on from her modelling work. Over the past five years she’s hosted many public events and TV shows such as TVB lifestyle show Dolce Vita and Asian reality show Supermodel Me. But she wasn’t handed these jobs on a silver platter. According to her, she saw other people hosting, thought she could do the same and then harassed programme producers for months until she finally got what she wanted. “I’m a firm believer that if you want something bad enough, you just harass the crap out of people until you get it,” she laughs.
Lisa S certainly wanted it bad enough because, to her, hosting is probably like killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, it fulfils her desire to verbally express herself. “I’m a talker,” she confesses. “I found that, in modelling, one of the most frustrating parts was having to be quiet all the time. I am always this ball of energy needing to – verbally – rahhh! You know?” On the other hand, going on air for Lisa S is a matter of longevity. “I’m thinking about the future,” she says. “About when I get pregnant and can’t be in front of the camera. I can still do radio.” An extra point for doing radio, she adds, is that she doesn’t need to put on makeup.
Then there are her businesses. She co-owns a bar on Wyndham Street and co-founded an online beauty shop. But the real passion of this business-minded, radio hosting supermodel is riding and training horses, which she got into at the age of seven but finds hard to pursue here in Hong Kong because of the limited space and her busy schedule. “My dream was to own a horse farm and to ride self-trained horses,” she says. “I used to dream of going to the Olympics and showjumping. When I go back to the States I will definitely start riding again.”
Apart from occasionally visiting her hut in South Africa, which was built using cow dung and grass and is where she and hubby Wu fell in love, Lisa S tells Time Out that they might move back to the USA in the next few years, live there and fly back for work every now and again. “But we will always have our roots here,” she says. “All the money I’ve made, all the popularity I’ve gained and my husband I found here. I owe everything to Hong Kong. I don’t think I’ll leave Hong Kong forever.” Shirley Zhao