Leggy, sultry and not afraid to embrace her sexuality, Shiga Lin has become a surprise Hong Kong sex symbol. And that’s before we even talk about those photos… Words Arthur Tam Photography Calvin Sit
You may have seen the words ‘sex’ and ‘Shiga Lin’ together a lot lately. In the movie Lan Kwai Fong, for example, where she plays a sexually provocative flight attendant. Or in her recent stage debut, Boeing Boeing, where she plays a flight attendant mixed up in a sexy love triangle. Or, of course, in connection with those semi-scandalous photos. For the leggy, pure-voiced up-and-coming 24-year-old singer/actress, everything seemed to be blossoming rather nicely – a growing reputation as a hot movie starlet (culminating in a Best Actress nomination in last year’s Hong Kong Film Awards) and ballad princess (most notably, with her 2011 hit single, I’m Still Loving You).
But, in late May, some slightly risqué photos of a 16-year-old Lin in a (slighty) compromising situation with local rapper K-Chek surfaced and got into the hands of the paparazzi. There were those who were quick to compare it to Edison Chen’s 2008 epic scandal, where hundreds of naked photos were released of him with more than a dozen female celebrities. However, in Lin’s case, there were no blowjobs, penises, vaginas or hardcore nudity. At a press conference a few days later, a teary Lin, in front of a flock of reporters and the incessant flashes of photographers, would be subjected to questions about whether she had lost her virginity at 16.
The incident hasn’t sent her into hiding, however, or even encouraged her to cover up. The trailers for new film, Lan Kwai Fong 2, see her taking the sex-on-film thing to a new level of risqué. And, as you’ll see, she’s also more than happy to talk sex with Time Out Hong Kong…
Hey Shiga, it sounds like you’ve been really busy recently…
Yeah, I just finished filming my second movie, Lan Kwai Fong 2, was in my first play Boeing Boeing and also just released a new single. Last year, I wasn’t so active with singing – I was mainly acting and going to events and doing other projects – so this year I wanted to focus on my singing. But then a lot of things happened. I was nominated in the Best Actress category [for Lan Kwai Fong] at the Hong Kong Film awards, so after that I had an opportunity to do my second movie – so basically I haven’t been that active with singing again.
You sound excited about getting back into singing?
I want to pursue movies but at the same time I don’t wanna walk away from singing because that’s exactly what I started out with and love. That’s something I don’t want to let go of. I want to achieve both at the same time.
Tell us about the new single?
Basically my first single of the year [released in February], The End, was a letter to one my exes referring to the relationship we had. And my second single this year [released on July 4] is called Moving On, which is kind of a sequel to my first single, The End. It’s really a healing song because The End is about drawing a line whereas Moving On is about recovery and about wanting to focus on my career and get on with my life. I know a lot of people around me are concerned about how I feel sometimes because they can sense if I’m feeling low. I just want to tell everyone that I will be okay and will find a new way to be happy again.
So it’s based on your own relationships?
Yes, it’s a real relationship that I had in the past. I believe that everyone has at least one relationship in their lifetime which would be extremely memorable and which you’ll just always dwell on and think about. I just so happened to have one of those relationships.
You have become quite the YouTube star with this single, with more hits than most HK popstars. And last year’s single, I’m Still Loving You, has received more than five million hits. What’s your secret?
I got really lucky. I’m Still Loving You by itself might not be such a strong single on its own but because the movie [Lan Kwai Fong, its associated film] and the single went so well together so it became stronger.
You just finished your first stage drama Boeing Boeing, where you’re oddly playing a flight attendant again. Is that purely coincidental?
Yes, that’s purely coincidental. [Laughs] It’s pretty interesting. This time I’m playing a Japanese airline hostess [Junko]. I’ll be speaking in Japanese a little bit. My character is kinda slow and naïve, and is very optimistic about love.
How is Junko different from your role as Jennifer in Lan Kwai Fong?
She’s a lot more naïve and simple. But, basically, it’s about a guy dating three girls at the same time without them knowing each other. Three flight hostesses are living in the same house without ever meeting each other, so he has to really work out their flight schedules.
So he’s playing all of you?
Obviously. Basically, in the end, no guy can work that out so smoothly – dating three girls at the same time and getting away with it…
The public sees quite different sides of you – the sexy Shiga you play in Lan Kwai Fong, contrasted with the sweet Shiga we see in your music videos. Which one do you identify more with?
I think it’s something in between. I think I’m a pretty vulnerable person and I’m pretty emotional. To be a singer, you have to be emotional to sing out that vibe and sorrow. But, in terms of Jennifer, I’m very different from her. She’s someone that’s very upfront about her love life and if she meets someone she likes she really goes for it – versus, for me, I’m quite shy in that sense.
In other senses, though, you’re not so shy. When you have roles where you are seen as a sex icon or you have scenes that are revealing and risqué, do you have any reservations?
Actually, I do, because I think in a way I am quite conservative. It matters to me how people look at me but because I went to international school, I think a little bit differently than local Hong Kong people think. But, after stepping into this industry, I realised that people would see you [as Chinese] because in the end I’m Chinese. So basically people can’t accept you as being too revealing. So I try to keep it a bit cleaner.
So that’s a bit of contradiction to this role in Lan Kwai Fong, where they want you to be more revealing?
But I believe it’s just a character and I think the audience sees the difference because it’s how you act in your daily life that refers to who you really are.
Was there support from your family?
At first there were concerns but after the movie came out everyone just knew that it was just a character and all my worries were gone.
Being in the entertainment industry, have you ever felt you’ve been exploited by your sexuality or have you been able to control the way you want to be perceived?
Mmm… I think there are a lot of things you can’t control. There are a lot of things that are unpredictable in this industry. I think I’ve been trying my best to protect myself in this industry – but when something happens you just have to try and work around it or think of a way to solve rather than avoid the situation. I think a lot of people will go through a lot of scandals in this industry because everything will be magnified because you’re a public icon. Say a normal photo of you was leaked with the opposite sex, people just magnify that and make up stories because you’re a public icon. These are things that you can’t predict, so in order to avoid that, just be careful of who you hang out with.
Do you think the media overreacted to your photos?
Um, I guess I can’t really say they overreacted. I basically know they aren’t pinpointing me. Instead they’re pinpointing the situation. And, once you’re a public icon, everything will be magnified, which I understand. I think, in every industry, there’s good and bad. Being in this industry you get to do a lot of what other people can’t do – but it comes with consequences.
In one of your press conferences, you mentioned what happened to you has been a regrettable mistake. If the photos were never released, would you say the same thing?
I couldn’t really say it was a regrettable thing but I think everyone has their past and it’s not just from being in this industry. I think everyone has done something in their life and then they wish they’d have done something else instead. For me I think I did waste time doing stupid things.
Do you think it was a mistake?
I can’t say it was a mistake but I think it was something very unnecessary.
Do you think people made you feel it was a mistake?
I think it was something unnecessary that I did when I was very young that could have been avoided. But, since I did it, I have to take the consequences that are followed by it. I’ll take it as a life lesson and I think if it’s not this incident it will be something else. Life is full of ups and downs and I’ll take this as something I have to go through in order to be stronger and wiser.
And do you think you are stronger and wiser?
Definitely stronger because you see who are the truest people around you and who really cares for you. I learned a lot.
But generally, though, what do you think now about people capturing their intimate moments on photos or video?
If you really have that fantasy of documenting yourselves you have to know that person very well. If you want to pull that move you have to be careful of the consequences in the future. You have to imagine the worst. I think the most beautiful memories would be recorded in your mind, so you don’t have to exactly make it a solid document.
What would you do if you found yourself in this kind of negative spotlight again?
I think I’ll try not to be too held up with what other people think because I love what I’m doing. I’ll try not to think about other bad things because it will affect my emotions. I think people who really like my music wouldn’t be affected about these types of news because my past is my past and what I’m doing now is who I am now – and will be in the future. I think time will prove everything.
Do you think there is a double standard placed on women when it comes to sex?
Yes. If one guy has more than one girlfriend, he’s seen as a player or a pimp and that’s fine. But when a girl dates around, it’s frowned upon.
Do you think Asian women have it worse?
To be honest, I don’t think it’s just Asians. Even in America, if a girl is dating around, they will always be called a hoe or a slut. I think this concept happens all over the world, not just in Asia.
What about Hong Kong, specifically, and our society’s attitudes to sex?
In terms of careers, women are more dominant these days but, in terms of love and relationships, it’s still very conservative. I think it’s still rather traditional because people still aren’t comfortable talking about it. The whole word is just very sensitive to talk about.
Would you like to see it change?
I think I’m kinda like that too [Laughs]. For me I think it’s okay. In that sense I’m quite conservative about these topics. I don’t really like talking about these topics. I’m not upfront about it too.
Do you think Hong Kong women have been able to take control of their sexuality?
They have if they are not afraid of being judged. I think if you are not afraid of being judged by other people you can be upfront about who you are and get what you want.
What would you say to a generation of young girls who are discovering their sexuality and want to explore that?
I think they should be more careful. When I watch the news and see all these things happening with young kids these days, if you don’t know someone well enough, you never know what they are capable of doing. Girls have to be safer and you have to know that person well before moving on to the next level. I think, in every era and generation, girls have to know how to protect themselves.