Reframing Celebrities in the Post-Handover Hong Kong: Political Advocacy, Social Media, and the Performance of Denise Ho

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The post-Handover years of Hong Kong have witnessed an escalating visibility of local celebrities in its political scene. Responding to a society that is clouded by civil unrest and social tension, some famed individuals have readily given their voice on political issues in the media-shaped social environment. This article will study the Hong Kong-based Cantopop singer Denise Ho as a case in point to scrutinize how “performance” is interpreted as strategic and discursive framing of one’s mediated image within the changing celebrity culture of Hong Kong. Rather than a quality that individuals possess or inhabit, this article reconceptualizes celebrity as a process, or a “frame” through which the persona is configured, addressed and negotiated. The article will identify two performative “moments” pertinent, directly or laterally, to the 2014 Umbrella Movement which also marks the pinnacle of Ho’s politically-charged image: first, the arrest of Ho in a police clearance action on December 11, 2014, and second, a free substitute concert held by Ho on June 19, 2016, in place of the one canceled by the French cosmetic
company Lancôme. The analysis will delineate two vectors in Ho’s performance—to impress and to express—and will argue that the performance is an outcome of the interplay of multiple forces such as the audience, the media, and the celebrity herself, which works to reconstruct her personality as versatile, dynamic, and impactful. This article will shed light on the vital convergence of celebrities and politics in post-1997 Hong Kong, providing a theoretical discourse for understanding how local public personalities operate at this historical and political juncture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalHong Kong Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018


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