Anita Mui remembered

Anita Mui in 'Rouge'. Today marks Mui's 10th death anniversary.

Anita Mui in 'Rouge'. Today marks Mui's 10th death anniversary.

The Hong Kong star’s legacy and music continue to live on in the hearts of many, 10 years after her death.

EXACTLY 10 years ago today, the Asian showbiz world mourned and grieved when one of its beloved superstars, Anita Mui Yim Fong, passed away at the untimely age of 40 after losing a battle with cervical cancer.

The news broke out on Dec 30, 2003, shocking her legion of fans across the continent. It had only been three months since Mui publicly announced her illness and reassured supporters of her vow to fight till the end. But that solemn promise to “pull through” never materialised, as Mui’s condition took a turn for the worse. She died that same day, leaving her family, friends and fans in tears.

For those who personally knew the talented artiste, they have only praises and kind words for Mui, who was not only the consummate performer on stage, but also a good and generous soul who would not hesitate to help a friend in need. She was known for her charitable acts as well, having contributed undisclosed sums to different organisations and causes and even established her own Anita Mui True Heart Charity Foundation in 1993.

Anita Mui and Stephen Chow in Justice My Foot.
Mui and Stephen Chow in Justice My Foot.

In the 40 short years that Mui lived, she left an almost untouchable and indelible legacy, one that many of today’s artistes find hard to keep up with, much less surpass. Her unique contralto vocal range and most notably, the chameleon-like transformations – she could slip into an outrageous costume or appear looking like the girl-next-door so effortlessly – were definitely a breath of fresh air for fans.

There were the signature bold and raunchy moves, which fired up the imagination and upped the ante of excitement for concertgoers. The theatrical feast and extravagance were a treat for fans, as Mui would give her all in her shows, whether it was through her energetic dancing and singing of uptempo tunes or her heartfelt renditions of slow, melancholic ballads.

Born in 1963 in Hong Kong, Mui started singing at the age of four together with her older sister to help support the family following the death of her father. In 1982, she emerged as the winner of Hong Kong’s New Talent Singing Competition, beating some 3,000 contestants in the process. She was only 19 then. 

The win proved to be her big break, as it soon paved the way for her involvement in the music industry and subsequent domination in the 1980s when she received many awards.

Among her string of accolades are the “Most Popular Female Singer Award” for five consecutive years at the Jade Solid Gold Awards in Hong Kong. Her impressive achievement as a singer would also extend to her acting chops – she had reportedly starred in 40-plus movies throughout her life.

Anita Mui in her extravagant dressing that is one of the hallmarks that have come to define the singer.
A legend: Mui in her extravagant dressing that was one of her hallmarks.

One of the films, Rouge (together with the late Leslie Cheung who passed away that same year in April), earned her the Best Actress nod in both Taiwan’s Golden Horse Award in 1988 and in the 8th Hong Kong Film Awards for her fine portrayal of a forlorn ghost.

Mui’s other film successes include Justice My Foot (with Stephen Chow), Drunken Master 2 (Jackie Chan), July Rhapsody (Jacky Cheung) and Heroic Trio (Michelle Yeoh).

At the peak of her fame in 1991, Mui announced her (premature) retirement from her singing career in an effort to enable new, upcoming artistes shine and take lead, especially at awards ceremony. Three years later, however, she came out of “retirement” and resumed her career.

Her rags-to-riches life story with considerable triumphs is an inspiration to many, though her tormented personal life is plagued mostly by her “failure” to find a life partner. The desire to get married is often expressed in the later stages of her concerts where she would emerge in a white wedding gown, and also said to be documented in her book Xian Dai Nu Ren Xin (Heart Of The Modern Woman).

There's certainly no shortage in visual feast when in came to Anita Mui's concert - here, she is seen dressed up in a kimono-like dress with hairstyle and make-up that reflect the old Shanghai of 1930s.

That unfulfilled longing would ultimately deal a cruel blow to her life. Apparently, Mui had known of her tumour as early on as the year 2000, but her yearning for experiencing childbirth had prevented her from receiving early treatment.

Despite being ill, a gritty Mui pushed on with fortitude by holding eight concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum, just a month before her demise. The “Madonna of the East” was a remarkable persona as many of her fans and friends would attest to – from her significant contribution to the Hong Kong entertainment industry to a person of great deeds that she will always be remembered for.

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Anita Mui, the ethereal star