Hong Kong’s First Lesbian Pop Star Is Also One Of Its Outspoken Political Activists

Denise Ho set a precedent in 2012 when she came out as a lesbian, reportedly becoming Hong Kong’s first major female singer ever to do so. 

Eight years later, the 43-year-old Cantopop icon continues to take personal and professional risks as her career has grown to encompass activism amid Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. 

Often referred to as the “Umbrella Movement,” those demonstrations began in 2014 with the aim of ensuring that Hong Kong ― run by the U.K. as part of the former British Empire until 1997 ― would maintain some political independence from China


Her journey is captured for posterity in “Denise Ho: Becoming the Song,” which hit virtual cinemas this week. Directed by Sue Williams, the documentary follows Ho throughout 2017 as she aims to re-establish herself within the Cantopop music scene after losing sponsorships and getting blacklisted by radio because of her activism. 

(Watch the trailer for “Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” above.) 

“Under the cloak of the global pandemic, China is carrying out a harsh crackdown on ordinary Hong Kongers and arresting more pro-democratic leaders,” Williams, whose credits include 2016′s “Death by Design,” said in press notes for the film. “Denise’s creativity and resilience are a moving reminder of the power of courageous individuals — and music — in the fight for freedom and democracy.”


“Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” hit virtual cinemas the day after LGBTQ Pride Month ended, but its Wednesday release couldn’t be better timed. On Tuesday, China passed a new security law giving the nation extensive powers over Hong Kong’s legal system. 

The controversial legislation said that anyone who provokes “hatred” of the Chinese government commits a criminal act. By Thursday, local police had reportedly arrested about 370 people, 10 of whom were suspected of violating the new law.

Since its release Wednesday, “Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” has been met with steady critical praise.

“The film does an excellent job of introducing the pop star to unfamiliar audiences, contextualizing her activism and, more broadly, examining the role art can play in shaping our beliefs,” The New York Times said. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter called the documentary “a thoughtful, if surprisingly reserved portrait.” 


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