Anita Mui, the Canto-pop diva of Hong Kong, died on Dec. 30 from cervical cancer. She was 40.
Mui was only five years old when she began singing Chinese opera and pop songs. She dropped out of junior high school to spend several years performing in bars and nightclubs. Her big break came in 1982 when she defeated 3,000 contestants to win first prize in the New Talent Singing Competition. Her deep voice and soulful delivery earned her a string of Cantonese hits (“Homecoming,” “Bad Girl”), but it was her flamboyant on-stage persona and frequent, trendsetting makeovers that earned her a reputation as “the Madonna of Asia.”
An equally impressive actress, Mui appeared in dozens of films, including “Rumble in the Bronx,” “The Heroic Trio” and “Drunken Master 2.” Her portrayal of a tortured ghost in the movie, “Rouge,” earned her Taiwan’s Golden Horse Award and the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress in 1987.
The superstar also had a philanthropic side. She established the Anita Mui Charity Foundation in the early 1990s, and organized the 1:99 Concert in Hong Kong in 2003 to help raise spirits and money for families affected by the SARS outbreak. Last month, she published the book, “The Heart of the Modern Woman (Nu Ren De Xin),” to raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation.
“Instant shining is not eternity. Show business is a hard life. I wonder how many people will remember me after I leave the business for good. My hope is that when they feel bored and look at the stars in the sky, people will think of my name,” Mui once said.