Anne Wang-Liu On The Charity Projects That Touched Her Heart
The first heavy showers of the year cleanse the air as Hong Kong steams up in preparation for the long summer months. Despite mostly cloudy skies, Anne Wang-Liu looks positively sun-kissed when she arrives at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s bustling MO Bar.
Fresh off the plane from a whirlwind trip to Europe, she’s wearing a black chiffon jumpsuit by Erdem and toting an emerald-green Hermès bag that turns more than a few heads in admiration.
An adventurous globetrotter
Anne regularly jets off to exotic climes with husband Julian and daughters Madeleine,14, and Audrey, 11. Their latest getaway took them to Barcelona—via a pit stop in Dubai, hence the bronzed complexion—where they admired Gaudí architecture, binged on “the best chocolate-smothered churros” after lunching at exclusive Cocina Hermanos Torres, and explored the city’s many museums, marvelling at masterpieces such as Picasso’s Seated Man (1969).
“Travelling has always been a part of my life,” she says. “It builds character and I’m determined to ensure that my daughters have the opportunity to experience new countries and cultures. Family holidays are at the heart of my most treasured memories, so we take every opportunity to escape together.”
See also: The Next Step With Anne Wang-Liu
It’s therefore fitting that Anne graces the cover of our Travel Issue. During the photo shoot, she looked as confident in a fuchsia-pink Chloé blouse as she did in an Orseund Iris two-piece—an ability that’s essential for a woman with wanderlust.
“I love to laugh and that really comes across in these photos,” says Anne, who describes her style as“elegant with an edge,” though she prefers neutral tones over too much colour. “I wouldn’t say I’m super trendy. Lots of people dress a lot edgier than I do, but remember—I do have two kids,” she laughs.
In just a few weeks Anne will be travelling again, this time to Los Angeles before visiting family in her hometown, New York. A graduate of Cornell University (she met Julian, a project director at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, there), she jokes about retiring to Hollywood, but Hong Kong is still very much home—for now. It’s convenient because she frequently flies to Singapore, Phuket, South Korea, Tokyo and elsewhere in the region, often with her daughters in tow.
“I want my girls to be open-minded and travel enables this,” says Anne, who gave up a high-powered career in banking after having her second child.“I’ve also always felt it’s important to be well rounded.”
Once freed from the demands of her career, Anne, known for an insatiable work ethic, was able to devote more time not only to her children, but also to another passion, philanthropy.
She became co-chair of the Hong Kong Ballet Guild shortly after moving to the city in 2003, and she’s been on the boards of the Hong Kong Ballet and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre for the past four years. “I tell my children that while they should work hard and be successful, you should always want to give back to the community,” she says.
Dedicating much of her post-career life to NGOs, Anne’s philosophy is especially evident in her work with Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre. The organisation—named after Maggie Keswick Jencks, who with her husband co-founded the first Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1996—provides free practical, emotional and psychosocial support for cancer patients and their families.
The centre’s Hong Kong base, on the Tuen Mun Hospital campus, was designed by starchitect Frank Gehry and has a special tie to the late Maggie, who spent her younger years living in Mainland China and Hong Kong with her parents.
“When I first got involved with Maggie’s I had family members who were fighting cancer,” she says, “I felt as though Hong Kong lacked some of the facilities that were needed to support patients and their families.”
While doctors are able to provide medical treatment, Anne says social support is also important in preventing the disease from progressing. “Stress is a contributing factor to cancer. It’s already stressful being told you have the disease. A doctor briefs you, you walk out of their office and that’s it. Where do you go? Who do you talk to?”
And that’s assuming patients can afford treatment. “Healthcare isn’t accessible to everybody, and this is unacceptable.”
Philosophy of arts
Anne also champions arts education and promotes ballet as co-chair of the Hong Kong Ballet Guild and a member of the board of the Hong Kong Ballet. “Healthcare and the arts are causes that need to be nurtured in every major city. At the Hong Kong Ballet Guild, we fundraise for the company but also to help provide underprivileged children with tickets so that they can see the ballet.
Making dance accessible to everyone is important to Anne, who practised ballet in her youth. She shares this passion with her daughters, who dance ballet and other styles, including jazz, tap and ballroom.
“Hong Kong is a fast-paced city and it’s important we take the time to admire its creativity,” says Anne. Dance, she argues, is a much-needed antidote to a world drowning in social media accounts, photo filters and sponsored tweets.
“Kids these days are constantly on their phones and iPads,” she says, laughing at the memory of her first mobile, a Nokia brick. “Our children should have time away from technology so they can appreciate artistic talent.” Does she regret not pursuing ballet professionally? She laughs at the suggestion. “Are you kidding? I don’t have that kind of ability. These dancers are athletes. I adore ballet, but I don’t have that level of dedication.”
She does for philanthropy, though, and it’s a dedication she hopes to impart to her daughters. “My girls often volunteer. They come with me to events, sell raffle tickets and dance at benefits,” she says, adding that she is surrounded by strong women.
“My mother [a political liaison for the Chinese and US governments] and sister are very career-focused. My sister has two sons and she still manages to maintain a successful job in private equity. Nowadays there are lots of women leaders. We’ve come a long way and it will only get better,” says Anne, who was nominated last year as a “champion for a better life” in the Women of Hope Awards, which recognise influential women in Hong Kong advocating for social justice.
As we’re winding up our conversation, Anne glances at her watch. She’s running late. “I’m supposed to be at another meeting,” she exclaims, jumping up. After a last sip of coffee, she smiles and hurries off on what undoubtedly will be another altruistic adventure.
- PhotographyRichard Ramos at Fast Management
- StylingJustine Lee
- Content DirectionFrancisco Anton-Serrano
- HairMarco Chan
- Make-UpPinky Ku
- Stylist's AssistantMira Uttamchandani