Social media star and businesswoman Laurinda Ho, the daughter of casino mogul Stanley Ho, is no stranger to the spotlight, and the model of millennial multitasking is determined to focus it on causes close to her heart

There’s an air of quiet circumspection around Laurinda Ho, the invisible shield of someone used to being watched. And who could blame her? One of the 17 children of Stanley Ho, his youngest daughter with third wife Ina Chan, Laurinda has spent most of her life witnessing the faces of various family members splattered across the tabloids. Her father, after all, is the “king of gambling” and is one of the richest men in the world.

“I actually didn’t know I was famous,” she says. “I grew up thinking our family was like any other until I was around eight years old, when I went to a ballet performance with my mother and saw the entrance surrounded by paparazzi taking our photos. That’s when I got an inkling that we might be different.”

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Using Fame For Good

Today, with a bachelor’s degree in economics under her belt, a certificate from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and a master’s in professional accountancy well underway at the University of London, and with stints working at Ernst & Young in London and on projects in the family’s hospitality business, she exudes the calm air of a seasoned professional capable of holding her own. Though soft-spoken in front of strangers, she’s not afraid to make her opinion known, something she feels women should do more often.

“I love and look up to [English actress and activist] Emma Watson because she’s around my age and she’s a strong feminist who gives women a voice and sticks by her values,” says Laurinda, who is an executive director of the Australian subsidiary of Hong Kong’s UNIR Group, UNIR Management, which manages an investment portfolio of hospitality, realty, leisure, retail and transport businesses. “I think it’s important, especially for girls, to not just blindly follow what others say, or believe what others believe.”

And what she says matters. With 569,000 followers on Instagram and counting, her feed is sprinkled with food, fashion and furry friends for her audience to enjoy, but it is also a platform for promoting her charity, Smile With Us HK, which promotes positivity and works to foster a more caring community.

“I think there’s good and bad to being in the limelight,” says Laurinda, whose extended family is well versed in the vagaries of being in the public eye. “When you do something wrong, then it could get blown out of proportion and so the stress you suffer would be greater than others. But also when you do something good, you can influence a lot more people. That’s why I established a charity, because I wanted to use the attention for good.”

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Giving Back, Her Way

Philanthropy, after all, runs in her blood. Her father has been a major supporter of Hong Kong’s dance and arts scenes, having produced numerous televised charity fundraisers during his long career, and he even celebrated his most recent birthday by donating HK$2 million to the Community Chest.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Laurinda founded Smile With Us HK in 2017. “The idea started over a dinner I had with a bunch of friends,” she recalls. “We felt that the social atmosphere in Hong Kong wasn’t great. There was a lot of hate being generated by people hiding behind their screens on the internet, so I decided to start this charity to motivate them to step out and do something for others for a change.”

Being a millennial, Laurinda realised an effective way to speak to her peers was not so much through charity galas or balls, which are often the exclusive preserve of the older echelons of society, but through moments of surprise, using flash mobs and guerrilla gift-giving to better mobilise youth. If you’ve ever been handed flowers or candy on the streets of Central or Causeway Bay for no other reason than to bring a smile to your face, it’s probably the result of one of Laurinda’s initiatives. Smile With Us HK has also been collaborating with Hello Kitty to leverage the cartoon cat’s fame for a range of merchandise to raise funds for charity.

I think there’s good and bad to being in the limelight... [so] I established a charity to use the attention for good.—Laurinda Ho

As founder, Laurinda tries to shine a spotlight on different causes close to her heart every year. These can range from families of children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit disorder (her focus in 2017), to the needs of the deaf community (2018). Laurinda had discovered a severe lack of official translators for the deaf, and the fact the government has not designated an official sign language for the city, leaving the deaf community in a kind of communication limbo.

To help remedy the situation, Smile With Us HK has partnered with the Jockey Club’s Sign Bilingual and Coenrolment in Deaf Education Programme to fund research on sign language linguistics and language acquisition, and to raise awareness through social media to help bridge the communications gap.

This year Laurinda has turned her gaze to mental health, specifically to improve diagnosis of the different types of depression and to educate the public to reduce the stigma attached to depression.

A Passion For Food

Besides helping the community, what else makes Laurinda smile? “My mother’s cooking,” she says. “She makes a mean tomato scrambled eggs.” It’s no surprise, then, to find Laurinda is passionate about food, so much so that she once considered becoming a food blogger and hosting a television show exploring the culinary specialities of different cities.

A big fan of Taiwanese cuisine—she goes to the island to eat at least once a month—she finally acted on that passion last year when she opened Jiu-Wu Beef Noodles in Causeway Bay, having secured the franchise for a Taiwanese friend’s renowned Taipei beef noodle soup restaurant. Laurinda will open her second Hong Kong outlet in November.

As fond of beef noodles as she is and as well-versed in their creation as she has become, Laurinda’s original dream had been to open a dessert shop. “I’m actually more of a sweets person,” she says. “But I believe in being an expert in an industry and mastering all the ins and outs of it before actually opening my own store, so I won’t do it until I’ve studied at Le Cordon Bleu someday.”

Laurinda says her parents never pressured her to join the family business or to achieve success in any prescribed arena, but they clearly imbued in her a thirst for knowledge and a desire to achieve excellence in whatever role or task she undertakes.

“I definitely like to challenge myself,” says Laurinda, who is about to add a new challenge to her current responsibilities—to learn Japanese. “I like to pack my schedule with as much as possible. I don’t like not having anything to do. My weekends, for example, are reserved for meetings for my charity.”

No matter how busy Laurinda and her siblings are, or where these young jet-setters might be (don’t be surprised to see her seated in the front row at Paris Fashion Week), her mother insists they all gather for special holidays. For Mid-Autumn every year, they congregate on Ina’s terrace for a barbecue, rain or shine, a feast that always culminates with Ina’s signature green bean soup.

And how does Laurinda contribute? An impish grin spreads across her face. “My job is just to eat, of course!”

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  • PhotographyDino Busch
  • Photographer's AssistantRafael Raya Cano
  • StylingRosana Lai
  • Stylist's AssistantMira Uttamchandani
  • HairSing Tam
  • Make-UpWinki Tsang
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