Anita Mui Yim-fong was a popular Hong Kong singer and actress. During her prime years she made major contributions to the cantopop music scene, while receiving numerous awards and honours. She remained an idol through out most of her career, and was generally regarded as a cantopop diva. Once she held a sell-out concert at Hammersmith, England, where she was dubbed the title "Madonna of Asia". That title has stayed with her throughout her career, and has been used as a comparison for both Eastern and Western media.
In the 1980s the gangtai style of music was revolutionized by her wild dancing and femininity on stage. She was famous for having outrageous costumes and also high powered performances. Her fanbase reached far beyond Hong Kong, and into many parts of Asia including Taiwan, People's Republic of China, Singapore, Malaysia as well as the overseas market. In the Hong Kong entertainment industry where stars often come and go, Mui was able to remain a major star in the spotlight for 20 years. Her career only came to a stop in 2003 when she was suddenly diagnosed with cervical cancer, passing away at only the age of 40. Even so, her music and film legacy continues to live on. Her success reached well beyond that of the entertainment circle with humanitarian work, donations and charities that played a major role in helping society even well into the present day.
Mui experienced many hardships and difficulties in her childhood. She was the youngest daughter of a family with five children. Her father died when she was only five years old, thus Mui and her siblings were raised in a single parent family. At an early age she had to help provide for her siblings, dropping out of school to do so. Other hardships follow in her family as her mother ran a bar, which had also been burnt down. To make a living, Anita herself, first entered show business at the age of five. She performed Chinese operas and pop songs in theatres and the streets. Both Anita and her older sister Ann Mui basically performed in any night club that offered them a chance to make a living.
See also: Anita Mui discography
In 1982 the first New Talent Singing Awards was held. Mui received her first big break winning the contest with the song "The Windy Season" (風的季節), beating over 3,000 contestants. Despite her title as "new talent" at that time, she had already been a singer for more than 10 years from street and club performances during her childhood.
As an award to winning the New Talent contest at the time, Mui's first album was released with the local record company Capital Artists. Her debut drew a lukewarm response from the audience. But subsequent albums fared much better, as she developed her personal style and image. In 1983 and 1984, she would win the RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs award back to back. Her streak would continue followed by another major award in 1985, with her first top 10 Jade Solid Gold Best Female Singer award. For the next four years, she would win the award consecutively every year until 1989.
Throughout her career, Mui released 50 albums in total. Her best selling album was the 1985 "Bad Girl" (壞女孩), which sold over 400,000 copies (platinum 8x over by Hong Kong's standards). In her career she sold 10 million albums. It should be noted that the population of Hong Kong in the 1980s was only about 5 million.
In terms of live performances, her first concert was held in 1985 lasting 15 nights. Beginning in late 1987, a series of 28 consecutive concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum were held through early 1988. This established a world record at the time and dubbed Mui the title of "Ever Changing Anita Mui" (百變梅艷芳), which had become her trademark. Her popularity was also gaining prominence outside of Hong Kong. As she was invited to sing at the 1988 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in Seoul, Korea on the same stage with Janet Jackson. In entirety, she performed in 300 concerts in her career.
In 1990, Mui announced that she would put an end to receiving music awards to give a chance to newcomers. She held farewell concerts for 33 consecutive nights before retiring from the stage. At the age of 28 she stepped down from the industry, only to return from retirement in 1994. Anita mentored several Hong Kong newcomer singers who have since become successful, most notably Andy Hui, Denise Ho, Edmond Leung and the band Grasshopper. As a lifetime achievement award in music, Mui was awarded the RTHK Golden Needle Award in 1998.
Mui's star on the Avenue of Stars
See also: Anita Mui filmography
Mui was also well-known as an actress across the Asian region. As she starred in more than 40 movies over a 20 year period. Her films were mainly of the action-thriller and kung fu variety, but she had also taken comedic and dramatic roles. Her first acting award as a supporting actress was won at the Hong Kong Film Awards for the movie Fate in 1984. Three years later in 1987, the film Rouge won her Best Actress at Golden Horse Award. She won the award again in 1989 at the Hong Kong Film Awards.
In 1993, she starred in The Heroic Trio with Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung, and it proved to be one of her most popular action films. In 1995, she found some international recognition by starring opposite Jackie Chan in Rumble in the Bronx.
Later on in 1997, she also won another best supporting actress at Hong Kong Film Award with the movie Eighteen Springs. In 2002, she won Best actress at Changchun Film Festival Golden Deer Awards for Best Actress with her performance in July Rhapsody. Her ability to successfully play a wide range of roles from comedy to tragedy, has allowed her to take part in many lead roles.
Anita was originally cast for Zhang Yimou's 2004 movie House of Flying Daggers. She resigned from her position in the movie only two weeks before her death. Zhang had held her parts of filming to the last due to her poor health condition. Out of respect for Anita, Zhang didn't replace her role with another actress. The screenplay was changed to take the storyline off the original character. She received a dedication during the closing credits.
Anita Mui at her final concert, 2003
In early September 2003, Mui made the public announcment that she had cervical cancer to the media. It was widely believed she forwent early treatment because she wanted to preserve the possibility to conceive. Knowing that she would not make it pass the illness, she had a final series of shows entitled the "Anita Classics Moments Live Concert". The series consisted of eight shows held at the Hong Kong Coliseum in 2003. It was her last concert series before her death. Musical guests included Jacky Cheung, David Tao, Eason Chan, Andy Hui, Alan Tam, Hacken Lee and Kelly Chen. Her final symbolic act was to "marry the stage", which was accompanied by her classic hit "Sunset Melody" (夕陽之歌) as she exited the stage for the final time. Her very last song performed on stage was "Cherish When We Meet Again" (珍惜再會時), a rendition of Manhattan's "Let's Just Kiss And Say Goodbye". Mui eventually lost her battle to cervical cancer and died of respiratory complications leading to a lung failure at Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital on 30 December 2003 at 02:50 (HK local time). She was 40 years old and single. Thousands of fans turned out for her funeral in North Point in January 2004.
Through out her career, the tabloid magazines were unforgiving. Rumors never ceased to plague Mui, who was accused of being addicted to drugs, undergoing plastic surgeries, being suicidal, being linked to the death of a triad leader. Rumors of affairs with leading actors were also known.
In 2007 a TV series was produced in China titled "Anita Mui Fei" (梅艷芳菲) to tell the many dramas in her life. The 30+ episodes is broadcasted by China Education Television. Fellow actors Andy Lau and Leslie Cheung is also portrayed in the series, though some of the sensitive subjects such as her suffering of cancer, Leslie's suicide and her mother's real estate dilemma were avoided. Actress Alice Chan (陳煒) plays the role of Mui in the series.
Mui was actively involved in charitable projects throughout her career. The Tibetan red-crown Shamar Rinpoche once said "She had a true heart. She was an unconventional woman and brought happiness to lots of people during her life." Her establishment of a nursing home in San Francisco, prompted the mayor of the city in 1992 to name April 18 as "Anita Mui Day". In 1993, she established the "Anita Mui True Heart Charity Foundation" (梅艷芳四海一心基金會). That same year, she was also one of the founders of the Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild.
One of the care center established by Mui
During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, she initiated a fund raising concert titled "1:99 Concert" to raise money for SARS-affected families. HK$22 million was raised. She was also awarded the "Fighting Against SARS Award" from RTHK and Ming pao newspaper.
In 2003, she wrote and published the fundraising book The Heart of the Modern Woman (現代女人心). Profits from the book went to the "Children's Cancer Foundation".
On September 23, 2004, the "Anita Mui True Heart Digital Multimedia Studio" was opened at The University of Hong Kong. It included state of the art equipment for digital audio and video editing. In Causeway Bay, an Anita-mui themed cafe called "Happiness Moon" (囍月) is also dedicated to her legacy.
In 1995 Mui performed the song "Bad Girl" (壞女孩) in Guangzhou, China where the song was banned at the time. It was considered wild and pornographic in nature. Government authorities were infuriated when she chose to sing the song on the last day of her concert.
In 2008, the mother of Mui, Tam Mei-kam, aged 84, contested the will. Anita Mui's estate was estimated to be worth HK$100 million. Tam was a beneficiary under the will, to the sum of HK$70,000 per month, for life. Tam argued that Anita was mentally unfit when she executed her will in 2003, weeks before her death from cancer. The High Court ruled that Mui was of sound mind when she signed the will, and that Mui simply did not trust her mother on managing money.