Veteran YouTuber and fashion blogger Sue Chang was one of Hong Kong’s first social media stars. She tells Yana Fung and Andris Ho what it was like making videos when no one else was doing it and everything she’s learnt 10 years on
Before BTS and Blackpink took over the world and made Korean culture a global phenomenon, there was Sue Chang. Her early videos taught Hong Kong viewers bite-sized chunks of Korean and catapulted her to YouTube fame. Ten years ago, when the online video space was yet to be saturated and overrun with get-rich-and-famous-quick hopefuls, Chang began to build her career making videos while fending offdoubt from those around her.
Now a proud mother of two, Chang’s content veers more into the family vlog category, which raises the stakes. It’s not just her who Internet trolls prey on, but her children and even her dog have fallen victim to hateful comments. Still, a common thread of authenticity runs through everything she does. Whether it’s her clothing brand Sisland, which sells adorable mommy-daughter looks, or her brand-new art studio, every project comes from the heart for Chang.
How did your career as a YouTuber start?
I studied fashion originally, but I never thought of making videos as I don’t watch many videos online. After I published my first book, I was thinking about what I could do to make more people know about me. I thought of teaching Korean online for free and tried to upload videos and started my career as a YouTuber.
What was the process from when you were just starting out to now being a famous YouTuber?
When I was just starting out, I thought nobody would watch my videos and that it wasn’t easy to be popular. Many of my friends made fun of me and asked why I was making videos. I didn’t think that I actually had fans and that the audience was just interested in my content. But gradually, when I published more books and had book signings, I realised that there were actually people who would come, which I had never imagined. Eventually I could feel that there really are people supporting me and I’m grateful for it.
When did you realise this could be your full-time job?
When I earned enough from my YouTube channel to support my mum.
Besides being a YouTuber, you also have a clothing business, Sisland. Where did you get the idea to launch your own brand?
When I knew my first baby would be a girl, I was so excited. I immediately decided to go shopping for baby clothes, but I didn’t really like what I saw. I suddenly thought, what if I design my own parentchild clothing? I knew I would take lots of pictures with my baby, so it would be great if I just designed clothes that I liked.
You’ve also recently opened an art studio. What made you want to try that?
I feel like I’m kind of successful at being a KoL and YouTuber, but sometimes I wonder whether this kind of lifestyle is the one I want the most. I used to have a busy life. But after becoming a mother, I realised that I should stop my busy life and treasure my time with my children. I’ve always loved painting and randomly found a shop space to lease facing the sea at The Pulse. I actually have no experience operating a business, but I have experience of working in an art gallery. It’s exciting to me. Every time I paint there, I just forget about the time and it’s really enjoyable.
You share so much of your life online – your videos include your husband and children and you’re very open about your life. How do you handle negative comments directed at you and your family?
I’m actually okay with how people discuss me online, because this is a burden I have to bear. But now that I have children and a dog, basically everything related to me is a topic of discussion. I was sad at the very beginning and afraid of whether my children would be hurt once they grew up and saw the comments. Gradually, I learnt to not care so much and now I believe that the haters are just a small group and those who love watching my videos are good people.
So you’re staying positive about it?
Yes. Focus on happiness and don’t be thrown offby that tiny group of people who make you feel unhappy. It hugely affects your creativity when you’re creating content and caring what other people think at the same time. It makes you not want to be yourself anymore, but it matters that you’re true to yourself.
In your birthday vlog, your daughter said she wanted to have white skin like her mum. You told her that dark skin is beautiful as well. How do you teach your children to have that attitude?
Actually, I don’t know where she got this idea. She might feel weird and she might have noticed that her sister is paler than her, and that people tend to praise her little sister more. It might have led her to think that tan skin is ugly. I feel sad if she really thinks like that. I think everyone is born different and we should accept our uniqueness and be confident.
Do you think you’ve developed a positive attitude from being a YouTuber and KoL for these past 10 years?
Yes. When I was young, I would just follow the trend. I used to care so much but now that I’m 30, I don’t care about those things anymore. Probably because I’m a mum now, I want to teach my children the right things. I think it’s okay to pursue the aesthetics you want, but make sure not to make yourself unhappy because of it.
You’re credited with being one of the first YouTubers to bring Korean culture to Hong Kong. What was that like, especially now that Korean culture has become so popular here?
Yes, Korean culture is really popular now. When I was young, Japanese culture was the trend. I wasn’t especially popular as a Korean and other people would just think of [the historical drama series] Dae Jang Geum, which is old-fashioned. When I was around 18, probably around 2009, K-pop groups like Girls’ Generation and Super Junior went viral and changed locals’ assumptions about Korea. Friends started asking me more questions about Korea and I was proud of being a Korean. It’s not diffcult for me to act as a bridge between Hong Kong and Korea.
What are you working on now?
After being a YouTuber for so long, I feel like l’m not really familiar with other YouTubers – we’re not united enough. I found that foreign YouTubers or Taiwanese YouTubers always have collaborations and do shoots together. I feel like this is what we’re lacking in Hong Kong. There are also many cliques. I thought of a programme I want to shoot, but I’m not sure if it will really work. I want to invite a veteran beauty vlogger to work on a YouTube project together.
So you’ll continue your career as a YouTuber?
I think I can’t abandon my YouTube channel, because it’s a way to communicate with my fans. Now there are so many KoLs on Instagram who know how to take beautiful pictures and they look beautiful as well. I’ll gradually get old and I’m not the most beautiful one. So I think I need to keep working on my YouTube channel and update my fans about my life and my true self. They enjoy watching genuine stories.
Who’s your #legend?
Victoria Beckham. She has her own business, children and a really nice body! I think she’s really cool as a woman in the modern era. #
CREDITS Photography / TMT Videographer / Rabbit Lo Gaffer / Hsiao Styling / Zaneta Cheng and Alex Loong Make-up / Heisan Hung Hair / Billy Hai