22nd May 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the glamorous corridors of Hong Kong’s entertainment industry, the term “gold digger” often takes centre stage, casting a shadow over the personal lives of many successful women. Recent headlines surrounding Hong Kong singer Joey Wong, known as JW, and her split from financially troubled boyfriend Tarzan Ip, have rekindled the debate on this derogatory label. Similarly, actress Bernice Liu’s romantic affiliations with affluent businessmen have seen her painted with the same broad strokes. These cases provide a poignant backdrop to explore why financially independent women in Hong Kong’s showbiz are still ensnared by this archaic stereotype.

Joey Wong’s breakup with Tarzan Ipn came after his family’s business empire crumbled, an event that led many to speculate that Wong’s exit was financially motivated. However, a closer look reveals a different story. Wong, a self-made success, has never shied away from discussing her financial independence. Her frustration with the gold digger label was palpable when she expressed her dismay in an interview, lamenting the public’s quickness to overlook her hard-earned achievements in favour of a more scandalous narrative.

Despite her ex-partner’s bankruptcy, Wong recently celebrated the purchase of a HK$9.5 million apartment in Tai Hang Terrace, highlighting her financial independence. This move should have silenced the critics, yet the whispers of her being a gold digger persist, highlighting a societal double standard that often dismisses a woman’s personal agency.

Bernice Liu’s romantic history is similarly checkered with accusations of materialism, especially following her relationships with notable businessmen. Yet, Liu has taken significant steps to pivot away from the limelight and its accompanying stereotypes. Her enrollment at INSEAD and her burgeoning career as a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) reflect a desire to be recognised for her intellect and creativity, rather than her romantic connections.

Liu’s venture into educational content creation, particularly her popular baking tutorials, showcases her commitment to reshaping her public persona. Despite these efforts, the label lingers, demonstrating the challenge women face in shifting public perception.

The persistence of the gold digger stereotype in Hong Kong is emblematic of broader cultural beliefs concerning wealth and social status. Relationships involving wealth disparity, especially where the woman is less affluent, are often scrutinised under a harsher light, disregarding the complexities of personal dynamics in favour of a more sensationalist interpretation.

This bias is not only reductive but also damaging. It undermines women’s achievements and perpetuates a narrative where their financial intentions are always in question, regardless of their success or independence. Such stereotypes enforce outdated gender roles and stigmatise women who seek equal partnerships with financially stable men.

The narrative surrounding women like Wong and Liu needs a critical reassessment. Society must acknowledge the possibility that women can be attracted to qualities that often accompany wealth, such as security, ambition, or stability, without reducing these women to mere opportunists. The discourse should not just change in media portrayals but also in everyday conversations where such stereotypes are perpetuated.

In rethinking the gold digger stereotype, we not only challenge our biases but also pave the way for a more equitable society where women’s successes are celebrated, not questioned. Joey Wong and Bernice Liu are not anomalies; they are pioneers in their right, battling against an outdated stereotype that no longer holds relevance in today’s progressive world.