Ministering Angel: Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre & Hong Kong Ballet champion Anne Wang Liu does all she can from the heart
“Super Speed!” proclaims Anne Wang Liu when asked which superhuman ability she would choose. A self-proclaimed multitasker, she has mastered the art of operating at speed as she juggles motherhood and her life passions one day at a time.
Despite her glamorous appearance – arriving in a monochromatic light-brown and skin-tone semi-formal ensemble, high block-heeled pumps in the same colour tone, jewellery from her own accessory line and gleaming black locks in relaxed big curls – more than anything she seems a diligent, efficient mum making sure everything is under control. We meet on a highly changeable summer’s day – beautifully clear at first, then gloomy and raining – a weather pattern that locals proudly claim is unique to Hong Kong. Yet for Wang Liu, it’s all about perspectives.
“Ah, the weather! One of the few things in life we people cannot control, right?” she says, as she smiles brightly and poses for the camera despite raindrops splattering her yellow garden dress. “That’s the thing, whatever circumstance we are put into, it’s about making things work and overcoming it.”
Raised on the outskirts of New York City, young Anne completed an economics degree at Cornell University, then embarked on a career in finance. She has contributed her planning abilities to a number of causes since she and her husband, Julian Liu – whom she met at college – moved to Hong Kong two decades ago, including Hong Kong Ballet and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre, which marks its 10th anniversary here.
Wang Liu is a familiar face of the city’s social scene and one of the most well-loved Hong Kong socialites. Apart from being blessed with impeccable style, her vibrant personality makes her easy to like. Joining the Board of Governors of Maggie’s nine years ago reflected her selflessness and determination to give back to the community.
“When I first became involved with Maggie’s, I had friends and family who were fighting cancer and I felt that Hong Kong lacked the facilities that were needed to support patients,” she says. “Yes, we have the doctors, but social support is very important in fighting the disease. Maggie’s has a multidisciplinary team, including oncology specialists, social workers, clinical psychologists and registered dietitians to provide free, practical, emotional and psychosocial support to people touched by cancer.”
By peeling off the layers to unveil her rawness, Wang Liu moves beyond the superficiality of being judged by how she might dress for events or appear on the social pages of magazines. She goes deeper by nurturing the inside – a mindset that reveals her beautiful soul.
Fayre of Heart
The first Maggie’s opened in Edinburgh in 1996 as a new type of care centre that would make the experience of cancer more manageable for everyone. It was conceived by the late Maggie Keswick Jencks – who had spent her early years in Hong Kong – following the return of her breast cancer. The Hong Kong centre was built in the grounds of Tuen Mun Hospital in 2013 with the support of the Keswick Foundation.
As she explains, it does not have government funding and depends solely on grants and donations to continue its work: “We have an upcoming event in December, the Fayre of St John’s, with all proceeds from individuals and businesses going to cancer patients and their families. I am involved very much as the fundraising committee co-chair to raise public awareness and funds for the event.
“Ultimately, the aim is to ensure that Maggie’s has the resources it needs to provide high-quality care and support to people affected by cancer. The fundraiser brings families together for a night of song and gives a face to those suffering from cancer,” she adds.
As we shoot the third look, the production team is fanning an ethereal goddess-like green gown with long trails on the shoulder to give an angelic wing effect for the photos. Humming the chorus of Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings in between makeup touch-ups, our equally angelic model reiterates the fact that a strong support system plays a crucial part in life.
“My parents taught me the need for a parent to always support their children’s emotional well-being and to create an environment where my children feel safe and confident,” she says.
“My parents provided me with the opportunity to engage in many different activities. I led an active childhood, participating in sports, dance, music, student government and community service. They allowed me to pursue my personal and intellectual curiosity. Moreover, they taught me the importance of close familial ties and having a supportive group of friends.”
It’s a philosophy she applied while raising her two daughters, Madeline and Audrey. Despite her busy schedule, she finds time to be the cool mum she wants her kids to have. Just days before the shoot, she scored much-coveted Taylor Swift Eras Tour concert tickets for the three of them.
“It was crazy! Super” she shares excitedly, the way one would with teenage peers. “I made sure we got the chance to watch Taylor Swift because both of my girls are huge fans. And now, I am too.”
When asked how old her daughters are now, she laughs quickly and says: “Next question.” Still chuckling, she proudly continues to tell her story about motherhood and how she managed to raise them just the way she wanted it to be.
“I am focused on teaching them what’s right and wrong, and luckily, they’ve turned out to be quite self-motivated. So, I don’t need to guide them as much anymore. Things are now reversed and they are guiding me,” she says.
Exemplifying her belief in giving back to the community and helping the next generation, as co-chair of the Hong Kong Ballet Guild, she devotes her time to making the artform accessible to youngsters from different backgrounds. The annual Nutcracker Christmas Benefit, a fundraising event she considers to be one of her most significant career accomplishments, holds a special place in her heart as both her daughters have performed numerous roles over the years.
“I have watched them grow up on the stage,” she says. “Self-expression in performing arts is paramount. It allows individuals to convey emotions, stories and perspectives uniquely. This creative outlet fosters personal growth, empathy and cultural understanding, enriching both the artist and the audience. It’s a vital means of connecting and communicating in a diverse world.”
As she journeys through life learning about what she loves and embracing every moment of it, she knows that it’s a continuous process.
“My mother and sister have been a constant source of inspiration and support. Both are professional working moms that have been able to balance careers while raising a family. My children have been a constant inspiration and remind me to stay curious, adventurous and young at heart.”
We finish the shoot and interview, typically a four-hour marathon, in just 90 minutes, and she moves seamlessly into discussions with Maggie’s staff to finalise their upcoming event. While she may not possess the superhuman power of super speed, she truly does a lot and always from the heart. Anne Wang Liu has a million obligations, personal and professional, and she gets an A+ for them all.
Interview & Art Direction: Joseff Musa Photographer: Jack Law Fashion Stylist: Jhoshwa Ledesma Videographer: Jack Fontanilla Hair & Make Up: Joenny Lau Venue: Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Brands: Cartier, Chow Tai Fook, Rebecca Vallance, courtesy of Net-A-Porter, Aje, courtesy of Net-A-Porter, Safiyaa, courtesy of Net-A-Porter & Costarellos, courtesy of Net-A-Porter Cover: Suri one-shoulder paneled stretch crepe gown by Safiyaa, courtesy of Net-A-Porter