Walking between the thoroughfares of Sai Ying Pun, Artem Ansheles stands out. Platinum blond and blue-eyed with a proclivity for primary colours, he’s as conspicuous as a solitary sunflower in a field of green.
“I came to Hong Kong just five years ago from Russia, and from that moment I fell in love with the city and decided I must live here,” he says. Fast forward a mere two months and he’d returned with “suitcases containing all of my belongings and an aim to study product and interior design”.
As we stroll, people ask him for selfies while others nod hello. He doesn’t live anywhere nearby, but his celebrity does – Ansheles is a popular host on a local TV channel and his Cantonese, with the dialect’s cadences and baffling tones, has been fast perfected.
“I attended Cantonese courses for a year, but I wouldn’t say that this is the reason why I’ve picked it up so quickly,” he reveals. “I refrained from communicating or watching anything English or Russian, forcing myself to listen.”
When he first landed – like several of his ilk – he started modelling for cheesy commercials before jumping on the celebrity bandwagon. “The jump was more of a climb. Local television wants local stars … Around that time, there was a TV programme looking for people like me.” Right place, right time? Ansheles laughs. “Well I think it was more right search engine, right key words.”
Hong Kong, now his home, and his adopted dog Max are everything at the moment. “I used to feel like a Russian spy,” he admits. “No one knew that I understood Cantonese. It always felt good to surprise them with a little ngo sik teng [I understand]. The reaction is always priceless.”
He’s on his way to his next appointment and his phone beeps with timely alarms, a busy working man in a city that likes busy bodies. “I feel as if every moment spent not working is wasted time. I spend all my free time from work on other projects such as filming videos for my YouTube channel or photography for my Instagram. Since I’m my own product, I spend a lot of time improving myself mentally, physically, spiritually. Progress is my concept of fun.”