Sabrina Ho is sipping a hot chocolate at Mercedes Me, which sits at the base of a building her mother owns. Teetering in high heels, dressed in the latest ensemble from Céline, she looks nothing like the profile picture sent to us by Bellissima Italia, the Italian festival held in Hong Kong and Macau, which she co-chairs. The booklet sent to us by the organisers details the upcoming events and festivities, and reveals a portrait and passage by Sabrina Ho. In that image, she looks gravely sombre in a business suit with her hair pulled back. Very ladylike and proper.
Even before we meet, I know of the young lady thanks to her famed family. Her father is casino mogul Stanley Ho, and her mother Angela Leong is one of the members of the Legislative Council and the director of Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, who also heads various businesses. Sabrina, the couple’s eldest daughter, has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Hong Kong and is currently a project manager for two upcoming hotels that are to be built in Macau – the Palazzo Versace and the first property under Karl Lagerfeld Hotels & Resorts. In the meantime, she also manages two boutique hotels in Hong Kong and Macau, and she’s partnered with a Hong Kong listed company, Poly Auction (Hong Kong). The auction house specialises in high-end jewellery and paintings, and revenues hover around the HK$200 million mark. She established Poly Auction Macau in 2015, holding the position of director and CEO, and earlier this year she established Chiu Yeng Culture Limited. Phew. And we haven’t even covered the roster of awards and charities and several boards of which she’s a part. Did we mention she’s just 26?
Within minutes of our meeting, she puts us all at ease, nothing like the image portrayed in the pamphlet – or by the paparazzi. Her elfin smile and valley-girl intonations are a constant reminder throughout the chat of how painfully young she still is, especially for someone whose CV is already a few pages long. But she won’t let inexperience stand in her way: “I don’t do just one thing, I am involved with multiple projects, titles, roles and responsibilities. I always want to do something that hasn’t been done before.”
Let’s start with her first chat with Prestige.
Your long curriculum vitae states so very many titles. How do you see yourself?
I established Chiu Yeng Culture in 2016. I am the managing director, and Chiu Yeng Culture is one of the main sponsors of the charity premiere of Inferno with Tom Hanks, a major event on Bellissima Italia’s calendar this year. But that’s not all I do – I see myself as a multi-tasker. I’m part of a group in Macau where I offer my suggestions and recommendations on how to develop culture and business. So in future, if people want to develop a project or get government funding, or if you are an entrepreneur and you want money from the government, our group decides which direction we should go in. We think about what kind of policies we have to encourage younger entrepreneurs. We don’t want it to be a one-way thing, we want to see the long term – are there consumers for this project, will they be able to sustain it, keep the business going? Those are the issues we discuss.
What are you working on currently?
For the past few months I’ve been working a lot in Macau, so I’m constantly jetting to and fro, since my office is in Central and I mostly live here. In Hong Kong, I’ve been working on real-estate projects. We have a lot of hotels coming up, especially a big one in the centre of Lan Kwai Fong – that’s a huge project. The Karl Lagerfeld Hotel and Palazzo Versace in Macau are in development. Everyone is all too familiar with my father’s business, but my mother’s side – we are into developing real estate and that’s what my future is aimed at.
Where is home for you?
I go back and forth from Hong Kong and Macau weekly. All my family is linked to Macau; we have that Portuguese gene in us. I grew up in Hong Kong and went to boarding school in London, but home is Hong Kong and Macau.
What do you like to do for fun?
I love fashion. I was a debutante in Europe, and Chopard made me my own tiara named after me – I was the first Asian ever to be given my own namesake tiara!
How did you get involved with Bellissima Italia?
They chose me. I’ve been to Italy several times of course and I really love everything about it; the arts, culture, architecture – it’s all very unique and historical. And of course, the fashion. The brands I wear all stem back to Italy, be it Gucci, Prada, Armani, Loro Piana. And the food – I mean, come on.
Why did they want to work with you?
Originally, I think they found me because of the Versace hotel project that I’ve been working on. And my art background and my cultural development background. When I was first asked to be co-vice chair, it was an easy yes because I already like so many aspects of Italy. One of the projects I’m excited about is bringing amazing art from Italy to Hong Kong and Macau so that everyone can see it. Great art should be seen by all, not just a few.
Bellisima Italia is also a celebration of the Italian lifestyle, which they say is very traditional on one hand, and yet modern on the other. How do you see yourself in that aspect?
I’m a mix of both. I live with my family; my family is very important to me. I’m very traditional in that aspect. I am very respectful to my elders. I get up and greet them. I am never disrespectful, like I’ll never be casual and drink with them or misbehave or use bad language. I wasn’t brought up that way. On the other hand, I am in charge of a lot of projects, I travel constantly for work by myself, I just go for it, I’m ambitious – that’s all very modern.
Who would you say you are closest to in the family?
Apart from my mom, my sister Alice is my favourite person. She’s super cute. She just came back from studying abroad and we are together a lot. We got these knitted blankets in the shape of a mermaid tail, and we were lying around watching movies over the weekend. Family is important to me. You know when you have a big family, your favourite person changes – so at the moment, it’s Alice!
What’s been a great piece of advice you got from your father, Stanley Ho?
Do not be afraid to help other people even though you know it’s a scam. Let me explain. Imagine the scammer – they are scamming because they need the money, they are desperate too. So if you do charity and 80 percent goes to real people who genuinely need help and 20 percent is a scam, then write it off. You’re still helping people. I do a lot of charity work, I’m involved with Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Unicef … I love animal charities – I have two of the cutest dogs in the world. Sometimes when I give money my friends ask me, what if it’s a fake charity? But if it isn’t, I’m helping people. Why deprive the majority of the good for some of the bad?
How do you deal with the tabloids?
At the moment, I feel invincible. When the papers attack you – well, when you’re younger it upsets you a lot more. When you grow up, you don’t actually give a … well, let me put it this way. You are focusing on work. You don’t actually have time to care about what is being said about you by people who don’t know you. Now, I don’t care what they write, I’m busy focused on work.
Who is your role model?
Angelina Jolie. She has done so much good work, I don’t know where to begin. She’s been a teacher, she works with the United Nations. I admire people who are committed to their work but then also do so much more. They don’t have to – but they do. They go beyond the comfort zone. I admire those people.