At the end of last year, singer/actress Fiona Sit was in the midst of filming the TV show Memories Beyond Horizon when tragedy struck. Her father became ill and was admitted to the ICU. Despite the difficulties, Fiona was determined to express her longing for her family and hometown through music.
On the day of the Winter Solstice (Dec. 21), she released a new song called “Hong Kong’s Night.” This heartfelt work was a simple, honest story of her own. “We all have beautiful and gentle nights in our hometowns, and if you’re missing home, this song can become ‘Beijing’s Night’ or ‘Chengdu’s Night,’ with the same melody and expression,” Fiona tells Billboard China for a new cover story. “Music is a blessing to us all.”
For two decades, music has been a constant companion to Fiona, providing her with a platform to express emotions, from love to healing. After all these years, her heartfelt love for music still shines.
‘I’m also surprised that I’ve been singing for 20 years’
Fiona was starting from scratch when she first stepped into the recording studio. She had no experience or knowledge of the music industry and was intimidated by the producer and backup singers. With no idea how to express her ideas, she was left feeling overwhelmed and helpless. She often asked questions like, “What color should this sentence be? How shy should the boy in the song be? Are there other people in the room when we’re together? How many?”
Fiona’s journey to becoming a musician was an extraordinary one. She began as an installation artist, where she could express her feelings through her brush and materials. But when it came to music, she realized she needed to collaborate with lyricists, composers and other behind-the-scenes creatives to make something special. She chose to communicate through art, honing her skills in a professional way, until she could use her own voice to express her emotions. Fiona’s voice is like a unique blend of lemon, honey and mint — a perfect harmony to accurately portray the vibrant emotions of a girl’s heart.
Fiona’s art is a vivid expression of her emotions. From the golden trophies she has earned since her debut, to the self-doubt and confusion she experiences in difficult times, to the pink romantic mood of love and the thoughts of her hometown at night, Fiona’s art captures it all. When she’s stuck for inspiration, Fiona turns to painting. As she puts it, “Drawing a song is like listening to it over and over again and painting a picture. The picture is the song.”
Becoming a star without much thought
Fiona had big dreams of becoming an artist when she was in school. She studied Creative Media and Installation Art in college, but people around her often asked her if she wanted to be a model because of her natural beauty. Despite being only 5-foot-6, she decided to give it a go and soon found out that modeling isn’t just about strutting down a catwalk — it also involves photo shoots and videos. And that’s how Fiona’s modeling career began. She’s since starred in TV commercials for big brands like HSBC and Coca-Cola.
“At age 20, I shot commercials for 6-8 hours and earned HKD 3,000-4,000 [around $350-$500 USD] per session. I’d keep 800 [$100 USD] for myself and gave the rest to my parents, and I haven’t asked them for money since. Little did I know back then that modeling would become my future career. I just felt I was a precocious child who was already supporting my family.”
Fiona had always been passionate about singing, but it wasn’t until people started asking her if she wanted to pursue it professionally that she began to seriously consider it. She knew her uncle worked at a record company and had been responsible for the work of many singers, so she decided to seek his advice. When Fiona told her uncle about her singing aspirations, he was surprised. “You like singing? Do you have perfect pitch?” he asked. Her uncle then arranged for her to meet with a Warner Music agent and have an informal audition at a KTV (a karaoke business). Fiona remembers the whole process as being quite magical. She can’t remember much about that day, but she was sure that she sang a lot of Leslie Cheung’s songs. Fiona loves to cover songs by male singers, as it gives her the opportunity to tell a story from a different perspective.
Fiona’s star-studded career began in the same year she released her debut album and starred in her first movie. Director Derek Yee was looking for the perfect female lead for his upcoming movie 2 Young, and Fiona was the one he chose for the 2005 project. Years later, when they became close friends, Derek joked about Fiona’s audition, “Out of all the girls who auditioned, you put in the least effort. You showed up wearing flip-flops and a baggy T-shirt!” Despite her laid-back approach, Fiona’s ease and authenticity won over the producers and directors.
Roaring through the music world for a decade
Fiona’s 2004 debut album F Debut was a huge success. The song “A Letter From Keanu Reeves” topped the music charts in Hong Kong and won the “Top 10 Gold Songs” award at the Radio Television Hong Kong’s Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs Award, along with Jay Chou’s “Common Jasmine Orange,” Leo Ku’s “Love and Fidelity” and Miriam Yeung’s “Storm in a Teacup.”
When Fiona went onstage to accept the award, she smiled happily and simply said “thank you.” After she stepped off the stage, the staff was amazed by her composure. They asked her how she could remain so calm in the face of such an accomplishment. “My calmness is also happiness, pure joy. I just didn’t think too much at that time,” she replied.
Fiona’s life was a whirlwind of activities after achieving fame. She was constantly on the move, juggling interviews and photo shoots, and pushing herself to the brink of exhaustion. But amid her hectic lifestyle, Fiona still found time to reflect on her journey and the future ahead. In her 2013 song “Dear Me in Ten Years,” she expresses the fears of a young girl growing up in a world full of uncertainty: Have I done things that make me proud without regret? Have my beliefs stayed strong? Will I keep my sense of style as I mature? Should I be smart instead of impulsive? Am I happy?
Every time Fiona mentioned “Dear Me in Ten Years” when promoting her songs, she would cry because she was really facing the “question marks” in the song, confronted with the unknown, feeling scared and uncertain about the future. However, after enough crying and thinking, she began to discuss with her company that, in addition to singing and acting, she wanted to step out of her comfort zone and explore new possibilities.
To commemorate her decadelong journey in the music industry since her debut, Fiona released the conceptual album Tenacious in 2013. She took on many roles for the first time, from producer to costume designer, cover designer and art director for the music video sets and lighting. Fiona chose the album title for a reason: It reflects her relentless pursuit of music and unwavering commitment to her craft.
For this album, Fiona took a brave step forward by writing her own lyrics and composing her own music for the first time. The song “Recovery” is a touching reminder of the bond between Fiona and her cat. Fiona’s story is one of pain and regret. After her cat was diagnosed with a painful heart condition, Fiona had to make the difficult decision to let it go. The next day, she found solace in her music, and the song “Recovery” was born.
Fiona hopes to comfort those who have experienced sadness from parting with this song and learn to face the impermanence of life, becoming wise in adversity. “We should not forget all the hardships we have experienced. If you forget them, you will not be able to learn and gain from them. Don’t forget, don’t resent, don’t get angry. Slowly it will turn from a bad thing into a good thing.”
Ten years ago, Fiona was a confused girl, unsure of what the future held. But 10 years later, she had a different outlook. She had learned that growing up doesn’t have to be something to be feared, but something to be embraced. Fiona expressed this newfound understanding in her song “Me After Ten Years.” Through her music, she was able to convey the message that the price of growing up is not something to be dreaded, but a journey that can bring joy and appreciation for life.
Redefining herself & showcasing her true self on multiple stages
Fiona was filled with uncertainty before joining season 3 of the TV series Sisters Who Make Waves last year. Would people be let down after seeing her on the show? She recalled her dance teacher’s initial impression of her as being cold, only to discover her humorous side after getting to know her. After much contemplation, Fiona accepted that while she may have a cold side, she is much more than that. The songs she performs on the show will be her true self, and through them, everyone can get to know the real Fiona.
Fiona used to be content with singing the same familiar pieces. But when she joined Sisters Who Make Waves 3, she had to embrace a new approach. She was now in a “you choose, I learn” state of mind. Through this experience, Fiona discovered that her voice can express a much wider range of emotions. She is now open to learning and collaborating with different styles and genres, as long as it sounds good.
Fiona is taking a break from releasing new music to focus on discovering her true artistic identity. She wants to use her singing to tell stories that are honest and meaningful, instead of pretending to be someone she isn’t. “I want to tell stories that are real and true to who I am,” Fiona says. “I’m determined to find my own voice and express it through my music and its accompanying arrangements. By the end of the year, I’m hoping to have achieved this goal and be able to share my stories with the world.”
If one day Fiona’s career in the arts comes to an end, she plans to become a director. Years ago, two dreams had come to her in the night, connected in a way she couldn’t explain. From these dreams, she had crafted an outline for a script, a story she wanted to bring to life on the big screen. Someday, she hoped, her dreams would become a great movie.
Fiona has had a lifelong curiosity and a passion for the unknown. For the past 20 years, she has been on a journey of exploration, driven by her youthful spirit and accompanied by music and art. Despite the passing of time, her love and dedication remain unwavering. Even after two decades in entertainment, Fiona remains true to herself.