mercredi 23 septembre 2009


Known as the “Hong Kong Spider Girl”, world champion rock climber Lisa Cheng (鄭麗莎) is also an accomplished gymnast, martial artist, successful bodybuilder, and for the last four years has been the reigning queen of the Miss BodyFitness event at the Hong Kong Bodybuilding Championships.

Lisa’s extraordinary physical abilities and multiple athletic activities have led her into a career as actress, stuntwoman and fitness model, as well as sports broadcaster for the Chinese TV program Now Sports. Action Queens is proud to present Lisa Cheng’s first-ever interview in English! Enjoy...

Frédéric Ambroisine: Your real name is Lisa Cheng, but you’re also known as Lisa Sa. How did you choose this name?

Lisa Cheng: Actually, my real name is Cheng Lai Sho Lisa. I used Lisa Sa just for fun on FaceBook and it became really popular. Then people started to call me Sa-Sa, and I liked it (laughs)! That's why I am Lisa Sa.

FA: Does Sa-Sa have a meaning in English?

LC: No, it doesn’t. It’s just a short form of Lisa: Sa or Sa-Sa. I’m fine with people calling me by any name…

FA: You are involved in a lot of sports activities like climbing, bodybuilding, Thai boxing, gymnastics etc... When did you start practicing these sports?

LC: I have ten years experience climbing and four years in body fitness. I think climbing is my strength; I am “Spider Girl”! I started climbing in 1998, started body fitness in 2005, gymnastics and boxing in 2006, and Muay Thai in 2007. I’ve been a member of the Hong Kong Elite Sport Climbing Team since 2002, the Hong Kong Elite Body Building & Fitness Team since 2006, and I was on the Hong Kong Elite Aerobic Gymnastics Team in 2006 and 2007.

Lisa Cheng's daily routine: Working out, jumping and climbing!

FA: Have you ever used your climbing skills in real life for any reason?

LC: Um…. Climbing trees and catching a ball a few times, haha …Actually, I’ll climb anywhere if I think it’s not dangerous. It usually isn’t too high, and it’s just for fun.

FA: Why did you quit the Aerobic Gymnastics Team?

LC: The main reason I quit is because I broke my knee and incurred ligament injuries while training in 2006. I had surgery in 2007. Also, to be a member of the team I had to pay a training fee every month, which was quite expensive. So, right now I choose to do my gymnastics training in China. It’s cheaper than Hong Kong, more extensive, and very, very good.

Lisa Cheng: gymnastics training

FA: What contests have you won so far?

LC: I won the 2006 World Cup Championship in the World Speed Climbing Competition. In body fitness, I was the 2006 Miss East Asian Fitness Champion, and I also won the 2008 East Asian Championship. For the last six years I have won first place in the Hong Kong Women’s Speed Climbing Competition, and for the last four years I have consistently won the Hong Kong Body Fitness Championship.

Lisa Cheng: competing for Miss Fitness at the East Asian Bodybuilding and
Body Fitness
Championships (Mongolia
2008/Singapore 2006). Guess who won?
FA: You're also a model, stuntwoman, personal trainer and actress. How do you manage your time?

LC: Right now I’m living in Guangzhou, China and am focusing 100% on training for the August 2009 Asian Body Fitness and Miss Fitness Championships in Thailand (1). I am also preparing to compete in the December 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong. I currently work and train full time Monday through Friday: three hours of belly dancing and modeling in the morning, two hours of gymnastics in the afternoon, and two hours of body fitness workout at the the gym in the evening. I’ll probably keep up this work pace until December 2009. On Saturdays and Sundays I sometimes go back to Hong Kong to do some personal training at the gym, visit my family or do other activities.

Lisa Cheng in 2009: strong is beautiful!

FA: Tell me about your action movie role!

LC: I played a hit woman in the 2008 movie “Mutant Cop” (<變種警察> or <狙击黑白森林>) [unreleased movie starring Simon Yam and Michael Miu]. I’m sorry I don’t know the English title!! I was a stuntwoman for this movie, so I used a gun and other weapons to kill a few guys... In the end, their friends shot me back and I died (laughs)! Actually, being an action actress has been my dream since childhood. Now that I am getting older and can afford to obtain more training, I really want to keep learning different skills and continue to improve myself. I want to be ready and able to handle all the different requirements of any job opportunity I might get!

FA: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?

LC: 100% Angelina and her man! I like her character in “Tomb Raider”. She’s elegant, special, beautiful, healthy and sexy. As far as Hong Kong actors, I like Michelle Yeoh and Andy Lau.

Left: Lisa Cheng & Angelina Jolie (montage) - Right: ready for Halloween! (2008)

FA: You also had a role in the movie “Blood Money”. When was that?

LC: The shooting of “Blood Money” took place in December 2008. It’s an Australian action thriller directed by Greg McQualter. They shot it in Hong Kong, China and Australia, so there were three different production crews: one for each country. The action directors came from different countries as well. I knew one of them, Zheng Liu from Beijing. As far as I remember, the story is about a drug dealer who kills somebody’s parents so their son comes back to seek revenge…

FA: What role did you play?

LC: Actually, I just played a pretty chick in this movie….I didn’t have any action! Haha! But I found a lot of guns on the set and wanted to show them some action. So I held a gun, played with my friends, and took some pictures. I love action! I hope to show it in front of the camera, not behind. Haha!

FA: You recently had a role in the comedy “All's Well Ends Well 2009”. Tell me about it.

LC: I play one of Ronald Cheng’s unlucky girlfriends. We shot it in May 2008. I spent nine hours working on my stunt, but it only appears in the movie for a couple seconds! Basically, I get hit by a carpet being carried in a passing car, and get carried away by the carpet! I personally knew a lot of the people involved with the film, and the director Vincent Kok took good care of me because the scene was a little dangerous. But I had so much fun filming that I didn’t consider it as work at all!

Ronald Cheng and Lisa Cheng in “All's Well Ends Well 2009”

FA: What kind of characters would you like to play in the future?

LC: I would like to try all different kinds of roles, but I think I'd be better at doing action movies.

Lisa Cheng: photoshoot for the August 2009 edition of Sportsoho (#7)

FA: When did you do your first TV or movie work?

LC: Let’s see… if I remember right, it was in 2006. Once I had won the World Cup in the World Speed Climbing Competition, more people started to notice me. This has enabled me to begin working in TV and movies.

FA: Do you have a manager or managing company who takes care of all your work, or are you your own manager?

LC: I handle everything myself!

FA: What have you had to do as a stuntwoman? Do you think stunt work is a tough or dangerous job?

LC: I actually don’t have very much stunt experience; just a couple times… but I used to play around just for fun. I feel that being a stunt woman is quite a dangerous job. However, if I am not confident that I can safely perform the required action, I will not take the risk. I have seen quite a lot of people get hurt. I want be an actress more than a stunt woman. I haven’t done much film work but I want to do more in the future. I don’t think my stunt experiences have been very dangerous. I thought it was all good fun: jumping into the sea, getting hit by a car a little bit, getting shot and dying, shooting people, stabbing people with a knife, fighting, climbing... I don’t think this is too dangerous. It’s so much fun! I have never had any stunt training for movies and I have never gotten hurt. But I have been injured during my regular training.

Lisa Cheng: Just some regular “Spider Girl” training!

FA: What happened?

LC: I tore my right knee ligament when I was practicing a high-to-low flip with a rotating landing. I tore my ACL ligament. So sad…

FA: For which TV and movie companies have you worked?

LC: I have worked freelance for different companies, but have spent most of my time at Now TV doing work for their sports program Now Sports.

Lisa Cheng with the Now Sports team

FA: You seem to feel comfortable talking in front of the camera for your TV interviews. Is this natural for you or did you have to gradually learn how to do it?

LC: I feel very natural in front of the camera because I just talk about my real life. I have no special training but I do have a little bit of experience. I have been interviewed by many different sport medias since I was a child.

Edcon Gabriel and Lisa Cheng preparing for an episode for Now Sports (June 2008)

FA: When were you contacted by the TV channel Now Sports to be a TV broadcaster?

LC: I’ve been working for Now Sports since January 2008. When I started, I did voice-over behind the screen once or twice a week for about three months. After that, Now Sports wanted me to sign a contract with them as full-time staff but I didn’t want to work under contract so I refused. Instead I have been doing freelance work for them.

FA: What are the easy parts, or difficult parts, about this job?

LC: I think I can communicate easily with everybody. I have discovered that many people enjoy talking with me and dialoguing. I think that the difficult part of this job is when I’m expected to talk about the rules of a sport I am not familiar with. I need to study the game and memorize all the rules in a very short period of time.

FA: How long do you spend preparing for one episode of the TV program?

LC: The truth is that I never really have much time to prepare. I work under a research team; they give me the information I need right before the deadline, or face to face on the actual day of shooting. So sometimes I need to do some extra research myself.

Lisa Cheng revising before a monologue for Now Sports (July 2008)

FA: Are the episodes scripted or improvised?

LC: They provide me with voice-over scripts for each episode. And they also provide me with recommended questions and reference materials when I interview somebody.

FA: Why did you choose to learn boxing and Muay Thai?

LC: I started boxing because I have a friend in gymnastics who is also a boxer. So it was easy for me to begin. A few months after I started regular training, I had an accident - my knee injury - so I couldn’t train anymore. But I didn’t want to give up on it, so I took a boxing coach course to learn about the theory. At that time I had a friend who was a Hong Kong boxing team committee coach. The Hong Kong team were about to enter a Muay Thai competition in Thailand. I wanted to travel and I wanted to watch fights so I bought a ticket and followed them. I found that Muay Thai is more skilled, more useful and more dynamic than boxing. And I found out that Muay Thai training in Thailand is cheap and professional: very systematic training programs are the norm there. So I started to come to Thailand by myself. I go back from time to time….

Lisa Cheng: Muay Thai Action Queen! (Thailand 2008)

FA: Did you choose to train in Muay Thai in order to attend a Mixed Martial Arts competition?

LC: I worked as a K-1 commentator for Now Sports and have also often watched MMA fights. Doing these things was motivation for me to want to train in fighting. I think Muay Thai is the most harmful fighting in the MMA (laughs)!!

Lisa Cheng & Master Noi: Muay Thai training in Bangkok (2008)

FA: Have you ever fought in real life?

LC: The last time I really fought was when I was a kid… haha! No more after that… I think I changed my attitude after I got into the sports field. It’s been a long time since I have even argued with anyone.

FA: And have you fought in a martial arts competition before?

LC: I have not yet entered a fight competition but I think I will someday. I want to win, so I want to be well prepared.

FA: Women with too much muscle are not really...“feminine”, right? I assume there are different categories and different kinds of training for female bodybuilders. Can you explain a little bit about your bodybuilding training?

LC: I agree that women should not have too much muscle. I’m in the Body Fitness and Miss Fitness categories, which are different from the Bodybuilding category. So I don’t need to build up too much muscle. I need to be more feminine, pretty, sexy, and have a healthy muscle style for the Body Fitness category. So I usually just put a lot of energy into training at the gym: five days a week, two hours per session. Concerning Miss Fitness, we are judged on the level of the physical ability of our bodies. There is a 90-second aerobic session in which you have to show off your physical skills onstage. That’s why I’m learning gymnastics right now. (2)

FA: Is there any female bodybuilder that you like?

LC: Yes! Roongtawan Sing Jindasing. She’s a Body Fitness, Bodybuilding and Miss Fitness champion. She’s from Thailand and was my idol when I started out in the field. On top of her multiple championships, I really like her face…and her heart.

FA: Which category do you prefer: Body Fitness or Miss Fitness?

LC: The goal of Body Fitness is to have a perfect body, and Miss Fitness is for showing off physical skills. I like the Miss Fitness category more, but Body Fitness is actually easier for me to win. I hope that more hard work will help me have better results in both categories.

Lisa Cheng:Miss Fitness event, 2008 Asian Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships

FA: I noticed that most of the magazines about Hong Kong movie stars primarily gossip about their private lives. But it seems that magazines about sports celebrities are more serious and respectful. Am I right or wrong?

LC: Absolutely right!! I think everybody in Hong Kong, not just magazines, has respect for athletes. I like my image because I represent Hong Kong when I compete with other countries. On the other hand, regarding movie stars, this is just the way Hong Kong is… Everybody likes to talk about the stars so the media likes to follow them around and expose their private lives.

FA: For which magazines have you modeled? Was it only for Fitness magazines? Or for fashion magazines too? Any other sports magazines?

LC: I have been interviewed by almost all the Hong Kong magazines and newspapers but the interviews were mostly about my life. Occasionally they ask me to do a bit of fashion modeling, which I am happy to do. I have mostly appeared in teen and sport magazines. I have also done photo shoots for catalogues, posters and things like that for different sports companies like Nike, High Peak, Sport Direction, Exxtasy, Orca and SSI.

FA: What commercial and/or fitness videos have you shot recently?

LC: I recently shot an instructional video on how to use the fitness facilities in the Hong Kong Police fitness rooms. It was a project for the Police sponsored by the Hong Kong Government.

FA: How do you feel about the July 2009 cancellation of the Bodybuilding events by the East Asian Games Association?(3)

LC: It was unbelievable! When I heard that the Bodybuilding events were suddenly cancelled, my heart was totally broken! I had been excited and looking forward to joining the competition for an entire year. The East Asian Games Association had decided to host the Bodybuilding events and they were to take place in my home town, Hong Kong. I had East Asian competitor experience and I believed that I would be very successful and do well if I just worked hard. I decided to give up my job and even paid to go all by myself to China to do some hard training. I still feel really sad and disappointed. Now I will attend a different tournament in China. I usually use the China competition to warm up for the East Asian Games, but now I will put all my heart into the upcoming China tournament. I will actually compete in the several Miss China Fitness competitions held throughout China in September and November 2009.

Lisa Cheng - Hong Kong - September 2009

FA: Any other projects?

LC: I tutor school fitness courses because I want to save money for travelling, training and other goals! I also plan to begin preparing to do more work in commercial jobs. I’ll tell you something: I don’t know why, but I have a special feeling that something is coming up for me soon. I really hope so! Haha!

Interview conducted by Frédéric Ambroisine July-September 2009. Edited for by Sylvia Rorem and Patty Keung (Gig Creations). Photos: Lisa Cheng's personnal collection. Research for Victor Gee, Adeline C. Kayee, Michael Ortega and dleedlee (HKMDB forum). Mega-thanks to Lisa Cheng for her kindness and patience!

(1) This section of the interview was done in early July 2009. Since then, Lisa Cheng won both the August 2009 Asian Body Fitness and Miss Fitness Championships in Thailand.
(2) Additional comment by Lisa Cheng: “Since the cancellation of the Bodybuilding events at the 2009 East Asian Games, I am now training at the gym seven days a week, two hours or more per session.”
(3) Read more about the cancellation here Bodybuilding muscled out of 2009 EAG (China Daily) and
here Lisa Cheng feels lost at Bodybuildong contest being cu (Ta Kung Pao)
(Chinese only)

Translation of above article - Ta Kung Pao - July 22nd, 2009: Hong Kong athlete Lisa Cheng is in Guangzhou preparing for the East Asian Games. She feels very shocked and disappointed that the Bodybuilding events have been cut. When asked to comment regarding the incident, she said, “I was only informed by a friend this afternoon. I feel hurt and almost unable to accept this reality. I’ve only just pulled myself together. Ever since I found out that there would be Bodybuilding events at this year’s East Asian Games I have been practicing diligently. In fact, I am training with China’s Guangzhou body building team right now. I have a lot of advantage in this contest and am very confident I could win a medal. Now that I know the contest has been cut, I feel lost and very upset. Originally I intended to use the East Asian Games as a warm up before I entered the national contest in Thailand. Now I can only focus on the Thailand contest.” There is a rumor that there are conflicts between the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) and the Asian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (ABBF). The IFBB has apparently tried to block the official capacity of the ABBF. About this, Lisa comments, “I have heard before that there were conflicts between the two federations, but as an athlete, not everything is under my control. I can only do my best within my own arena.”

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