How one Vancouverite went from SFU student to international TV star

How one Vancouverite went from SFU student to international TV star

Just a few years ago, Grace Chan was a student, scrambling to finish off the last of her communications degree at Simon Fraser University.

Now, Chan has to fend off paparazzi on the other side of the globe.

"It's actually quite a big change. You don't think that people know you or recognize you," she told host stand-in host Jason D'Souza on CBC's North by Northwest. "But when they do — you kind of [take a step] back and go, 'wow.' "

Chan is a television actress, appearing regularly on one of the biggest stations in Hong Kong. But fame is never something she anticipated. Rather, it's the byproduct of a childhood dream to be part of a beauty pageant.

An early obsession

Chan was born in Hong Kong, and moved to B.C. with her family when she was five years old. She embraced life as a Vancouverite, but still felt connected to her birthplace.

At just six years old, she watched the Miss Hong Kong Pageant. She soon became obsessed with the annual beauty contest.

"Every summer when I got to watch it, I would just think, 'would I be able to do that? That would be so amazing.' " she said.

"For me, that was the epitome of everything — that was the Miss Universe for me."

Miss Hong Kong

Chan grew up dreaming about making the pageant. By the time she made it to university, she had never let her passion fade.

Once she finished her communications degree from SFU, she travelled to Hong Kong to take on her childhood dream.

​"I didn't even do it because I wanted to join to entertainment industry or become an actress — [I did it] just to know that I tried something and had no regrets."

Sure enough, she became the 2013 Miss Hong Kong.

A new career

Following her victory, Chan was approached by executives from TVB — one of the largest commercial television broadcasters in Hong Kong. They asked her if she any interest in acting.

"I never had any acting experience or training at all, so I was kind of thinking 'You guys don't know what you're getting into.' "

Now, she's appeared on programs such as the Overachievers, a Hong Kong television drama, and regularly hosts live events. She says acting has helped her grow and explore a side of her she never knew she had — but it still comes with its challenges.

"It feels like everyone is able to comment on what you're doing, regardless of it being mean or nice or helpful," she said.

Of course, it has its perks.

"The best part of it is seeing how proud your parents are of you," she said. "To see them be so proud of what I accomplished, it's so satisfying."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest