Q & A with Red Hong Yi

Thursday, 15 August 2013
Hong Yi's explosion into the world of YouTube has created such a sensation that she has been featured in numerous websites, magazines and newspapers from one end of the world to the other. She's an unconventional artist who doesn't paint with a paintbrush or crayon for that matter. Her life hasn't been the same since. She has been zipping across a few continents and managed to fit this interview between her conferences (she's been invited to speak at TedxKL, EG etc) with the help of her mom, Terri, a popular Malaysian food blogger.

Top photo via Esquire

Name and occupation
Hong is my family name ('Kang' in Mandarin, and it means healthy in Chinese, not red as reported in most articles) and Yi is my first name. I don't have a middle name like most Chinese because 'single names' are common among Shanghainese (my Dad is from Shanghai). I am an architect-artist, now known as Red Hong Yi because of the play on my family name which spells like 'red' in Chinese-Mandarin. 

Your favorite food
I love soto and soup tulang (Malaysian beef soup and noodles) and I've been starved of these dishes for the past month because it was Ramadan! I prefer Asian cuisine (Chinese, Japanese, Korean (oh!), Thai, Vietnamese---there's so much variation in flavors and ingredients--- to Western although I do love cheeses, salads and steaks.

3 edible things that'll never pass through your lips
Exotic meat, bugs, worms...

Your pet peeves
People who talk when I am watching a movie. I know many who do that.

How would you describe your life now?
Like a dream come true! My schedule is very busy, with deadlines and a lot of travel, but because I enjoy what I'm doing, I wake up looking forward to work everyday!

Favorite cities
Berlin, Shanghai, Melbourne, Paris and New York. 

5 favorite items in your closet
My black go-everywhere MiuMiu bag, a pair of Rag & Bone jeans given to me by Rag & Bone New York, a grey Theory dress for when I want to be taken seriously, a sundress I bought from Rome for 10 euros that I wear all the time when I'm back in Malaysia because it's so hot, and an old brown leather jacket that I picked up in some market in Shanghai. 

Best gift you've ever received
Chowder, my 10-month Chow Chow mutt. Best ever ever gift.

Best advice you've ever received

Favorite must reads (blogs, books, journals, magazines etc)
I wish I have the luxury of reading time! When I travel, I bring books on business and Chinese culture to read on the plane. I loved to check out blogs but now I never have enough time although I always check out Gary Pepper's Instagram, daily! 
How many languages do you speak?
Growing up in Malaysia, multilinguality is common so I speak English, Malay and Chinese (Mandarin, Shanghainese and some Cantonese).

3 things you can't live without
My iPhone, Apple laptop and my family, which includes my dog, Chowder.

5 most asked questions on your blog/YouTube/Twitter/Instagram/life
How long did it take me to do an artpiece, how did I get the idea for an artpiece, where do I see myself as an artist-architect in 5 years, how old am I, are you an artist or an architect?

My daughter is a massive fan of yours. How do you feel about having a 7 year old as your apprentice? 
Thrilled! I'd love to meet Lil L (she is so lovely!) and spend time with her one day! I hear she's extremely bright, fun and speaks the most exquisite English. The British accent, by the way is my favorite English accent (I'm going to ship Lil L to Yi for a week. She may change her mind after the experience!)
Thank you Marlene, for interviewing me, and I think your blog and photos are excellent!
Red Hong Yi

**A HUGE thank you to Red Hong Yi's mom, Terri for making this interview possible.


  1. Great interview; I've always been fascinated by her work. She's uber talented.

  2. What a totally cool person! And beautiful too. And how does she do that - even the paint smudges on her arms are sublime!

  3. Loved reading this interview! Her work is amazing!

  4. wow marlene, this post is beautiful; you've made the photos come alive (those worn out jeans don't look so bad in the photo)! THANK YOU tons for this writeup, and lil L is welcome to stay for as long as she wants!

  5. I like her too, she is pretty , and talented at the same time.

    shan ty wong

  6. thanks so much for featuring me in ur beautiful blog marlene!! xo

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