A Chat with J Lou, Hong Kong’s Meme Queen and Influencer


A Candid Conversation with J Lou, Hong Kong’s Third-Culture Kid ‘Rice Queen’ and Meme Creator

J Lou is arguably Hong Kong’s most famous and recognizable third-culture kid.

At 25 years-old, J Lou, pronounced jay looh, gained popularity through her zany and comedic YouTube and Instagram shorts, capturing conversations with her family and friends about the fusion of her eccentric Cantonese background and internationalized French roots.

She shares an online space with her British boyfriend, Dan, French father, and Hong Kong mother, in tutorial videos about Cantonese slang and complicated French words, conversations about her identity as a Eurasian Hong Konger, and journey navigating her Asian and European roots in Hong Kong.

A self-described rice addict, J Lou is known by her fans as the “rice queen,” because of her compulsion with talking about and eating rice on her Instagram or YouTube channel. Her boastful social media following of over 1 million fans on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are comedically known as the “#ricefam.”

Now, with an impressive catalogue of hysterical content relatable for anyone with an Asian upbringing or roots, J Lou is planning her next move into showbiz and entertainment, hoping to wow on the big screen. Like rice, she is serious about this.

Lou began posting commentary videos on Snapchat in her second year of study at City University of Hong Kong, chatting about her cross-cultural mix on Snapchat. After growing in popularity with her Hong Kong fans, she created a YouTube channel and Facebook account to share longer and finely cut videos.

Her first videos presented discussions about the cultural differences between her Asian and Western upbringing and cultures. She would record her videos taping her phone to her childhood bedroom wall and talk to her audience like a friend.

Starting off as a solo content creator, Lou has hired creatives to help her with video editing, subtitle and translation work, makeup, videography, graphic design, event planning, and agent work.

“When I was going to university,” Lou says, “I think like a lot of people, you don’t actually know what you’re going to do next. I didn’t know that [YouTube and content creation] could be a job until I started growing and people started asking me how much I would charge [for sponsorships and advertising].”

Her first viral YouTube hit came three years ago when she sat down with Dan to drill Cantonese phrases into her monolingual boyfriend, who was born and grew up in Hong Kong but cannot speak the local tongue. She had 400 followers at the time and shot the video in her pyjamas and taped her iPhone to her bedroom wall to capture the pair.

A year prior, Lou uploaded her first YouTube video, “5 Differences Between Local and International Schools 本地與國際學校之分,” analyzing the differences in class size, class location, lunchtimes, discipline, and atmosphere with her personal experience of attending both her Cantonese local Sacred Heart Cannosian School and French International School.

“I filmed it on a holiday in Vietnam at the time, really just for fun. When the video reached over a million views in a day it felt like a different world [I was in], extra surreal. I thought it myself when I go back to Hong Kong, maybe this isn’t real,” Lou said.

The video boosted her following ten-fold and word spread in Hong Kong’s tight-knit content community. People began to contact her about representation and agent work, hinting to Lou that her following grew to a point that there was a future of growth for a content creator.

J Lou’s videos on her YouTube channel and skits uploaded onto her Instagram profile often jump between casual Cantonese and English.

“When I was growing up, I always struggled a little bit with my identity,” Lou explained in an interview with The Beat Asia, “Hong Kong people don’t think you’re Canto[nese] and French people definitely did not think I was French.”

“Learning about the term [third-culture kid], I felt so much more at ease and accepted my identity because there are so many people like me.”

“I feel so blessed to be in the middle of cultures, it is eye-opening to me to see how accepting people are am to me in the world.”

When Lou entered French International School at 12 after seven years studying at a local school, she noticed a great change in how she viewed her identity and how, ultimately, she was shaped. “It was very different going from speaking Cantonese every day of your life to English and French. Everything was different. It does change you a little bit. I was put in the middle and exposed to some much culture and languages.”

Despite having a French father, her French identity is hard to connect with. Lou has never lived in France and can quite comfortably fit into a very local side of Hong Kong. “I feel like sometimes I'm a hundred per cent Asian, and sometimes I'm a hundred per cent European because I just feel like myself. I cannot be cut in half and be half anything.”

“People want to label me or box me into something at the end of the day, I have all these cultures or mindsets and it just makes me into me.”

The Hong Kong-French girl herself can speak five languages, a self-described “lover of languages.” English comes most naturally to her. Cantonese is her mother tongue, French too. Spanish was a requirement at her international school for an additional language to learn, and Mandarin at her local school.

The hardest language to speak, J Lou says, is French, with the expressions of tenses the most complicated part. Most French speakers routinely use the wrong tenses, including her own father.

Lou is a two-time TEDx speaker. She spoke to an audience of undergraduates and postgrads at Hong Kong Baptist University in March 2019 about her creative journey from a budding side hobbyist to a content influencer. In October 2019, at [email protected], Lou recounted her experiences navigating a creative and online career with the heavy expectations of her parents.

She explained to a young high-school audience at Australian International School in Hong Kong about the anxiety she had about asking her then-suspecting parents to feature in her videos.

“Recently, I was able to do something I thought I never do […] or expected instant rejection,” Lou said in her TEDx talk, uploaded onto YouTube, “which was making videos with me. I got so much anxiety leading up to that question. My stomach would act up everything I thought about it.”

“Being part of my work would mean that there's support [from my parents], there’s a way for us to talk about what I do. Ultimately, [it is a way] to let go about the hidden shame that I never became a doctor or a lawyer, because supporting me would be their loudest way of saying I’m proud of you.”

Lou’s parents are now regularly featured on her YouTube channel. Lou and her father talk about French culture and what it means for him to have lived in Hong Kong since the age of 23, almost 40 years in the city. She discusses heavy topics such as Asian tiger parenting and life expectations with her mother.

Online and offline, Lou converses and dines with Hong Kong’s and the world’s most famous - she is among the city's influencer elite.

She has sat down with Ed Sheeran for a live stream in November 2021, representing Hong Kong in his Asia Fan Meet for his new album “=”, shook hands with Rihanna in Seoul and got tagged on her Instagram, and buddied up with Joyce Cheng, Hong Kong’s fan favourite singer-songwriter.

And she lays claim to being Malaysian chef (and comedian) Uncle Roger’s “favourite niece,” featuring on his stir-fried rice tutorial video with British presenter Hersha Patel in August 2020. Not only is she the “rice queen,” but has a familial connection with the king of YouTube’s fried rice obsession.

“I have built my career myself and reached stars that I never thought I could have met. It was so surreal and humbling to speak with Ed [Sheeran], he spoke to me in such a down-to-earth friendly manner.”

She has also touched the hearts of many of her fans, across the world. Lou recalls dozens, if not hundreds, or messages from third-culture kids, in Hong Kong, Europe and North America, telling her that her content has inspired them to embrace their mother language and culture and begin discussions with their parents and friends about their heritage.

“I have always wanted to use humour to show others how we can embrace our Asian heritage and to show that we are all the same and went through the same thing. I love that my content has been able to spread the love for that.”

J Lou’s popularity overseas and online exploded with the creation of the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits – Facebook's fastest-growing group in history with 1 million fans in a month – cataloguing the struggles, journeys, and memes of people with Asian backgrounds.

“[There are] so many people [on Subtle Asian Traits] like me that are going to love the content I have to share,” Lou thought. She began uploading her Instagram series, “J Lou Rants,” a series of short but passionate rants about her Cantonese blunders and Eurasian struggles. When only her Instagram following was floating around 100,000 followers, her Instagram series reached millions of views a week.

“[The success of the series] was inspiring to see all the people like me banding up together, sharing funny things and painful upbringings stories, and bringing it together as humour.” She hopes to inspire Eurasian and Asian creators to create more videos about their culture and identity and spread their uniqueness of the world.

Ultimately, Lou wants to provide a voice that speaks to the experience that Asian children have grown up in. Her comedy is aimed at comforting and building a community of people, third-culture kids or people of Asian backgrounds, to show that her experience is not rare, but shared across the world.

“I think it’s really important to remind yourself that no matter what people think about you, it does not matter,” Lou said. As a third-culture kid, “you are so blessed to have different cultures and aspects within you. Embrace that because you are unique and beautiful and no one can take that away from you.”

For budding content creators inspired by her journey, Lou advises that “it’s important to find what’s authentic and unique with yourself. [Show] something you can share to the world, even if it’s something mundane like cooking. How do you present that in a way that we’ve never seen before.”

J Lou has recently begun a partnership with Carats Entertainment, an artiste agency working with “various unique gems” in artiste management, styling, and social media, to reach her next phase penetrating the local and regional showbiz and entertainment industry.

“I think [being represented by an agent now] means that I have built myself over the years to a certain level. I am so happy that I have an extra pair of eyes, someone to guide me to the next level that I want to get to, [which is the big screen].”

Lou has always been a performer and dream for starring on the big screen. Her stage in her youth was the living room, at high school the school stage, and at university she was persistent in signing up to singing competitions and drama lessons to keep her side passion alive.

“All of my videos are a way of performing,” Lou explains.

Her passion and talent for performing grows today with her pursuit of a career in acting and becoming a variety star. With the professional help of her agency, Lou hopes to see herself in music videos and shorts acting with Hong Kong’s celebrities, finding opportunities to pursue acting and performing emotionally for film, and becoming a variety performer in the city’s TV industry.

In five to 10 years, Rikko, her agent, hopes to see her in Netflix dramas and big pictures released internationally.

“We want to highlight Lou’s Cantonese side and be emersed with her Hong Kong identity, and also bring [her] to a regional and global market.”

With the content influencer and entertainment industries in Hong Kong quite distinct and separate from each other, her agency plans to bridge the two together, bringing her skills and talent in her quippy and comedic humour to a larger platform.

“I always think if Disney wanted to cast a Eurasian princess, they would have to cast me!”

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