Screenshot: The Tournament

At the peak of her fame in the 1970s, martial arts star Angela Mao was marketed as the female equivalent of Bruce Lee. Her role as Lee’s sister in Enter The Dragon brought her to international fame in 1973, but she starred in numerous Hong Kong films of her own, including 1974‘s The Tournament. But Mao largely disappeared from the screen in 1983, and the woman herself seemed to vanish from the face of the earth entirely a decade later. In a New York Times article called “Searching For Lady Kung Fu,” writer Alex Vadukul catches up with the now-66-year-old Mao to find out what happened to the actress after her brief but memorable time in the spotlight. As it happens, the rumors circulating about her among fans were basically true. Yes, she left the business to concentrate on being a wife and mother. And, yes, she now runs a handful of restaurants in New York City. It’s a relatively quiet coda for the star of Deadly China Doll.

Mao seems to be at peace with her post-fame life. Unlike Lee, who actively sought and needed stardom, she was never obsessed with pursuing fame or her career. She worked to support her family, and movies were simply the best-paying assignments she could get in those days. Then, she had a baby, her husband’s job in construction took him to New York, and that was pretty much that for her movie career. “I had to keep a lower profile,” Mao says, “so my husband could be the leader.” She seems neither particularly proud nor ashamed of her movie career. And as for her reputation as a feminist icon, she shrugs it off. “I don’t think much about male power and female power,” she explains. She’ll reminisce about the old days, working alongside such legends as Jackie Chan, but only up to a point. Mao has moved on, even if her fans never will.

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