Karen Mok (born Karen Joy Morris (Chinese: 莫文蔚), 2 June 1970) is a Hong Kong pop diva who is one of the leading Asian pop singers and actresses with a career spanning three decades. She is the first female Hong Kong singer to win the Golden Melody Award and has won it a total of three times. She has released 17 solo studio albums, starred in over 40 movies, has over 15 million followers on leading Chinese social media site Weibo and holds the Guinness World Record for the Highest Altitude Mass-Attended Music Concert.
Karen Mok was born on 2 June 1970 as Karen Joy Morris in Hong Kong. She is of mixed ancestry: her mother is half Chinese, quarter German and quarter Persian, while her father is half Welsh and half Chinese. Her grandfather was Alfred Morris, the first principal of King's College, Hong Kong. She speaks English, Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, German and French.
Mok attended Diocesan Girls' School from primary to secondary grade in Hong Kong. When she was a F.4 student, she received the 1st Hong Kong Outstanding Students Awards. In 1987 she won a scholarship for the United World College of the Adriatic in Duino (Trieste, Italy) from which she graduated in 1989 with the International Baccalaureate. She subsequently studied Italian Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London.
While studying in London, Mok auditioned for the West End Musical Miss Saigon. At the same time, she recorded music demo tapes together with fellow students which landed her first recording contract with Star Records. She decided to put her theatre aspirations on hold, headed back to Hong Kong and released in 1993 her first Cantonese album Karen. She achieved her musical breakthrough with the launch of her first Mandarin album To Be in 1997. To date, she has released 17 studio albums, the most successful ones being 做自己 To Be (1997), 全身莫文蔚 Karen Mok in Totality (1995), (2004), Without you (2006), 拉活...莫文蔚 L!VE is... KAREN MOK (2007) and HALF TIME (2018) containing numerous number 1 hits such as Ta Bu Ai Wo, 他不愛我, He does not love me, Yin Tian, 陰天, Overcast and Man Man Xihuan Ni, 慢慢喜歡你, Growing fond of you.
In 2013, she launched her first English album Somewhere I belong, an East-meets-West reinterpretation of jazz classics. The album is recorded in China with Asian musicians and adding the guzheng on several tracks. She showcased this album at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London, on 30 May 2013. Mok said about the title of the album: “It’s about what I do, when I feel comfortable, that’s when I’m doing what I love most, that’s singing, that’s when I’m performing on stage, and just singing my heart out, sharing my emotions,” she said. “So that’s where I belong.”
Mok has released numerous EPs and compilations and her music has been featured in more than 324 CD compilations. In 2018 she launched her own music label Mok-a-by-baby records in partnership with Sony Music.
In 2000, she gave her debut solo concert The very Karen Mok show in Taipei in front of 20,000 spectators. In 2005, she started her international concert tours with the Extremely Karen Mok Show, followed by The Original Karen Mok Show (2009–2011) and the tour The Age of MOKnificence (2014/2015), with which she celebrated her 20th anniversary in show business. Starting from 2005, she also assumed the role of creative director and producer in her concert tours.
Mok’s most recent concert tours are:
Regardez (2015/2016). This tour started in Taipei and led Mok to 27 cities in Asia, North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand. As part of this tour, she was the first Chinese pop artist to give solo concerts in Madrid and Milan.
Ultimate (2018/2019/2021): This tour started on 23 June 2018 with the concert in the Hongkou Football Stadium in Shanghai 23 June 2018 in front of more than 20,000 spectators and totaled 48 concerts in 40 cities in Asia, Europe and Australia. The tour was largely conducted in outdoor stadiums, with the maximum attendance of 40,000 in the Beijing Workers' Stadium, Beijing, on 22 September 2019. On 12 Oct 2019, she performed in Lhasa (Tibet) at an altitude of 3650m, setting the Guinness World Record for the Highest Altitude Mass-Attended Music Concert and being the first solo stadium concert in Tibet. Her concerts in the Taipei Arena (Taipei) on 07 and 08 Dec 2019 had the special feature that she performed entirely different song lists on each night. The European leg of the tour brought her in London to the Palladium and in Paris to the Folies Bergère, making her the first Chinese pop singer to perform in this venue. With the Ultimate tour, Mok celebrated her 25th anniversary in show business. Interrupted by the events around the global Covid pandemic, the tour finished with three concerts in Hong Kong in June 2021.
Prior to the Ultimate tour, Mok announced in May 2019, that this would be her last major concert tour as she wants to focus on other artistic activities going forward.
Mok has collaborated on stage and in the studio with numerous leading global artists. Amongst others, she performed together with The Black Eyed Peas, Andrea Bocelli, Far East Movement, Lang Lang, John Legend, Sergio Mendes, Mika, Keanu Reeves and Pharrell Williams.
Mok gave her film debut in 1993 with a cameo role in the movie The Tigers – The Legend of Canton. Her first starring role was in 1995 together with Stephen Chow in A Chinese Odyssey. In the same year, she acted in Wong Kar Wai’s movie Fallen Angels, for which she received the award for Best Supporting Actress at the Hong Kong Film Award and the Golden Bauhinia Awards. In total, she starred in more than 40 movies.
Outside Greater China, she acted in the 2004 Hollywood production Around the World in 80 Days with Jackie Chan (credited as Karen Joy Morris, her birth name) and in the Thai horror movie The Coffin. She also played the female lead role in Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man of Tai Chi.
Theatre and TV
Throughout her career, Mok has frequently branched into adjacent areas of performances. In 2005/2006, she played the female lead Mimi in the 10th Anniversary Asian Tour of the Broadway musical Rent. In 2001, she supplied the voice of Princess Kida for the Cantonese dub of Walt Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In 2020, Mok sang the theme song of the Hong Kong TVB drama Flying Tiger II. The theme song, "呼吸有害, Breathing Is Hazardous", topped all radio, TV and digital platforms in Hong Kong, a first in Cantopop.
In 2016 and 2017, she starred in the two reality TV productions Up Idol (我们来了), of Hunan Television and The Next (天籁之战), season 1 and season 2 (天籁之战 and 天籁之战 (第二季)), of Dragon Television.
On May 20 2021, Mok won the 星耀年度金曲 award with Breathing is Hazardous at Weibo Starlight Awards 2020.