Dr Angela Lee's Instagram account is more suited to a crazy rich Asian type than a medical professional. There are numerous postings of HermEs' Birkin and Kelly bags (mostly crocs) and up-close photographs of her wearing gobstopper sized jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels and blinged out watches from Patek Philippe and Chanel.
When she's not posing on four-poster beds at five-star hotels, she can be seen dining with her equally high-profile friends, including Singaporean Jamie Chua, who boasts one of the largest collections of Birkins in the world and whom she refers to as her "big sister."
When we meet at The Upper House hotel in Hong Kong, she looks as though she's just stepped out of the pages of a magazine. She is wearing a maxi-length light pink tulle Dior skirt with a grey Chanel tweed cardigan slung over her shoulders, while diamonds glitter on her wrists and ears. An assistant trails behind her with a suitcase in tow.
"I am interested in fashion but I'm not great at mix and match. A lot of my friends are popular fashion bloggers - I'm more of an introvert - so they give me tips. I'm very particular with colours, and I love pink! I am a Scorpio so I really know what I want," she says.
A post shared by Dr. Angela Lee (@dr.angela.lee) on Dec 26, 2018 at 3:09am PST
Lee has a penchant for Dior and Chanel (but not their tweeds as they make her look "mature"), pairs Manolo Blahnik heels with her white lab coat and is currently lusting after Audemars Piguet watches ("After too much fashion, I think I maybe should invest in something more worthwhile," she says).
But while she shares a passion for the finer things in life with her stylish Instagram buddies, that's where the similarities end.
A post shared by Dr. Angela Lee (@dr.angela.lee) on Jun 12, 2018 at 4:47am PDT
"I am not one of those crazy rich Asians. The thing about Instagram images is that they are not real. People think I have everything, but I am not one of those people. They count my clothes, or Birkins or watches in pictures but it's just an image. Instagram may be a social portrait of what's cool but it's not a reality. Crazy Rich Asians was a great movie but it is just a movie."
"I'm not saying you can't enjoy beautiful things, but know that they don't build happiness. It's not about what you have or what bling you're wearing. I know many people who have everything and are not happy. Be appreciative of what you have and put energy into things you love," she says.
Lee's down-to-earth attitude makes sense once you hear her story, which is far less glamorous than that of many of her blue-blooded friends. The daughter of Dr Cho Kay Lee, a dermatologist, she says she is an entirely self-made woman.
She was raised in Hong Kong until the age of 14, then moved to Canada. After completing a degree in cell biology and genetics from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, she went to medical school in Bristol in the UK. She joined Britain's public health care system (the National Health Service) for a short while, before training in internal medicine.
She later returned to Hong Kong, where she became a resident at a local hospital, working shifts of up to 40 hours for more than 31/2 years.
"At that point I (was made an) MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians) and was deciding whether to go into dermatology training or aesthetics. I always found the skin interesting, and as a doctor I thought I could build my own niche as a GP (family doctor) with special interest in skincare.
"I am a little different to other doctors in that I am intrigued by appearance. Appearance is very connected to a person's confidence. This field is very neglected even by my own peers. So while I will treat issues such as eczema and acne, I add a holistic approach. I look into supplements, talk to the patient, identify their skincare or whatever procedures they need, plus or minus giving them medication.
"There are not many doctors in Hong Kong that will put time into all these aspects. I'm a confidante as well as a doctor," says the 35-year-old.
Lee startedworking part-time at her father's dermatology practice in 2017, before quietly launching her own clinic last year, targeted at patients with skincare concerns such as anti-ageing and acne control. Unlike many local clinics which feature sales and skincare consultants, she insists on seeing every patient herself before determining a course of treatment.
A post shared by Dr. Angela Lee (@dr.angela.lee) on Jun 8, 2018 at 5:14am PDT
"While there's a space for dermatologists and plastic surgeons, I take a very medical approach to my patients. I don't allow anyone else in the clinic to determine what a patient is having. Everything is driven by my medical opinion.
"Most of my clients are not tai tais. They are regular people between the ages of 35 and 45, and are self-made very much like myself. They have skin problems that need treating. The niche I developed for myself allows me to connect with them and give them time, which is special," she says.
While dermatologists may prescribe more clinical ingredients such as retinol, Lee has attracted a following thanks to her more balanced approach. She may suggest alternatives such as vitamin B3 serums, kojic acid and other treatments that are not available over the counter.
Beauty centres in Hong Kong may tout trendy treatments such as painless ultrasound, but she prefers evidence-based products and technologies (so much so that she is pursuing a three-year master's degree in anti-ageing and aesthetic medicine).
"If you ask me what's one thing every woman should use in their skincare regimen, I would say a toner. It provides a clean canvas for all the other products to really absorb into the skin. After I clean my face, I use my toner, and then two serums like vitamin C and B3, depending on the weather. Then you definitely don't need to use a filter on Instagram," she says with a laugh.
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