Kathy Chin Leong
If you’ve ever spent time in San Francisco’s Chinatown during the Autumn Moon Festival, chances are you saw an elegant woman dressed in elaborate Chinese costume as the Moon Goddess. This is the Bay Area’s very own Maggie Wong, Sky Link TV’s host of the popular Cantonese weekly show Bay Area Forum. In the program, she interviews leading members of the Chinese community as well as celebrities, and singers and artists from Asia. Ever engaging and energetic, she is one of the major celebrity faces of Chinatown, often emceeing at fundraisers, festivals, weddings, and cultural events. She happily donates her oratory talents to emcee for non-profit organizations that could use a hand. She has hosted events for Self-Help for the Elderly, a major organization assisting Chinese older residents, and also mainstream events in San Francisco. “When I do this work, I feel good that I am helping the community. I want to pass this on to the next generation. Giving is always better than taking, and it’s good to contribute to an event, even if you don’t have a lot of money.”
The Chinese Newcomers Service Center is another favorite of hers. “I like to raise money for them since all newcomers who come to Chinatown can go there and get help on reading letters (mailed to their homes), filing taxes, computer skills, and more. There are many things you don’t know how to do when you arrive here.”
When she started hosting Bay Area Forum in 2017, she was a natural. She lived In the Bay Area for nearly 40 years and already knew notable Chinese community leaders. Earlier, she lived in Canada where she studied at the University of Calgary in British Columbia. Since then, she has found great joy interviewing Chinese leaders and business icons who contribute to the welfare of Chinatown.
Over the past twenty years she has played the role of the Moon Goddess in Chinatown, donning one of the historic silk gowns from her parent’s extensive Chinese opera wardrobe. They were professional opera singers in the 1950s and 1960s, and Maggie inherited their love for acting and dressing in period costume. Each fall, she floats among the festival booths in Chinatown, takes photos with tourists, and explains the legend of the Moon Festival.
“I am so hopeful about Chinatown,” she says, wistfully. “There is authentic food here, and it is one of the most beautiful, filmed areas in the world. Chinatown will not fade away. You cannot find this historical place anywhere else. There is so much color and a lot of charm.”