Chowee Leow

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Chowee Leow
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Chowee Leow
Zhaohui Liao

Melaka, Malaysia
OccupationActor, producer
Years active
  • 1989– present
Known forSuk Suk (2019)

Front Cover (2015)

Cut Sleeve Boys (2007)
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Chowee Leow [1] is a Malaysian born transgender actor and producer based in the UK.

Early Life

Leow was born in Malaysia to a family heavily involved in competitive swimming. Her father was a coach and all three children competed at National level swimming championships from the age of 7. She is a fully qualified swimming and synchronised swimming instructor and studied Art & Design at Central St Martin School of Art.


She started her career as an actor and later film producer. She is a close collaborator of Ray Yeung, Glen Goei and Ivan Heng. Specialised in playing trans and female characters when acting. She is best known for Cut Sleeve Boys, The Blue Mansion, Front Cover, Revenge of the Pontianak and Suk Suk aka Twilight’s Kiss.

West-end Theatre

Leows first professional engagement was a Kurogo in M Butterfly (1989) with Peter Egan in the title role at the Shaftesbury Theatre. This was followed by the role of Luke in Anything Goes (1990) at the Prince Edward theatre starring Louise Gold and John Barrowman. She did various television jobs including Casualty, The Knock, Next of Kin and The Bill. She narrated the award winning documentary Ladyboys for Channel 4 directed by Jeremy Marre.

Shortly after writing her first play The 3rd Sex (1995) which premiered at the Hong Kong City Festival, she was cast by Neil Bartlett in The Letter (1995) at Lyric Hammersmith, starring Joanna Lumley, playing her servant girl in the first act and a gangster in the second act..[1]

An Occasional Orchid Leow met Ivan Heng in London in 1995 and was invited to join Tripitaka Theatre as Associate Artistic Director (1996-1999). They co-wrote her solo show An Occasional Orchid (1996) which Ivan directed. It follow the story of Joe, a Malaysian boy who is sent by his parents to study medicine in England. Away from the shackles and scrutiny of family, Joe explores his gender identity and become Zoe, a transgender female living in London. The play is billed as “…an evening of intercultural horticultural wanderings in a Wonderbra…” Key themes of the play include gender, sexuality, race, family, notions of Eastern femininity and the identity of an Asian trans female. It seeks to explode the myth of a “good Chinese girl” and the submissive and exotic “Oriental” female under the Western male gaze.

The solo show premiered at the London One Person Play Festival at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden. It was selected as one of the pick of the festival and presented as part of Time Out’s “I Wished I’d Seen That” season at Battersea Arts Centre and toured to Hong Kong in 1998. The show was presented at the Institute of Contemporary Arts of Great Britain in the Fortune Cookies season (1997), an international platform featuring the work of the Chinese Diaspora, where it represented Singapore, Malaysia and the UK. The show was invited to be presented at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam in 2000 before going on to two sold out runs in Malaysia and Singapore in 2001 (25). The play has been praised for it’s humour, insight into the complexities or gender & sexuality and the exploration of the immigrant experience.

"A treat for the mind as it is for the eyes" [2], “Transgressive and truly transcendent” [3], “A witty and effervescent exploration of gender and sexuality” [4].

Leow played Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas opposite Jit Murad in the Malaysian premiere of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde (2001) by Moises Kaufman for Instant Cafe Theatre Company in Kuala Lumpur. She was part of the Malaysian contingent in Pulau Antara: The Island In Between, a cross cultural collaboration project between Japan and Malaysia, funded by the Japan Foundation. The devised piece directed by the doyenne of Malaysian theatre, Jo Kukathas, premiered at the Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo in March 2002 and opened in Malaysia at the Experimental Theatre UM in August 2002.

Leow met Ray Yeung when she was cast in his first play Banana Skin [5] (1990) which premiered in London at the Link Theatre and toured to Hong Kong Fringe Club in 1991. This was the start of many creative collaborations, first as an actor in a variety of roles from Catwoman to the Goddess of Mercy in short films by Ray. In 2005, she co-produced and starred in Cut Sleeve Boys, [6] [7] [8] Ray’s debut feature. The film premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (2006) and was released in cinemas in the US, Taiwan and Thailand. She won Best Actor at LesGaiCineMad, Festival Internacional de Cine LGBT de Madrid (2007) where the film also picked up the Audience Award. It won Best Feature at the Outfest Fusion Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2006. She worked with Ray on three further short film, Doggy Doggy [9] (2009) , Entwine [10] (2012) and Paper Wrap Fire [11] (2015).

In 2015, they made their second Front Cover” [12] (USA 2013) shot in New York City and Brooklyn. The film went to screen at numerous International and LGBTQ festivals around the world and won Best Screenplay at the FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival, Jury Award for Best Domestic Feature at the Outflix Film Festival in Memphis and Audience Award at the Boston Asian American Film Festival.

Their third feature was Suk Suk aka Twilight’s Kiss [13] shot in Hong Kong in 2019. It had it’s world premiere at the 24th Busan International Film Festival. The film was nominated for 5 awards at the 56th Golden Horse Awards and was selected to compete in the Panorama section at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival. The film went on to be nominated and win multiple awards globally. It had cinematic releases in North America, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, France, Spain and Brazil. The original title "Suk Suk" was changed to "Twilight's Kiss" for USA and Canada by North American distributor Strand Releasing, "Un Printemps a Hong Kong" for France by French distributor Epicentre Films and Suk Suk - Um Amor em Segredo" for Brazil by Brazilian distributor Vitrine Films

Another close collaborator is the Singaporean film and theatre director Glen Goei who she worked with on two feature films, The Blue Mansion [14] (2009) and Revenge of the Pontianak [15] (2019), which scored the highest-grossing weekend take of any Malay-language movie in recent years in Singapore [16].

She was the subject of a documentary Deconstructing Zoe [17][18] [19] by filmmaker and academic Rosa Fong. The documentary premiered at Seattle's Translation Transgender Film Festival in 2016, followed by screenings at the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and Jakarta Queer Film Festival 2017. Deconstructing Zoe is an exploration of gender, race and sexuality, seen through the life and times of a transgender Asian actor living in the West [20]


Caption text
Movie Role Year
Cut Sleeve Boys [2] Producer 2006
The Blue Mansion [3] Producer 2009
Doggy Doggy [4] Producer 2009
Entwine [5] Producer 2012
Paper Wrap Fire [6] Producer 2015
Front Cover [7] Producer 2015
Deconstructing Zoe [8] Self 1016
Twilight’s Kiss [9] Producer 2019
Revenge of the Pontianak [10] Co-Producer 2019


  1. "Theatre: THE LETTER Lyric Hammersmith, London".
  2. "an occasional orchid by w!ld rice". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  3. "review: an occasional orchid". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  4. "A RARE FLOWER IN FULL BLOOM". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  5. "Skins a slick parody of HK". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  6. "Cut Sleeve Boys". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  7. "Cut Sleeve Boys". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  8. "Cut Sleeve Boys". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  9. "Doggy... Doggy". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  10. "Entwine". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  11. "Paper Wrap Fire". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  12. "Front Cover". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  13. "Twilight's Kiss". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  14. "The Blue Mansion". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  15. "Revenge of the Pontianak". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  16. "Revenge Of The Pontianak took in $256,000 in first weekend, best for any recent Malay movie". Retrieved 2023-08-20.
  17. "Deconstructing Zoe". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  18. "Deconstructing Zoe". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  19. "Deconstructing Zoe, Doukyusei explore gender identity, sexuality". Retrieved 2023-08-27.
  20. "Deconstructing Zoe". Retrieved 2023-08-27.

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