Little China Girl
Laura Geagea features in this charmingly poetic interview in L’Orient-Le Jour which follows her journey and her life in Shanghai. Translated for you here.
China is for her, a story of a passion. Starting with the language, the culture and then finding a second life. A Lebanese woman in Shanghai, it’s both brave and so poetic.
In this city stuck somewhere between past and present, where towers scrape the sky whilst trying to cohabitate with traditions, Laura Geagea unpacked her bags and made it home for several years now. Managing Director and Executive Producer for production house Sweetshop, she manages the Shanghai office and the Asia MENA region.
On her electric Vespa and with her perfect Chinese, the young 30-year-old glides with a bright smile in an Orient so different to her own and in which she has knitted herself a new skin. In her personal journey, she has already spanned a few continents.
From Lebanese parents, Laura was born in Nova Scotia in Canada where she lived the first five years of her life before coming back to Lebanon in 1992 with the return of peaceful and happy days to the country. “The LebanonI left over 13 years ago now remains my country. It’s where my mother and father live. Canada is very dear to me, that’s where I get my childhood and early adulthood memories from. But Shanghai is now my home, my base that I’ve been building for 10 years.”
She could’ve been a doctor, following the footsteps of her father, grandfather and older sister. “That came as a first choice, naturally”. But it took a short week sitting through chemistry and biology classes in a freezing auditorium of McGill University to immediately realise this wasn’t her “thing”. She decides to follow her first passion and enroll into Cinematographic Studies at the University of Montreal. “I was very lucky to know what I wanted to do very early on”. And China came to her, as chance would have it, through Mandarin classes that she started in Lebanon during one of her summer breaks and then during her university years in Canada.“I found an amazing Shanghainese teacher who gave me private classes for eight months. She’s the one who made me want to come to Asia, and more specifically Shanghai.”
Made in China
In 2008, Laura heads for the Middle Empire right as the Beijing Olympic are coming to an end. And with one objective: to perfect her proficiency in Mandarin. Six months of classes at the prestigious University of Fudan she decides to stay and find work in the advertising industry. “I got a job in a production house in Shanghai called Black and Cameron. It was run by an Australian man and a Chinese lady. I spent a few years there learning how to be a producer. That’s really how and where my Chinese got better, I was never the studying type! Speaking fluent Mandarin is probably the best way to get closer to the Chinese people and cultures.” And there she is, producing at 24 years old. Not being a sedentary type, the globe trotter butterflies between Los Angeles and the amazing Asia that holds her heart.
In 2015, she joins the boutique production house Sweetshop which was founded in New Zealand in 2001, and recently opened its seventh office in Shanghai following Auckland, Melbourne, Sydney, LA, London and Bangkok. “My relationship with the Middle East and more particularly Lebanon is very important to me. I hope I’ll be able to develop something in the region eventually. But my place is in Asia for the moment. I love my life here. China is today the land of possibilities and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.”
Having adapted perfectly, she lives in a typical Chinese Lane House. “It’s a way of integrating more in the culture”. The Lady of Shanghai continues, “This city is fascinating, a large community of expats and Lebanese live here.”
Always eager for travel and discovery, because, she says, “exploring the world is also part of my job”, Laura Geagea is both spontaneous and organized, gentle and determined, exploring her possibilities. And they are plenty.