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Stella Moya (Stella Yau)
Stella Yau, the granddaughter of Yau Tet Shin, was one of the famous Malayan Chinese film stars in England before WW II. Her father was Dr Yau Ah Chee and her mother was English. She studied at the Ipoh Convent, and was a talented dancer and singer. When she was nine, Stella followed her mother to London. Initially, she was meant to further her education in London and become a doctor; she grew fond of the country and instead pursued dancing and acting lessons. Her film debut was Tim Walls-Ralph Lynn's 'Stormy Weather', back in 1935. She then adopted the stage name Stella Moya - 'Moya' being the name of a famous racehorse in Britain.
Twenty-year-old Stella, whose slender figure stood beautiful above average height, caught the eye of a Paramount film spotter; he wrote the following in a film magazine:
I stopped at a photographer's window. There was a picture of a dark-haired girl with a curiously compelling face. I studied it - noting the unnaturally large eyes, the short distance from the hair-line to the chin, the breadth across the temples, the small, straight, firm nose. Such wonderful eyes! Fascinating...her name was Stella Yau.
Stella's entry into the film world was rather interesting. She was at a dance with her mother when a card was sent her way. On the card were the words "Are you interested in film work?", written by a prominent film director. After a successful screen test, Stella was awarded the part of a Chinese girl in 'Stormy Weather'. Since the name 'Yau' was deemed difficult to remember, the studio gave her the name 'Moya' - which she retained throughout her career. She was given a one-year contract, which saw her playing various roles in many films, including 'East Meets West' and 'Underneath The Acres'. Pinewood (Britain's finest film studio) later took her in and she went on the act as the unfaithful wife in the movie 'The Scarab Murder Mystery'.
With her intriguing Anglo-Oriental beauty, coupled with her smile and her quiet modulated voice, Stella had a huge following; fans even mailed her marriage proposals! But she was still a down-to-earth Ipoh girl at heart, speaking of her love for dolls, mechanical toys and cross-word puzzles. She also enjoyed riding and had hoped to one day return to Malaya for a holiday. Alas, work kept getting in the way. When the British film production went through a slump period, Stella ventured into stage work. It was at the Scala Theatre and cabarets where she was noticed for her Oriental interpretation of dances. Britain's leading trumpeter back then - Nat Gonella - offered her a spot in his jazz band. She travelled all over Europe and even cut records with Parlophone Company. Among her famous songs included 'It's A Sin To Tell A Lie' and 'There Goes My Attraction'.
Eventually, Stella married Nat Gonella and continued to sing with his band - 'Georgians' - in the US, in the 1940s. She died in San Antonio (Texas) in 2003.