The last time the woman who became known as David Bowie's China Girl saw the singer, he broke up his own moment in the limelight to come and greet her with a hug.

It was "ordinary" gestures like these that Auckland woman Geeling Ng said made David Bowie not just a great singing sensation but a great man.

"He was the most incredibly talented person ... so warm and engaging," said the former model whose surname is now Ching. "He took the time to be with people."

Geeling Ng. Photo / Greg Bowker
Geeling Ng. Photo / Greg Bowker

Hearing the news of his passing yesterday evening had deeply moved her, even years after they'd last seen each other.


"I'm really shocked, when you work with someone like David ... it's really sad."

Ms Ching had starred alongside the singing sensation in the 1983 music video of his hit single China Girl.

"It was such an odd dream. It was like someone else's dream," she said of her time with Bowie.

However, more than 30 years on, the memory has lingered strong not just in Ms Ching's mind, but in many who saw her play the role.

Just this weekend the successful restaurateur said she'd sat some guests down at her downtown Auckland restaurant when one called her on her past performance.

But Ms Ching said the notoriety that came with the name was no burden.

"I'm immensely proud, utterly proud to be China Girl," she said. "I'll go to my grave with that."

She said the experience had "changed my life forever" and that it was an honour, as a long-time Bowie fan, even before she became known as China Girl, to have been a part of one of his artistic masterpieces.


"I'm blessed to have been part of that incredible talent, with someone who has changed the world of music ... not just music, but the face of fashion, makeup, everything."

Ms Ching had hoped upon the release of his latest album, Blackstar, just days ago, that he'd be back for a tour Downunder in the near future.

"He's just released a new album, I thought we might see him on tour again, but apparently we won't," she said. "That's really sad."

But despite this, Ms Ching said she'd always hold the time she'd had with David Bowie close.

"It was so special. The time I spent with David I would never trade for anything."

Changing face of a legend

Photo / Babiche Martens
Photo / Babiche Martens

Ziggy Stardust (1971-73):

Bowie's bisexual alien rock-star was his first and most famous persona. He performed his first show as Ziggy in February 1972, before releasing the album in June 1972. The character made a kind of return for 1973's

Aladdin Sane

- Bowie's first No 1 album - which the singer described as "Ziggy goes to America". In July 1973, Ziggy announced his "retirement" onstage in London, surprising his bandmates.

Halloween Jack (1974): Loosely inspired by George Orwell's 1984, Bowie's 1974 album Diamond Dogs is set in the dystopian Hunger City, stalked by feral gangs of dog-men. Bowie had originally intended to produce a stage musical, and later a film, but neither project came to fruition.

The Thin White Duke (1976): Described by Bowie as "a nasty character indeed," the waistcoat-wearing Duke was his alter-ego for the krautrock-infused album Station to Station. At the time, the singer claimed to have been living on "red peppers, cocaine and milk."

Tin Machine (1989-92): For once, Bowie tried to look nondescript. This hard rock side-project was a "democratic" alternative to his solo-career; the four band-members split profits equally.