In her early acting career, Lai turned down roles that she felt compromised her public persona. However, she overcame her "superficial and childish image" later and began to embrace many critically acclaimed roles. She won the Most Popular Actress Award at the 2004 TVB Anniversary Awards for her role in War and Beauty. Lai also performed in several box office hits, including the Young and Dangerous film series. At the premiere of The Gem of Life, Lai announced that she would be retiring from the industry to concentrate on looking after her brother's business after he was seriously injured in a car accident in 2007.