A second chance for ‘big sisters’

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 27 Jul 2020

YOUNG and pretty faces – these are generally seen as the basic requirement for female artistes, especially in China.

Growing old is their worst enemy, no matter how good their acting or singing skills are.

Take the case of 46-year-old international star Zhou Xun. The multiple award-winning actress has been unkindly criticised for being old and ugly in the 2018 television drama Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace.

Critics ignored her acting performance and instead only focused on her face.

It is common knowledge that some actresses would opt for surgery to maintain their youthful looks in order to prolong their survival in the industry.

And yet, they were labelled as artificial beauties after going under the knife.

So, it is just a matter of whether they would want to be called “old and ugly” or “beautiful and fake”.

For million of fans, they could not accept the reality that their idols grow old too.

“Time has given us experience, wrinkles, exposure, tolerance and good communication skills... we are professionals and hope you all will give us more chances,” actress Hai Qing had appealed to directors and producers, on behalf of middle-aged actresses.

The 43-year-old made the statement after presenting an award at an international film festival in Xining city in northwestern Qinghai province last year.

This proves the dilemma faced by female stars aged above 40 whose job offers are far and few in between.

But hopefully, this trend may see a change following the launch of a reality show featuring 30 actresses, female singers and TV hosts above 30.

The “big sisters” include those who have made a name in their respective fields such as Christy Chung, 50, Adia Chan, 49, Ning Jing, 48, and Zhang Yuqi, 33.

The oldest is Taiwanese singer Annie Yi, 52, while mainland singer Dany Lee and actresses Lan Yingying and Jin Chen are the youngest at 30.

The 12-episode reality show – titled Sisters who Brave the Winds and Waves (Sisters) and which is produced by Hunan TV and aired over its online platform Mango TV – sees these women vying for five slots to form a pop idol group.

The contestants must dance and sing well.

Their return to compete against each other is already creating a lot of buzz and talking points among fans.

And sure enough, the weekly show has generated huge discussions among the public and related topics made it to the list of hot issues on social media platforms even before the show debuted on June 12.

So far, the programme has received an impressive rating of 8.5 out of 10 with 42.5% of people voting four stars and another 38.4% giving a full five-star on the Douban social networking site.

Almost half of the contestants are aged 35 and below, and the production team still has to consider the interest of the majority of the audience before finalising the 30 contestants.

They dare not produce a show with all women of the golden age, or they may risk seeing the programme fail.

As expected, artistes who are less popular in China were voted out first.

After three elimination rounds, only 17 “sisters” remained in the show and eight are above 35.

Many people, including fellow journalists, told me all reality shows have their own plots and everything, including who’s in and who’s out, is planned.

They believe the show was edited in such a way as to boost the popularity of certain contestants by giving them more air-time and showing only their good sides.

“Everything is fake, it all depends on who the ‘big bosses’ want to promote.

“The group must also include one or two with ‘selling values’,” they said.

Based on this, I am guessing the five winning members could be actresses Ning Jing, Zhang Yuqi and Wan Qian, 39, who have somehow secured their positions in the group.

The other two may be Yumiko Cheng, 38, or Annie Yi as the team needs a face from either Hong Kong or Taiwan. My final pick would be Wang Feifei, 33, a former member of K-pop group Miss A.

Although Shen Mengchen, 31, has been voted out, the host of Hunan TV may return to the show as the TV station may want to see its own people in the group.

She may make a return as netizens are casting votes on the Mango TV website.

It is said that among those who were eliminated, seven with the highest votes could make a comeback to the competition for the semi-final.

Some among the audience believe that Shen’s elimination could probably just be a gimmick to show that the organiser is not biased.

Wu Xing, another host of the TV station, is unlikely to return as she has been assigned to co-host a new variety programme.

Kudos to the big sisters. Let’s prove that age is just a number and older women too can continue chasing their dreams.

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