10 Dec 2003
I rarely watch Chinese TV (because it’s dumb and boring), but I watched it last night. I was rewarded for my bravery.
Last night I happened to catch part of CCTV 2’s Televised Model Competition (模特电视大赛). Like I said, I rarely watch Chinese TV, but if I do happen to go for a flip through the channels, if there’s anything that’s going to catch my attention, it’s a whole bunch of hot women. So this competition did the trick. I’m not sure, because I tuned in late, but apparently it has all kinds of different rounds, including formal fashion catwalks, swimsuit modeling (damn, I missed that one!), and answering various “deep” questions. Most of the model hopefuls were 18-21 years old, and close to 180cm tall (around 5’10”).
Several elements of the competition caught my attention. First, I’ll talk about the models’ hotness, since it is of primary importance. Some of them really weren’t very special. Quite a few had the “anorexic model look” that seems to fly in the New York and Paris fashion industries. Many of them had very pretty faces but stick-like bodies. I don’t really go for that type. Perhaps a few models had already been eliminated in previous rounds before I tuned in, but the one that caught my attention was #46: Jiang E (姜娥). (If you look at the picture of her on the page linked to, you might not think she’s very pretty. I don’t think it’s a very good picture, but that girl has got a body, trust me! The other girls couldn’t compare.) The show said she was from Harbin, but her online info says she’s from Dalian. [Now Derrick, don’t get too smug. I never said Dalian girls weren’t pretty.] I did notice that girls from the Shanghai/Zhejiang area were seriously underrepresented, and many of the girls I’ve seen in Shanghai could easily compete with the contestants I saw on TV.
One thing that was cool was just that day in Chinese class we had been talking about the “triumph of the superior over the inferior” (优胜劣败), “Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution” (达尔文的自然淘汰理论，进化理论), “the law of the jungle” (丛林法则 or 弱肉强食). So when taotai (淘汰), a word meaning “selection” in the “elimination” sense — which I might not ordinarily get right away — came up in the competition, I was all over that baby.
It was interesting hearing the girls answer various questions. One of the contestants was allowed to ask one of the judges, a famous model, any question she liked. She asked what she should do to improve her chances of succeeding as a professional model. The professional model’s answer was that she should improve her Mandarin and her English! I was shocked. I don’t know if it was just B.S. or if the model really believed it, but she said that language was extremely important in the industry for communicating with designers, photographers, etc.
Another contestant was asked how she would relax if she worked hard for an entire year and then finally got any vacation of her choice. She said the first thing she would do was go to the hospital for a checkup. When the host asked for clarification, she said she’d get her eyes checked, because vision is very important. Ah, the wisdom of models.
Another thing that startled me once it hit me was that the Chinese model judge pictured below, Jiang Peilin (姜培琳), from certain angles really looked like that girl Katie Holmes that got famous on Dawson’s Creek. It was weird. I noticed in Jiang Peilin’s pictures online she doesn’t look like Katie as much; she tries to hide her dimples and her smile.
After the competition finished, I flipped through the channels a bit. A scene of a cute little black girl speaking fluent Mandarin flashed out at me. I flipped back. To my disappointment, she was dubbed. To my utter horror, it turned out to be the Teletubbies dubbed in Chinese. Disgusting.
Then I stopped on a drama. I was tuning in late, so I had to guess at what I missed, but the plot seemed to center around a woman who had contracted AIDS. She got it from her boyfriend, who apparently committed suicide (because he cheated on his girlfriend and unwittingly gave her AIDS, maybe?). The characters who knew the girl had AIDS were treating her with nothing but compassion. (The Chinese propaganda machine is going strong on this AIDS thing now that it has finally gotten its act together on the issue.) I had to stop watching after about 10 minutes, though, because another female character who was supposed to be cute was unbearably annoying.
And off went the TV.