She was a rather dishevelled 48 year-old who lived a quiet and ordinary life with her mother in Scotland.
Until, that is, Susan Boyle belted out a song, appropriately called I Dreamed a Dream, on Britain’s Got Talent, a popular singing contest in the UK.
Boyle’s performance catapulted her to stardom, even though she didn’t actually end up winning the competition. The video of her first – and very surprising – performance has been watched by nearly 100 million people on video-sharing site youtube. That is 25 times the number of site viewers for President Obama’s inauguration.
Well, Wu Baiwei, a retired teacher from Shaanxi Province, decided she also has a dream. The 79 year-old has been dubbed China’s very own Susan Boyle after she too surprised judges and audiences alike with a powerful performance on a popular Chinese talent show.
Wu was the oldest contestant by far on Happy Girl (formerly known as Super Girls), a Chinese Pop Idol style contest. Much like her younger British counterpart, her unassuming appearance belied a hidden talent as she belted out, On Songhua River, a patriotic song about China’s World War Two-era invasion by Japan.
Not the type of Andrew Lloyd Webber number normally heard in Western formats of the entertainment show. But perhaps Wu’s success does share some similarity with Boyle’s, and Happy Girl’s producers recognised a publicity-spinning contestant when they saw one.
When asked what led her to participate in the show, Wu said didn’t realise at first what she was auditioning for. She told the judges: “I was on the street and saw many girls signing up for some kind of singing contest. I asked them if an old woman like me could take part and they said yes.”
Impressed by her “can-do spirit and singing prowess,” judges sent Wu through to the next round of the competition. “I was so moved by this old woman who was courageous and confident enough to take part, I hope all old people are living as happily as she is,” said one of the judges, Wu Zhoutong.
Wu taught Chinese at Xi‘an Normal University and has continued to give lectures since her retirement in 1987. She believes that “people should live with a smile. Sometimes when I have to face difficulties, I encourage myself by singing songs.”
Her performance has been generating positive responses on one of the leading domestic video-sharing sites, Youku.com.
One netizen wrote: “The old granny’s singing takes us back to that era, the singing is filled with nostalgia, and with the sound and feeling of that time. It’s all worthy for young people nowadays to ponder and remember.”
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