Move over Zhang Ziyi…

Fan Bingbing wants to be the nation’s next big cinematic export

Move over Zhang Ziyi…

Eyes on Hollywood: but actress Fan Bingbing denies cosmetic surgery

You may not have heard of her yet, although that could soon change. Meet Fan Bingbing, China’s most prolific actress.

The mainland star will be releasing a record seven movies this year (one of them being Sophie’s Revenge, which features one of the world’s most recognised Chinese faces Zhang Ziyi, see WiC19).

But like her co-star Zhang Ziyi, Fan is a controversial character. The famed beauty first rose to stardom at 17, in a supporting role in the 1998 hit TV series Princess Huan Zhu. After a spell out of the limelight, she reappeared in the movie Cell Phone in 2004. But many thought she looked somewhat different: “She was spotted with significantly bigger eyes and a thinner face,” says the Sichuan News Net.

Rumours grew that she had gone under the knife, although Fan denied the accusations; “When I first started acting I was only 16, and so much has changed since then. I grew out of my baby fat and am much thinner now, too. Moreover, I’m much more skilful at applying make up”.

In spite of her denials, millions of Chinese pored over newspaper pictures of the starlet, speculating about cosmetic operations.

In 2006, irritated by the persistent hearsay, Fan opted for drastic measures. She accepted an invitation from the media to a comprehensive examination at a Beijing hospital. And doctors gave her the all-clear; “There’s no cuts or scars on Fan’s face, no embedded things, and no sign of cosmetic surgery,” said the medical report.

If she had hoped that it would put an end to all the rumours, Fan was to be disappointed. The critics called the examination a fraud. One netizen said on internet portal Tianya.cn, “She may be able to lie to the whole world but she can’t lie to herself!”

But the controversy was good for her career, and after winning a series of awards she began to get appreciated more for her work. She also launched her own production studio and enjoyed a hit with the series Rogue Snow (Yan Zhi Xue). Her studio’s second project – The Last Night of Madam Chin – will be aired later in the year.

Fan’s next step? Hollywood. She’s been honing her English skills (see WiC19) in pursuit of wider fame and her first English language movie – called Stretch – will also be released later this year.

Fan’s experience of the plastic surgery rumours will give her some sympathy for another television celebrity at the forefront of a whispering campaign.

Gong Mi, an 18 year-old contestant on Happy Girls, an American Idol-esque singing contest is also in the firing line, facing accusations about plastic surgery.

How else to explain her stunning resemblance to Hong Kong actressand- singer Cecilia Cheung, say the doubters? China Smack, a blog, is christening it ‘Plastic Surgery Gate’.

Gong, while flattered by the comparison, is another one denying she’s had any work done. And although Gong herself may well have a striking natural similarity to the Hong Kong star, it is the case that more young people in China are ready to endure the surgeon’s scalpel in the quest for better look and success.

According to Dr Liao Yuhua, president of Shanghai Time Plastic Surgery Hospital, business is up 40% on a year ago. Liao says her team of 10 surgeons are completing as many as 100 procedures a day. Customer favourites are the raising of noses, the cutting of eyelids and the chiseling of more angular faces into the shape of “smooth goose eggs”.

Keeping Track: In the last issue we talked about the boom in plastic surgery, particularly among the young. This week it emerged that Shanghai Time Plastic Surgery is offering special student discounts at promotional events staged in universities. The pitch is that students should think about cosmetic surgery as it could help their job prospects.Demand is strong, the clinic’sdirector claims, since “competition for jobs is tougher than ever this year.”(26 June 2009)

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