A 19-year-old British exchange student in China has won Jiangsu province’s equivalent of The X-Factor by singing in flawless Mandarin.
During her year of studying abroad in China, Mary-Jess Leaverland, or Li Meijie as she’s known by the Chinese, won first place in the talent competition Min Xing Chang Fan Tian, which means “I Want to Sing to the Stars”.
The show broadcasts in Jiangsu province, which has a population of more than 70 million.
In an interview with the BBC, Leaverland explained that she started out by taking part in a small singing competition but was spotted by producers of Min Xing Chang Fan Tian. They were so impressed by her performance that they invited her to audition.
“I didn’t really realise how big it was but it is screened in Jiangsu province… and I was the only foreign person in the finals so I can’t believe I won it,” says Leaverland, who still seems to be in something of a daze.
“I was so excited by the prospect of singing on TV and just having that experience.”
To win the top spot, Leaverland performed a number of Chinese pop songs, including Moonlight Lovers, the theme song to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She also sang a few operatic numbers, including O Mio Babbino Caro and Time to Say Goodbye by Sarah Brightman.“She went through nine rounds in 10 weeks to become the champion; it wasn’t easy,” a producer of the show told Nanjing-based newspaper Modern Express.
Her reward was a cash prize of £3,000, as well as a trophy, and a CD recording of her performance.
And although there were no mega-bucks record deals in the offing, Leaverland is now enjoying celebrity status on the streets of Jiangsu, where fans are often excited to bump into her.
“Since the show I have been recognised in the streets which is really strange but nice,” says Leaverland. “It was the most exciting thing I have done in my life.”
Leaverland, who is now back in the UK, told Modern Express that she plans to return to Nanjing, Jiangsu’s capital, to study Mandarin and maybe take to the stage of Min Xing Chang Fan Tian again.
Watch out, Dashan (see WiC42). Perhaps this British singer could take over your status as the country’s most popular foreign television personality.
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