The lure of Chinese fame lingers at the Vancouver contest


The eight women queuing to answer questions included a pediatrician, a legal assistant and a piano teacher.

But standing on stage in bikinis at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, BC, they had one goal: to become Vancouver’s next Chinese Miss.

The popularity of the 27-year-old pageant speaks both to the continued appeal of celebrity in Hong Kong and Chinese show business, and to what one expert called the “aura” surrounding Chinese-Canadian performers in the other side of the Pacific.

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Vancouver has long been a source of talent for the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese entertainment scenes, and the mutual attraction persists despite recent political tensions over Hong Kong’s crackdown on dissent and allegations of political interference. Chinese in Canada.

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Dance teacher Yi Yi Wang, 19, who was announced the winner of the competition on December 3, hopes to become an actor and environmental activist.

Far from being deterred by political tensions, Wang believes her education at the University of British Columbia, where she is pursuing a degree in international relations, can be turned into an advantage in China’s film industry. She is also open to opportunities in the West.

“I’m someone who grew up in China and studied in Vancouver, so I’m very aware of both cultures and I don’t think there’s a conflict in me pursuing entertainment elsewhere because my end goal is to connect people from all over the world together,” said Wang, who started entering pageants when she was 15.

The contest, organized by Fairchild TV, plays a key role in identifying talent for Chinese-language show business. Past winners who have found fame and careers in Hong Kong as singers or actors include Bernice Liu who won in 2000, Eliza Sam who won in 2009, Erica Chui in 2011 and Gloria Tang in 2012.

All were then crowned Miss Chinese International in Hong Kong, a title which has been held by at least six Vancouverites and two from Toronto, according to TVB, the Hong Kong television network which organizes the pageant. Winners of Miss Chinese International are offered contracts with TVB.

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Wang said she also had her sights set on the title of Miss Chinese International.

“For now, I would like to continue my work as Miss Chinese Vancouver to represent the city by doing more volunteer work and giving back to my local community,” she said.

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University of British Columbia musicologist Dr Hedy Law said Chinese-Canadian idols take advantage of what Chinese and Hong Kong audiences perceive as their “sophistication”.

“They are taller, handsome and they speak English so well. A lot of people (in China and Hong Kong) are like, “wow, they’re so fantastic,” said Law, an associate professor at UBC’s School of Music, who recently helped organize a song contest Cantopop, or Cantonese pop music, for students.

“There’s a kind of aura around Chinese Canadians and sometimes, even though their Cantonese and Mandarin aren’t perfect, maybe a little off, people still find them very cute and attractive.”

Hong Kong entertainment had strong ties to Vancouver in the 1980s and 1990s, when stars such as Cantopop idol and actor Leslie Cheung moved to Canada, but Law said the connection goes back a long way. further.

Law said a “trans-Pacific entertainment network” existed among the Chinese-speaking diaspora a century ago.

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“When you talk about the entertainment industry, you have to remember: the entertainment industry always follows the community,” Law said.

Laws traced the ties to the 1920s, when Cantonese-speaking musicians from Hong Kong and Guangzhou in southern China traveled by ship to perform in Vancouver, where their musical talents flourished.

She said the phenomenon continues, with figures from Hong Kong’s music industry traveling to Vancouver to both soak up the local entertainment culture and share their knowledge. Hong Kong artists continue to enjoy strong support while touring Vancouver, Law said.

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Cantopop boy band Mirror were in Vancouver this month to promote the new season of king makera reality TV show that seeks to identify Chinese pop idols among a pool of North American contestants, many from Vancouver.

“It’s no surprise to see Mirror come to town because we have the audience here and we still have the entertainment business network,” Law said.

“What we see now is essentially the continuation of the same type of network.”

Renee Jan, a medical science graduate from Queen’s University, was the first runner-up in this year’s Miss Chinese Vancouver pageant.

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She hopes to sign with an entertainment company to pursue a music career.

She worries more about how her Mandarin will perform in a Chinese environment than political concerns. Mandarin is spoken primarily in mainland China, while Cantonese predominates in Hong Kong.

“If (my career) is in Asia, I feel like I’d have a little more trouble because of my Mandarin,” Jan said.

She said she was also worried about leaving family and friends behind in Canada.

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Not all Miss Chinese Vancouver contestants see a future in show business.

Runner-up Dr. Nicole Tanner, 27, was a pediatrician in Hong Kong, where she also performed stand-up comedy. She managed to combine the two areas in a public awareness campaign about colon cancer, in which she dressed in a “poo” costume.

Although she loves being on stage, Tanner’s next goal is to obtain a medical license in Canada. She immigrated just three months ago and has no immediate plans to return to Hong Kong.

What if someone offered him a multi-million dollar showbiz contract in China or Hong Kong?

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“It’s not about the money,” Tanner said. “It’s more about what I think makes you happy, and for me the most important thing is that I go to work happy every day and wake up every morning excited to go to work. what being a pediatrician has given me, so I could never give that up.

Tanner, whose mother Maur Yeung was a Miss Hong Kong contestant in 1991, said she joined the Vancouver pageant to take on the challenge and make friends.

Law said the Hong Kong and Chinese entertainment industries were “cautious and alert” to geopolitical changes.

“You don’t follow music to understand politics. You always understand the politics and then you see what kind of impact it has on the culture, including the music,” Law said. “What I discovered is that industry professionals are even more attentive than consumers to what they produce.”

She said the entertainment industry’s trans-Pacific connections will persist, no matter the tensions.

“You know, some of my students told me that their parents immigrated here in the 1980s and 1990s. They grew up listening to Leslie Chueng even though they didn’t speak the language,” Law said, adding that the music created an intergenerational bond.

“Community does not fade, it does not decline. It is actually expanding.

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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 17, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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