Wednesday, July 6, 2011

06/07 Yes, she Kan

Global Times, July 6, 2011
Yue-sai Kan. 
When the curtain of Miss Universe China goes up for the final this Sunday, its national director Yue-sai Kan will be on tenterhooks to make sure her girls are at their best.
It's not necessary to introduce Kan, whose face is familiar to most Chinese, whether as a television anchor, cosmetics founder, fashion guru, or simply "the most famous woman in China" according to People magazine.
The Chinese call her "Miss" and tend not to remember her age; maybe that says all you need to know about the woman. It's a quality she wants the Miss Universe contestants to have too.
Beauty pageant
Of the 30 girls that Kan and her team have selected from across China over the past five months, only one will become Miss China and head to the international finals in Sao Paulo, Brazil this September.
As a two-time former Miss Universe final judge, Kan is aware of what the world's largest beauty pageant looks for.
"Girls who are beautiful, of course, but not just for being beautiful," she explained. "We need them to be really smart, with style, grace and charisma."
Although there have been Asian winners before, China has yet to win the title since it began taking part in 2002.
"I think Chinese women have everything that is necessary to become Miss Universe," Kan said. "You just need to train them, take care of them and prepare them."
Kan remembers her first time as a contestant at Hawaii's Narcissus Flower Beauty Pageant when she was 19, an experience that changed her from a naive college student to a polished young lady.
"It was an invaluable experience. It was the first time I used cosmetics, learned how to create a flattering hairstyle and understand good taste and fashion," she said. "I also learned to make my voice powerful and attractive, and properly answer questions from the media."
Kan decided to take the job after declining several times due to commitments.
"I decided to do something this time because it was getting so bad in the last few years," she said. "For so many years, they did not do very well. We even had to start a website."
Although Kan may look the perfect person for this position, handling a big project without much experience is no easy job.
"There is actually a lot of work, from taking care of the sponsors [and] the girls to training," she said. "It is very difficult if you want to do it well, but if you want to do it sloppy, nobody cares."
After Sunday, Miss China and the first runner-up will be invited to Kan's house in Manhattan for more intense training. In the next three years, Kan will continue with this job. In her eyes, promoting the image of Chinese women is the same as promoting China.
"The biggest problem is, some images of Chinese women to Westerners have never changed," she opined.
"One is that they are money-driven, and another one is the dragon lady, such as the businesswomen, who is very, very pushy."
"But the reality is that women have changed a great deal in this country. We are very sexy, beautiful and sweet and we need to present our real face."
Contestants of Miss Universe China 2010. 
Cultural exchange
Born in Guilin, Guangxi province, growing up in Hong Kong and living in the US gave Kan an advantage in bridging the East and West.
She introduced the life of Asia to the West through TV's Looking East as early as 1978, and in turn, opened the Chinese people's eyes to the West through her CCTV documentary show One World.
"Doing cultural exchange is never easy," she said. "It is easier for me because I grew up in both cultures, and I feel I am really a mixture.
"When I am talking to a Chinese person, I really feel very foreign. When I am talking to a foreigner, I feel very Chinese."
Maybe because of her mixed background, Kan feels there is a need for her to help Chinese women become more international through better understanding themselves. Her books, such as How to Be Beautiful and Yue-Sai's Guide to Asian Beauty, were bestsellers in China.
She created the brand Yue-Sai out of frustration, she says, in looking for proper makeup in a world where cosmetics only catered to white-skinned, blue-eyed and blond women.
"Western women's needs are very different from ours. Our skin is different; even the way our skin reacts to the sun is different," she said. "Why should we use the same techniques?
"And in terms of using colors, we are also different. For example, we need to use colors that construct our yellow skin, not to draw the yellow out of the skin."
So what is Kan's secret to staying attractive? If she has a universal formula, she is not giving it away.
"I have been working and studying all my life. I work more than 10 hours a day since I was 20," she replied. "I don't have much time to relax, but I really enjoy working, and that's what I am doing now."

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