In 2004 Shmuley Boteach – once a close friend of Michael Jackson – wrote an interesting comment about another pop-star, Madonna:
Before Madonna, it was possible for women more famous for their voices than their cleavage – like the beautiful Ella Fitzgerald and the divinely talented Barbra Streisand – to emerge as music superstars. But in the post-Madonna universe, even highly original performers like Janet Jackson now feel the pressure to expose their bodies on television in order to sell albums.
Indeed, looking at the modern female singers, one might think that good looks and sexy body are more important than singing abilities for success. This tendency is truly international and Chinese female singers are not spared from it.
And if “simple mortals” resort to plastic surgery as means of increasing their value in the labor market, it’s understandable that singers find themselves under huge pressure to fit even stricter standards of beauty and sexual appeal. Sometimes it ends sadly – as in the case of Wang Bei, an aspiring performer, who just wanted to get a more pointed face shape and died during plastic surgery.
So, today I invite you to check out an unusual top 10 list. It will feature 10 female Chinese singers who are NOT known to be beautiful and for that reason I assume they are popular firstly due to their singing talents. I suppose that blog readers might find some of the girls in this list to be quite good-looking, but take in account that this list was compiled basing on the opinions of Chinese netizens. Thus, let’s attribute any disagreements to cultural difference in beauty perceptions.
1. Chen Jiahua, also known as Ella is one of three members of popular Taiwanese girl band S.H.E. (see my other post about Chinese singers to listen to one of their songs). In one of their interviews the girls coquettishly claimed: “We are the fattest girl group in history, we don’t need sexiness to succeed.”
2. Ding Wei is extremely talented. Her musical repertoire ranges from pop to jazz and for many of her songs she writes music and lyrics by herself. Maybe this is also the reason why she hasn’t produced so many albums over 15 years of her musical career. Ding Wei is one of the favorite singers of my fiancé and he asked me to include one of her songs here. You will find it in the end of this post.
3. Han Hong is not your regular slim Chinese girl. But it didn’t prevent her from being recognized as best female artist from mainland China in 2004 and 2006 (in 2005 by the way Ding Wei was crowned with this title). Some people say that she owes her wonderful voice to her mother who belongs to Tibetan minority.
4. He Yunshi came to prominence after winning the annual competition for new Chinese singers in Hong Kong in 1996. She then became an apprentice of another famous Hong Kong singer Mei Yanfang (Anita Mui) who won the first installment of the same competition in 1982! In the beginning of her career He Yunshi sparked a lot of controversy by often touching the topic of homosexuality in her songs.
5. Huang Qishan for many years tried to make a breakthrough in musical career but wasn’t successful. Her devotion for singing and beautiful voice were not matched by beautiful appearance and it was the main reason of her failures. Huang Qishan almost gave up but fortunately was noticed by Chen Ziqiu – general manager of the recording company who signed contract with the singer and described her as the “most perfect voice of Asia”.
6. Li Yuchun became popular after winning the singing competition Super Girl in 2005. The competition was marred by controversy because many people thought that Li Yuchun won the SMS voting mainly due to her “rebellious” behavior (boyish hairstyle and coolness) that resonated with Chinese youth.
7. Mo Wenwei is maybe not beautiful but she is definitely a very sexy woman. And she knows how to present herself in the best light. As many successful Chinese performers Mo Wenwei combines singing career with acting. She is also a notable advocate of animal rights.
8. Sun Yue had a breakthrough in 1994 with the signature song “I wish you peace”. Since then she always stayed in spotlight winning many prestigious awards. In 2008 Sun Yue was the only female singer who participated both in opening and closing ceremonies of Beijing Olympic Games.
9. Tian Zhen is the famous Beijing-born singer who debuted in 1984. In 1995 she released the first collection of hits which set the Chinese record of most album copies sold. In 1996 “Beijing Youth Daily” called her the most popular Chinese female singer.
10. Zhou Hui was often described as Su Yongkang (male singer) with the voice of Faye Wong (diva of Chinese pop music). Because of her looks the recording company – at least in the beginning of her career – often used cartoon images instead of Zhou Hui’s own pictures in videos for songs.