Transsexual dance star finds fame with gift for gab

By Li Qian Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-17 5:03:02

Jin Xing performing on her talk show. Photo: CFP

Transsexual and transgender individuals tend to make headlines in Chinese media for the novelty factor they bring. However, Jin Xing, the most famous transsexual in China, has made a name for herself for what she does, rather than what she is.

Two decades ago, as China's leading male dancer, Jin shocked the nation by going through gender reassignment surgery and becoming a woman. But recently she began to see her fan base balloon thanks to doing TV shows that showcase her forthright personality and critical viewpoints.

She now hosts a weekly talk show branded with her name on Dragon TV in Shanghai, in which she, based on her life experiences, ridicules and gives her opinions on what she believes to be inappropriate or peculiar social and cultural phenomena. This very personal program provides a platform to show off her personality, tackling controversial topics and using straightforward language in a way that has instantly attracted large audiences.

The show is full of satire, but its human touch adds to its popularity, pushing her show business career to new heights. She now lives in a high-level suite in a vintage Shanghai luxury hotel overlooking the center of town.

Jin told media that she's been given the opportunity to live out her dream of performing on stage as an older woman, coaching and commenting on young dancers on TV while wearing a luxurious qipao, to the accompaniment of music from a jazz band. "Just like those performances in French nightclubs," she said.

Her dream came true early. Jin not only coaches celebrity and professional dancers on TV, but also has a talk show featuring her unique style of banter as well as her eye-catching outfits.

Early fame

Born in 1967, Jin trained herself at military dancing academies in her hometown of Shenyang, Liaoning Province and later in Beijing.

Jin shot to fame as an iconic figure in Chinese modern dance while still in his early 20s. However, even then, Jin identified as female. Perhaps her inner struggle helped with her artistic expression, and Jin has studied, performed and coached dance in the US and Europe since 1988, and earned international recognition during that period.

In 1995, just a year after she came back to China, she decided to live by herself and underwent gender reassignment surgery. Soon after recovery, she got back on stage and established her modern dance troupe.

She describes herself as someone that likes trying different things. She once ran a pub in Beijing but later closed it down, believing she should focus on dancing as her career.

It was not until she began to appear on television as a judge for a popular celebrity dancing competition that she came to the attention of wider audiences.

Since 2011, Jin has been a judge on several popular dance competitions on Shanghai television. It was almost standard practice for Chinese reality shows to hype the emotional struggles and life difficulties of the competitors for viewership purposes, but Jin Xing showed little regard for the show's publicity needs, or even other judges' feelings. She doesn't hide her dislike for the competitors either. Once she told a high-handed actress with sex appeal that she was more beautiful when not dancing.

Standing out

With her unique life experience and straightforward personality, Jin easily stood out from her fellow judges. She became an "inharmonious" element on the show, immediately grabbing the spotlight and becoming a promotional selling point.

Her comments may have seemed disrespectful, but such dramatic scenes proved popular with audiences. People were happy to see such outspokenness and candor on what are normally heavily packaged TV shows, and saw Jin Xing as a woman who dared to speak up.

She carried this image over to her own talk show. She doesn't make any attempt to give her guests an easy time, at least on the surface. She told one film star that her singing voice sounded like a duck's, just like Jin herself, and once told a singer who had just given birth that she was round like a rice ball. But Jin shows no maliciousness in her comments, and almost always draws understanding laughter.

By launching her own talk show, Jin the accomplished dancer has officially started to make a living from speaking. In the show, Jin has stories to tell. Her life experience in dancing, and the controversy surrounding her transsexual life, has given her a rich well to draw from. She turns all her life experiences into jokes and stories that she shares with her audiences.

The show proved popular because "it's a product of my life experience, my vision and viewpoints," she told the Global Times.

Her experience studying and working overseas, difficulties in leading a dance troupe, and even tactics used to circumvent cultural authorities have all made it into her show.

Her performing partners say there is hardly any topic that she doesn't tackle.

As a transgender person, Jin now has a happy family. She adopted three children and married a German in 2005. She likes to make jokes about the cultural differences between them and the daily grind of family life and raising children.

The director of her talk show, Want Ting, told Life Weekly that Jin is a person who knows the meaning of life. Combined with her performing experience on stage, she can shine in any environment. "Not only on the stage, she is attractive wherever she is needed," he said.

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