It’s probably best to start here, because here is where most newspaper and magazine profiles – both Chinese and Western – start: Yes, she’s beautiful, sharply and distinctly so. Slighter than she looks in her music videos, where she often sweeps across the screen in splashes of bright color like a cloth-bound dervish, singing in four languages (one entirely made up), and mugging happily for the camera. But beautiful in a way that is both confident – the emphatic glance, the wry smile – and eminently reserved.
She says: “I want to practice English,” tucking herself neatly into a chair at her hotel on the edge of SoHo.
She says: “I think New York is very modern,” through a translator, not necessarily responding to a question but just thinking aloud, stringing together a handful of associations. “I like the modern cities. The buildings are different; the people are different. The sky and the earth – that part is the same, because it depends on your heart.”
It is Sa Dingding‘s first trip to the United States, but on the eve of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the trip already has the feeling of an ambassadorial tour. In China, Ms. Dingding is big. Pop star big. Rihanna big. In the US – traditionally a tough market for Chinese musicians to crack – she is unknown. (She played her first American show last week, at San Francisco’s storied Cow Palace.)