Can China Win Miss Universe?

Lou Zilin, Miss China, is poised to become the China’s first ever Miss Universe at the contest is Brazil next month. To up her chances, she is currently in New York, undergoing extensive training on how to become “less Chinese,” under the guidance of TV personality Yue-Sai Kan, national director of Miss Universe China. From the Australian:

She took her young charge to her Upper West Side apartment four weeks ago and has since put her through lessons in English conversation, French table manners, samba, jazz and tap dancing as well as high-level socialising. “She has met Paul McCartney, Russell Simmons [the hip-hop artist],” she told The Times yesterday. “We were with Claire Danes for a screening of Homeland.”

No Miss China has won Miss Universe for a decade, but as Ms Kan prepares her charge for next month’s contest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, she has sought to work a transformation akin to that attempted by Henry Higgins on the young Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

“When I say she’s too Chinese, I don’t mean to be negative. Too Chinese means they are very reserved,” she said. “When you compliment them, they put their hands over their mouth. They are not used to being assertive. Also, we have absolutely no culture of beauty pageants.” Ms Lou was already a successful model.

“But they are just walking hangers,” said Ms Kan, who appears to have been extremely successful in overcoming any shyness she might have suffered. “They don’t have to say anything. They don’t have to express any emotions whatsoever.”

See also: “Gloves off for Miss Universe training” from the Sydney Morning Herald and “Can China ‘Win’ Miss Universe?” from the Wall Street Journal blog.

For Forbes, Ray Kwong interviews Lou:

The odds-on favorite to win Miss Universe, the planet’s top international beauty contest, Luo isn’t caught up with all the glitz, glamour and pageantry. Nor are there any signs of shallowness some might expect.

“I’m excited and love what I’m doing,” Luo told me, “but it’s important to keep things in perspective. I understand that I am in a position to make a real impact on any number of important humanitarian causes, not only as a role model, but as a doer. And that responsibility stays with me whether I win or lose.”

Miss China “does not want to disappoint.”

The weight of China and its 1.3 billion populace, however, has got to be a compelling factor to win. “I don’t want to disappoint,” said Luo.

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