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The Value of Beauty a Closer Look at One of China's Fastest-Growing Industries
2004/10/26
Models answer questions at a recent competitionIncurring heavy losses to its real estate industry over the past years, Hainan Province has bolstered its growth by sponsoring beauty competitions. The New Silk Road Model Company, the largest of its kind in China, has made Sanya, a beach resort city in Hainan, the fixed site for its annual China New Silk Road Model Competition. After successfully hosting the 53rd Miss World Final in 2003, Sanya is preparing for the 54th in 2004, making it the first city to host the Miss World competition for two years in a row.

Sanya is just one of the cities-and companies-capitalizing on beauty. In China, some say, there are two real growing industries. One of them is real estate. The other one is beauty.

In 2003, China saw a lot of pretty faces, proper postures, and sculpted bodies in fashion, advertising, film, television and in contests like Miss World and Miss Universe. In addition to the New Silk Road Model and Miss World competitions, the beauty competitions such as Beauty in the City of Flowers (Guangzhou City, Guangdong Province), World Best Model and Miss Chinese International have been held in China. New and bright would-be models have come out in these competitions one after another. In 2003, the Phoenix TV Station in Hong Kong hosted the first Miss Chinese International Competition. Liu Changle, chairman of the board of directors of the TV station, said the competition showed that China has opened its doors wider to the outside world.

The winners of modeling competitions hope for a new life.Miss China, Guan Qi, won third place at Miss World 2003. However, people were not as wild with joy as they were two years ago for such an excellent ranking, a sign that exposure to beauty is becoming a part of everyday life for most people.

Can Beauty Change a Life?

In 1979, one year after the implementation of China's policies for reform and opening-up, designer Pierre Cardin led a group of French models to Beijing and held a fashion show, introducing international modeling concepts to China.

Two years later, Shanghai sponsored and hosted China's first fashion show at the Shanghai Friendship Cinema, a show that lasted for just 70 minutes. When Xu Ping, a model, planned to wear a sleeveless gown for the show, her parents forbid it. In the end, she wound ribbons around her arms and came on stage.

Several years later, the first fashion performance team emerged in Beijing. Since then, China's fashion industry and a professional field for fashion models have grown.

Being Beauty can cost-pain and moneyOver the past 20 years, concepts have developed equating beauty with fashion. Even the meaning of beauty has changed over time. Today, many tall girls dream of becoming models. Various beauty contests have produced models for cars, property and underwear, as well as movie and TV stars, program hostesses and even writers.

"The pretty face can produce rice," it was often said in the past. The belief has held true. Money awards for winners of model and beauty competitions and opportunities even more valuable have become a shortcut for beautiful girls to fulfil their ambitions. Winning the crown at a beauty contest can change a young woman's life. Since the first Miss Hong Kong Beauty Pageant in 1973, the contest has become a great event in Hong Kong, as well as an opportunity for crown-holders to realize a life change.

Before she won second place at the 1983 Miss Hong Kong Contest, Maggie Man-Yuk Cheung was a common girl studying in the United Kingdom. Today, she is a movie megastar.

A model promotes new mobile phones.Lu Yan was born to a poor family in Jiangxi Province. She cherished a wish to help her parents, who had worked hard all their lives, move out of the small mining area where they lived. She fulfilled her wish after she won second place at the 2000 World Super Model Competition in Paris and made a name for herself.

In the pursuit of beauty, women often rely on themselves. In the beauty creation movement developed in China in 2003, the Beijing-born Hao Lulu became the first Chinese woman to achieve beauty through artificial means. She underwent more than 200 days of cosmetic surgery. It cost her about 300,000 yuan.

"I am satisfied with my surgeries. I found that I have become more confident in myself, and my state of mind has become more tempered," Hao said. "No matter what kind of cosmetic surgery the woman has taken, only in possessing both inner and outer beauty, can she be attractive."

The pursuit of beauty shows the improvement of people's material conditions. It is a development of society for those who have undergone cosmetic surgery and dare to open their identities.

Now beauty-not just money-talks. As natural beauty is rare, many people undergo cosmetic surgery to improve their looks. Today, among so many pretty faces, it is very hard to say whose look is natural and whose is artificial.

Spin-Off Industries

A beauty parlor.Beauty is a resource, and beauty contests are one of the best ways to develop it. At the press conference of Miss World 2003, Chen Ci, the mayor of Sanya, said that by hosting the beauty competition, "We hope that the whole world can get a better understanding of Sanya, and we also expect the competition can bring the city US$100 million in income."

Television stations have increased their numbers of viewers and economic profits by broadcasting beauty competitions. The organizers earn high profits as well. For example, for a beauty competition in Guangzhou in 2001, the organizers established a dozen projects to lure advertising and sponsors, who paid between 50,000 and 6 million yuan each to endorse themselves during the competition. In addition, they received 400,000 yuan for entrance, trial and training fees. According to the organizers, the income of the competition amounted to about 10 million yuan. In 2002, the income doubled the amount from the previous year.

The model competition is a special kind of beauty competition. In addition to the income made during the competition, the organizers can earn even more money by signing contracts with models to obtain the right to use their images for advertising, film, and television.

A live model acts as a display in a shop window.A beauty competition in China-as with other countries-can produce considerable social and economic effects both for the city where it is held and for the hometowns of the winners. Other beneficiaries include scouting companies, agents and intermediaries of performers. Since Trans Continental Talent, the world's largest talent agency, opened for business in China, searching for the stars of the future has become a new business, and many scouting companies recently have been established in China. Some companies have made large profits as intermediaries through giant databases. Talent scouts can earn up to 10,000 yuan per month.

In recent years, China has held more than 20 fashion model competitions each year. According to Yao Ge of the China Professional Model Commission, this is related to the development of the fashion and modeling industries. In European countries, models are mainly a product of the media. Fashion designers in European countries can get information on models and the recent developments in the industry through the media. China has not created such an environment, Yao said. In China, over the past years, many gifted models have come to the fore, and many industries have made profits through frequent fashion model competitions.

Beauty's Real Value

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said, "Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference." In China, that sentiment has been carried one step forward, and the development of the beauty industry has made an impact on other economic sectors, such as advertising, exhibitions, clothing, cosmetics and catering.

Women possessing beauty have entered every trade, including car exhibitions, opening ceremonies, and property and commodity promotions. Now, people can see the images of these women everywhere.
Beauty has become a lever for China's developing economy.

Professor Wang Shide of the Aesthetics Society of China, for example, said that car models have promoted the development of China's automobile industry. After China's entrance into the WTO, more and more people are buying private cars, and they are becoming more fastidious about the appearance of those cars. Models can enhance the beauty of cars and boost sales.

Now, cities are festooned with advertisements and billboards, covered with beautiful stars bearing innumerable expressions who work for advertising, Internet and individual product and enterprise companies. In bookstores, many beautiful posters can be found at a good price. Almost all of these best-selling prints stress the pictures and stories of beautiful women. High-tech enterprises, not to be outdone, invite movie and TV stars to be their spokeswomen. From TV to mobile phone companies, competition is fierce for the hiring of these rising stars of advertising.

The use of beautiful women by manufacturers and business for advertising has lured more and more customers. And the competition is growing increasingly intense.

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