Monday, March 28, 2011

GONG LI GOING STRONG!

The world’s most famous Chinese movie star is arguably Gong Li though Malaysia’s Datuk Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi can give her a run for the money. Her movies are credited for introducing Chinese movies to the western world but not many are aware she is also brand ambassador to Made-in-China bra manufacturer Aimer.

I had the great honour of being granted an exclusive chat with Gong Li in Beijing last October at the launch of Aimer Spring Summer 2010/2011 ‘Fascination’ collection. After the fashion show called 'FASCINATION' at China National Convention Centre next to Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing, the president of Aimer took me to a private room upstairs to wait for the superstar to arrive as she had to pose for the international media before she could make her way upstairs.

First, forget about oogling over photographs of Gong Li wearing Aimer bra and panty sprawling provocatively on velvet sofas They don’t exist. Gong Li is the official face and brand ambassador for Aimer but unlike fronting jewellery, garments, shoes or make-up, she is not required to pose in skimpy lingerie. Mind you, Gong Li, 44, has a body to die for as my photos prove.

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Gong Li giving her seal of approval to Aimer's Fascination Collection for 2011

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Gong Li, China's answer to Elizabeth Taylor

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I thought her earring was falling off but she was only adjusting it.

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As Gong Li sat barely a metre from me, I asked and got this brilliant smile!

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Now you know how she towered over most men!

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Gong Li with president of Aimer

Zhang Rong Ming

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Gong Li's full, sexy figure with magnificent cleavage does justice to Aimer's bras!

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Pretty as a picture

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Only 5 mainland Chinese media were allowed in this exclusive interview and I was the only foreign journalist granted this honour.

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Surprisingly, Gong Li appeared to wear costume jewellery rather than Cartier diamonds.

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Fit for Gong Li; a multi million ringgit solid 24-carat gold bra!


Gong Li is a classic Chinese beauty whose sultry, aristocratic looks have rocketed her to superstardom from Day One. Most Chinese feel she best represents the oriental race when it comes to projecting the quintessential oriental stereotype. Sure Datuk Michelle Yeoh is strikingly glamorous and Zhang Ziyi is prettiness personified while Maggie Cheung is the fair, languid damsel but when it comes to the concept of traditional beauty, few stars can hold a candle to Gong Li.

Even her name is in her favour. As feng shui masters and western pundits put it, ‘gong’ refers to banging a musical instrument and making a shindig as if announcing the arrival of royalty or a herald of glad tidings. It is also eminently easy to pronounce, remember and spell. Michelle Yeoh was ill advised to call herself Michelle Khan for a while as everyone assumed this Chinese was married to a Pakistani Mr Khan. As for Zhang Ziyi, not only do westerners hesitate to pronounce her name but find it impossible to spell phonetically.

As for Gong Li, the music world’s loss has been the cinematic world’s gain. In 1986 the 20 year was rejected by China’s top music school in Beijing so she tried her luck at Central Academy of Drama in the Chinese capital where she was spotted by director Zhang Yimou who cast her in Red Sorghum in 1987. It was their debut as director and actress. By the time Gong Li graduated in 1989 she was already an accomplished starlet.

The rest is cinematic history as both director and star went from strength to strength and into each other’s arms. Red Sorghum won the Golden Bear award at the 1988 Berlin Film Festival. Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern were nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards and credited with introducing Chinese movies to the western world. The Story of Qiu Ju won her Best Actress and the Golden Lion winner in the 1992 Venice Film Festival while To Live won the Grand Jury prize in the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. All her first seven films were directed by Zhang Yimou and their relationship only ended in 1995 after Shanghai Triad was released. She married Singaporean tobacco tycoon Ooi Hoe Seng the following year. The star of Memoirs of a Geisha and Miami Vice is the first Chinese actor/actress to make it on the cover of TIME magazine.

Gong Li and Zhang Yimou only resumed their working relationship in 2006 for Curse of the Golden Flower, an epic period film more famous for highlighting Gong Li’s cleavage, sumptuous garments, spectacular setting, seas of yellow chrysanthemums and lavish costumes rather than the script.

Curse of the Golden Flower also resulted in the blooming relationship between Gong Li and Aimer. Remember the fabulous yellow bustier with pink flowers that fitted Gong Li like a glove and showed her assets to maximum advantage? That was hand made by Aimer. Gong Li’s derriere caused a sensation and her bustier was a major fashion seismic event. Beams Zhang Rong Min, president and CEO of Aimer, “Actually we were second choice. The movie company commissioned a Hong Kong company to make the bustier but it proved uncomfortable and ill-fiiting. Gong Li was dissatisfied and someone recommended Aimer so they came to us.”

Zhang Rong Min brought Aimer’s creative designer Zhang Hong Yu, applauded as one of China’s Top Ten Designers (in a land of 1.5 billion, this is a major feat) to measure Gong Li.

Recalls Zhang, “Gong Li said it fitted her like a dream! That was how we met and became friends. I also felt it was time for Aimer to have a superstar brand ambassador. As Gong Li was already wearing Aimer undergarments, I asked her and I was so delighted and honoured when she agreed instantly. She has been the face of Aimer since 2008.”

REGAL GLAM

Not for nothing was Gong Li chosen to play the empress in Curse of the Golden Flower and narrowly missed out to Joan Chen for the role of last empress in The Last Emperor. Her beauty is nothing short of regal. So is her behaviour.

As she glided into China National Convention Centre for Aimer’s fashion extravaganza, she stopped at the photographers’ pit to wave and pose, looking every inch a queen. She knew it was infinitely better to pose properly for a million dollar picture than to move quickly, resulting in unflattering angles.

After the show, Gong Li strolled in elegantly in the VIP Room and said sweetly ‘Ni hau’ (‘Hope you are well’). As I sat just over a metre from her during the private chat, it was all I could do to avoid kicking her shin as I uncrossed my legs. At 44 she did not look a day older than 30 with her flawless complexion and sculpted features though her womanly figure can do with 2 kg less.

Every gesture, be it finger, body or leg, was a pleasure to watch. While speaking spontaneously, Gong Li was an old hand at conjuring magic to her adoring subjects and knew the power of body language. She laughed easily and often, smiling graciously, playing with her ring, sensuously adjusting her earrings and criss crossing her legs every now and then to reveal shocking 6 inch heels that made me reach just to her ears.

She was a vision in a magenta gown with mermaid tail specially made for her by Aimer’s Zhang Hongyu which, you guessed it, showed her cleavage to perfection. Surprisingly she did not do a Elizabeth Taylor and did not drip diamonds as might be expected. Accessorised with chunky, statement jewellery with dark stones to match her nails and shoes, she was very much at ease, deftly brushing aside personal questions about her attempts at giving birth, IVF treatment and even if she was recently divorced from her Singaporean husband last July. “This is about Aimer,” she said politely.

She sipped her cup of tea delicately, placed her hands round her knees and asked who else we were waiting for. The obvious answer was Zhang Rong Min the CEO of Aimer who was derailed downstairs by the media. So we proceeded without him though he joined us later.

My first question was why Aimer?

“I am happy to be Aimer’s spokesperson and brand ambassador because it is China’s best undergarments manufacturer and is the top rated label. I am delighted to endorse Aimer to the rest of the world. It is a responsibility I take willingly as Aimer inspires me with its quality and creative designs which are the two most important aspects. As a woman I find the packaging and presentation very attractive and aesthetically pleasing so I am happy to co-operate with Aimer in making it a global brand.”

What did she think of the show purportedly costing a hefty RM 3 million?

“It was beyond my imagination! I am so impressed with the choreography, stage, music and large number of famous foreign models that gave it an international flavour.”

Of the three themes Bold Passions, Crimson Gardens and Mystic of Rococo, which was her favourite?

Her answer came quick and pat. “I love them all,” she crooned sweetly. Probably realising this was too vacuous, she added, “I particularly like Mystic of Rococo as the designs draw their inspiration from Qing art and is rich in bold colours like purple. This luxurious and elegant series also reminds me of Curse of the Golden Flower when I first became acquainted with Aimer! To me, they best illustrate a woman’s femininity and charm. From my point of view, this collection is the best I have ever seen. It seems like the designs and creativity have already reached their peak. It will be very challenging for Aimer to do something better but as CEO Zhang told me, there might be another climax next year! So we have to wait and see.”

What does she look for when buying undergarments?

“When buying a bra, a woman will always consider cut, fit, fabric, design and most of all quality. Quality is the single most important aspect as bras and panties are very personal and make the wearer feel confident. Quality includes comfort and all women need to feel relaxed yet secure.

“Most of the designs are so beautiful and well made I feel they could be worn as outerwear! I like the shiny touches and combination of various fabrics that add exclusivity and elegance. The overall effect is very alluring.”

Aimer is Asia-centric as many believe Asian and western women have different body types. Gong Li nodded, “Our body and bone structure are different. It is difficult to fit every type of body structure to find the comfort level. In order to battle into the international level, Aimer needs to focus on the different requirements of Asians and westerners but in China, Aimer is considered the best.”

Everywhere she goes, she is the cynosure of attention. How does she project her personality?

“It’s all related to my style of the moment. I dress for the occasion. I am expected to look a certain way and I try not to disappoint my hosts. I am an actress, not a model. So my style will do the talking. It is like acting in a movie. You might remember the name of the character in the movie but not Gong Li!”

Does she get to try all Aimer lingerie?

Laughs the superstar, “Yes I do! This is part of the benefits of being Aimer’s spokeswoman. I get to wear all the new products and ranges and give my opinion if necessary.”

Since there is Aimer Men, does she buy them for her, er, husband which she is supposed to have divorced last July?

Gong Li sidesteps by remarking coolly and sweetly, “I get them as presents for my brother. Aimer Men are good products so I am happy to give them as presents to everyone. If you want one, I can get it for you now.”

What about the rumours circulating she has dumped her husband for her co-star in her latest movie Shanghai, John Cusack?

“I will not answer such questions but thank you for asking,” she smiled as her swanned out of the room.

THE END