FROM a modern dance artist, choreographer, film actress to singer, commentator and talent show judge, 47-year-old Jin Xing never leaves the stage, always in the spotlight and sometimes under attack from those uncomfortable with her status as a transgender woman.
This outspoken and multi-talented woman, who has been called “poisonous tongue” for her fiery comments, will soon have a new label — talk show queen. She will bring her live talk show for the first time to the Shanghai People’s Grand Theater from September 4–14.
During the talk show, Jin will comment with her “poisonous tongue” on current news events, as always, and also share her decades of life experience full of bitterness and happiness.
In addition, she will talk truth about the showbiz industry, perhaps bursting a few bubbles in the entertainment circle, and discuss society’s values from her point of view as a woman and mother.
“I had this ‘talk show’ ambition many years ago, but I know it was just not the right time back then. The people were ready for a live talk show, but I don’t think the government was at that time,” she says.
The dream to do a “Jin-branded talk show” in China was already seeded in 1991 when she was working as choreography assistant for the National TV Station in Italy. One day Jin walked past a studio, where she saw a hostess, who was also a transgender, talking with confidence and power.
“I looked at her and said to myself that one day I would have my own talk show in my country,” she recalls.
The dream has finally come true. Jin has grown from an unknown dancer and choreographer to a household name, though sometimes her adoration is mingled with criticisms and misunderstandings.
Born a boy in northeastern China to Korean ethnic parents, Jin always loved dancing. She joined the dance troupe of the People's Liberation Army, became a colonel, studied dance in New York and decided to return to China for sex-reassignment surgery. She was then 28.
Jin is the first transgender woman to be legally recognized by the Chinese government.
The road for her in a conservative country like China was sure to be bumpy. She was on the end of “libel, slander and malicious falsehoods,” not surprisingly, she says.
But she was never defeated. She fought like a warrior against prejudice and discrimination and led her modern dance troupe into the international spotlight.
Jin is now married to a German and is a caring mother of three children she adopted.
Since 2011, Jin became active in TV, attending many talent shows as a judge. “The biggest reason that I agreed to do TV shows is my children have grown up. My family is always my top priority,” she says.
Her “poisonous tongue” made young contestants cry and also fell out with other judges.
In one TV dance competition, Jin angrily threw the microphone and left the studio because she was angry at another judge who showed partiality for a contestant.
“Everyone has some sad stories. Leave your tears at home and don’t bring them on the stage. It’s a serious competition, not a storytelling festival,” she forthrightly told a contestant in another TV show, who kept repeating how poor his family was.
In 2011, Jin demanded an apology from a satellite TV station in Zhejiang Province because its high-ranking leaders kicked Jin out of a TV show suddenly simply because “Jin is a transgender.”
“It was so ugly and disgusting,” she said during an early interview. “My ID card shows I’m a female, which is recognized by the country. Is there a problem?”
Stereotyped as a hostile woman with relentless comments in front of the camera, Jin cried foul, saying she actually was a “crowd pleaser” off stage among her friends. “I’m good at telling jokes. I’m a fun guy,” she says. “I want to make people laugh, and let them know from my talk show that whenever they are faced with difficulties in life, an easy smile might be the right attitude.”
This summer the comedy movie “Breakup Guru” hit theaters nationwide, earning more than 600 million yuan (US$97 million). Jin played a strict, transgender show director in the movie.
“Many netizens told me that I didn’t look beautiful in the movie because the lighting was bad, but it doesn’t matter to me at all,” Jin says with a smile. “I’m open to self-deprecation and I always think a self-mocking person is often a person with enough self-esteem and assertiveness.
“I contributed at least 100 million for the box office, right? Should I call the director to get my share?” she says with a laugh.
A good talk show, Jin thinks, has to combine current social issues with the host’s personal experiences and views. “The audience is paying their money and attention to hear my views and my life stories, not other people’s.”
Men are more often the hosts of talk shows, while women might feel a little awkward talking about some sensitive topics. But Jin says she has an edge that no one else has.
“Who doesn’t know how I became today’s Jin Xing in China? When people walk into the theater, they are ready to accept my views and they won’t judge the views by my gender. It’s just about a person’s views, nothing to do with man or woman. My unique life experience makes my talk show convincing,” she says.
With quick response and fast talking speed, Jin was born to be a live talk show host. Her ambition is to have a weekly live talk show in the theater.
“I hope it will become one of the city’s features that every Saturday night after dinner, people can just come to have a good laugh and a good thought with me,” she says.
When the curtain goes up, Jin comes alive. This response was formed when the then-he was 9 years old and began to practice dancing in the army.
“I’ll never leave the stage, which has given me all,” she says. “Dancing is my life. If I have to make a choice between dancing and other things, I will choose dancing without any hesitation.”