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Not Your Average China Dolls | Manolo for the Big Girl

Not Your Average China Dolls

Meet Qian Jin Zu He, a new singing sensation in China. That’s Zhang Wen, 24, Yang Ye, 21, Shen Jing, 23, and Xiao Yang, 26. Xiao Yang, the lead singer, weighs in at 375 pounds. All the others weigh between two and three hundred pounds apiece. Once upon a time in China, being fat was considered a sign of prosperity. Now it’s considered a source of extreme shame. Summer weight loss boot camps have sprung up all over the country and employers routinely ask not only for the work records and educational information on potential employees, but height and weight as well.

At the tender age of five, Xiao Yang was already being prescribed diet pills. Her parents refused to hold her hand in public. They enrolled her in what she calls a “devil eating program” in which she was expected to subsist entirely on fruit and water.

Four years ago, Xiao was desperate enough to place an ad in a local newspaper begging someone – anyone – to either help her lose weight or give her a job.

Enter Hu Zhi, a public relations agent who works out of Nanjing. He spotted the ad and decided to meet with Xiao and see if she had any performing talent. He gave her CDs and DVDs to study and hired a coach for her to work on dance moves with. He even got the largest newspaper in Nanjing to write about Xiao in hopes that finding her a boyfriend would boost her confidence. Some 200 men responded. More than that, over 100 heavy women from all over China wrote back to tell her they empathized with her struggles in Chinese society and wanted to be her friend.

Hu and the newspaper combined forces to develop a club for these women. Eventually, Hu discovered enough women in the club with singing and dancing talent that he formed a band. Thus Qian Jin Zu He was born.

Their success so far has been modest, but they tour nightclubs, shopping malls, paint factories, and even garment industry conventions to spread a message of tolerance and pride. Their most popular song is a rap number entitled “So What If I’m Fat.”

Even the name of the group is both a pun and a sign of empowerment. One meaning for the words is a courteous expression for someone else’s daughter or 1,000 pieces of gold. The other is 1,000 jin, a Chinese measurement of weight that comes to just over 1,000 pounds.

Through their performances, Qian Jin Zu He hope to raise awareness and change stereotypes about the fat. As member Zhang Wen puts it:

“Our original purpose for joining the band is to help other girls like us feel more confident, feel better about themselves, and to prove our capability in front of others,”

Rock on, ladies!

7 Responses to “Not Your Average China Dolls”

  1. Diane September 9, 2007 at 2:35 pm #

    I’m glad to see they actually got girls with talent, too! Something like this could very easily turn from empowering to gimmicky with the wrong sort of promotion, but these girls feel more to me like proud women who can sing and just happen to be fat and vocal about it, than vocal fat women who someone thought they could earn a buck off.

    Gives a refreshing new twist to girl power!

  2. Twistie September 9, 2007 at 4:47 pm #

    Get out of my brain, Diane! On second thought, you can stay. It’s good to have company.

    My first thought was to worry about whether this was pure exploitation, but it really does sound more like empowerment.

  3. Willa September 9, 2007 at 7:41 pm #

    please be careful when you title an entry something like “not your average china dolls.” it makes me feel uncomfortable because it’s suggesting an assumption that ALL chinese women are little and cute like dolls or something, rather than just being women.

  4. Annalucia September 9, 2007 at 10:29 pm #

    Alas that their dresses are so unflattering; they appear to be wrapped in bedsheets. Cannot someone advise them as to bolder colors and a more flattering style?

  5. roya September 10, 2007 at 1:09 am #

    That is the point, they are bedsheets, it is supposed to be sexy, like Marilyn Monroe. There is a famous picture that I can’t find that looks like this.

  6. Twistie September 10, 2007 at 10:57 am #

    Willa: I honestly didn’t mean it that way. In my brain it sounded like ‘hey, these women are breaking the stereotype that all Asian women are petite and fragile and don’t have much to say for themselves! you go girls!’ My brain, however, has been known to take oddly circuitous paths to reach its destinations. My intention was not to be insulting or insensitive in any way, but I will definitely try to think more carefully before choosing a title that may not be perceived the way it was intended.

    Annalucia: That was my first thought, too. I wanted to see them in something bold, like red.

    roya: I think it probably worked better on Marilyn because she was alone looking sleepy and tousled and as though she had a naughty secret rather than in an obviously wide-awake group. On the other hand, Mr. Twistie is in the music biz and that’s made me painfully aware that nearly every band has that one photo session which should Never Be Spoken Of Again. All too often, the base idea wasn’t the problem so much as execution or wardrobe.

  7. Ninjarina September 11, 2007 at 12:10 am #

    I hope these girls can sing b/c most of the Chinese/HK pop world is untalented garbage. And believe me, you think the race to thin is bad in the US? It’s SO much worse in Asia.

    P.S. During the Golden Era of Chinese history, the Tang dynasty (we are so proud of this that Chinese people refer to themselves literally as “Tang people”), plumper women were in vogue – one of the most famous being the tragic Yang Guifei.