Chinese actress Fan Bingbing cries real tears after filming an emotional scene for the film East Wind Rain in Shanghai in 2009. Rian Dundon.
Rian Dundon, a photojournalist and alum of the Department of Photography & Imaging, published a story on Medium on his experience as an Enlglish tutor for the Chinese actress, model, producer, and singer Fan Bingbing in 2008 and 2009. The article is accmpanied by his photography from that time.
They called her the Angelina Jolie of China. Tall, with a slender jaw, a smooth complexion, aquiline nose, and cavernous coal-black eyes, Fan Bingbing was alluring and powerful, a fitting avatar for the material yearnings of an emergent middle class.
When I met her, Bingbing was already a massive star in China, and was just starting to find traction internationally. She was China’s de facto cultural ambassador in places like Cannes and Paris Fashion Week, and with Hollywood beckoning, she was already a sought-after spokesmodel for foreign brands entering the Chinese market. Learning English, at least enough to memorize a script, was the next step in her global conquest.
It would have been easy enough for Bingbing to locate a qualified tutor in Beijing, where thousands of American and British professionals were staking their claims in a rapidly modernizing China. But like me, she wanted a shortcut. In her case, that meant hiring a tutor in a language she never intended to learn.