Frontline World

CHINA - Shanghai Nights, June 2004

Related Features THE STORY
Synopsis of "Shanghai Nights"

Bright Lights, Big City

Read excerpts from Candy

China's Economy, Shanghai, Youth Culture

Arts, Culture, New Generation, Weblogs




Reporter's Slideshow: Bright Lights, Big City
On the prowl with a Shanghai diva

Older woman looks out on to river

A river flows, time passes, everything changes. What memories does she hold? What stories will she tell?
Mian Mian

In her conversations, Mian Mian is forever dropping the names of international cities: New York, Milan, Paris, London. "We want to be more international, more good, more proud of Shanghai," she tells me. She shows up at an exhibit as flamboyantly as any international celebrity. Kiss, kiss; a lewd joke; a feigned compliment. She's the perfect diva out on the town, surrounded by artists and admirers. The hype surrounding her can be obnoxious, but what hype isn't?
Mian Mian applies makeup

The pop icon of Shanghai never stops. She is "on" every waking moment. She talks about her image, and works on it, incessantly. She's like Shanghai -- a city on the move, constantly changing its appearance. Occasionally, Mian Mian will let her guard down, and a vulnerable, sweet self will appear. Shanghai, too, will show its old charm here and there, if you look carefully enough. An impeccably dressed old man strolling in a peaceful garden. A quaint villa tucked between two narrow lanes. But look fast -- the bulldozer is meters away.
Mian Mian dressed up to party

I wonder when Mian Mian ever writes. Night and day, she's always involved in simultaneous projects -- she wants to be everything and everywhere. Businesswoman, party organizer, screenwriter, columnist, diva, the personification of 21st-century Shanghai. Here she is playing a princess in a science fiction film.
Mian Mian in front of Elle Magazine

Mian Mian's new book is titled Panda Sex. "The animal, the panda, has a problem with sex," explains Mian Mian. "They're not very horny. They only have sex one or two times a year. So, my friends and I, we make a joke, 'Oh, I'm a panda,' 'You're a panda'. I am writing about this kind of lifestyle in downtown Shanghai...why now [we] stop having sex and just talk about sex."



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