Life is beautiful

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Frankly speaking, interviewing someone famous is always a challenge. It is hard to get something new, deep or meaningful when they have had so many experiences but too little time, and perhaps little inclination, to tell us about them. Big names always seem perfect in concept, with few flaws to find and a well-oiled PR machine to keep it that way. They then become these somewhat surreal beings, on whom we can’t seem to pinpoint any human weaknesses.

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to come to know one of China’s most beautiful and successful women, Bingbing Li. During these years of watching her grow, I was convinced that there must have been some hard times that she could not talk about and had to overcome by herself. But Bingbing’s strength as a great actress comes not only from her beauty, but also from her persistence and a strong will that is rarely seen by the audience.
Every time when I see Bingbing’s slim form, I expect to see signs of the responsibility and stress she has been through in sustaining such an enormous career, but it is not evident. She appears as delicate as a flower, but as she turns around you may realise how strong she is from the glint in her eyes. The Chinese media has nicknamed her a “ ”workaholic’, but we are all curious to get to know the real Bingbing and what has been hidden behind her flawless elegance. One of her opening lines in our conversation perhaps gives a clue as to her sustained success, when she says; “Life is beautiful, just like a poem.”
I interviewed you ten years ago when you still worked for Huayi agency company (a film production agency that has launched some of China’s biggest names). At that time you were quite inexperienced inside the Chinese entertaining circle. So what is the biggest change to you during the past ten years?
The fairest thing in the world is that we are all getting older every day. We grow continuously, and the world is changing too. Fortunately, I could experience a different life, one as an actress, which accelerates my understanding of the world. The feeling of happiness is incredible when I can motivate other people to do something meaningful by my influence, for instance, environment protection. (Li is the United Nations Environment Programme goodwill ambassador, and Earth Hour global ambassador for WWF. She also attended the climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 to promote examples of environmental success.)
How do you understand “Time is women’s biggest enemy”?
I do not think time is women’s biggest enemy; in contrast, time is fair to everyone. It depends on how you make use of your time to do something more meaningful and valuable.
Do you have “ageing crisis” as an actress?
No! People have different experiences in different ages. Aging crisis is not about your age; it should be a kind of mood that makes you feel there are too many meaningful things to do. But as your experience grows, the aging crisis should be less of a concern, because you will realise, from the bottom of your heart, what you really need in the end.
Are you satisfied with your current life?
Yes, I am a person that does not consider too much about the future. I would rather cherish every single moment and live in the present. Also, it would be great if my English level could be better than now! (She laughs because we are conducting the interview in Chinese, but actually on the set of the photoshoot she laughed and conversed easily in English with our European photographer, and her skill is greater than she admits).
As an actress, what are your advantages? Is there any role you particularly want to get or take part in?
I had no intention of becoming an actress initially; it was not in my consideration previously. I deeply understand each character I played before my acting each time, and know what kind of person she is. I think for an actress, the role you particularly want to take is always your next one.
Do you mind those negative comments or criticisms towards you, as we all live in an internet-era nowadays? 
These are normal things for an actress. You have to receive different opinions from various angles. I prefer being the real me and to make the most of each moment in my life, rather than thinking too much about those comments from others. This is the most important thing to me.
You always leave the impression on our minds of being very hardworking, without any negative aspects. What makes you so persistent and self-motivated?
Maybe it is mostly because I prefer staying at home in my leisure time. In general, I always rest at home, do some reading, take some exercise, and play with my little nephew. Doing what I like is fabulous, and I love my life to be like this. My little nephew looks like an angel; I could forget all the negative things every time when I see him.
What is your understanding of happiness?
Spending more time with my family, leading the life I want, doing those things I am really fond of.
During all these years, are there any changes towards your understanding and conception of love?
I think it is destined. It is hard to meet the right one, but I will wait as always with my patience. I believe there is no rule for love: you cannot predict who you will be with, but God will arrange the right person for you. What we need to do is to be a better person until he comes.
What is your understanding of love? How do you treat the “process” and “result” of love?
Respect each other, because falling in love makes us become a better person. Actually, being in a relationship is enjoyable. You could learn many things through the whole process, including growing up, being more mature. Always remember to cherish every single moment, and those people around us.
As the future is unpredictable, do you want to foresee your path of love?
No one is able to predict our future. We could only do our best and make more efforts towards the future we desire. Actually, I am really spontaneous. I would let my destiny lead me to where I belong, and take my steps more steadily without any regrets. Great future is not far away!
You won the Best Actress Award at the 2007 Huabiao Awards and at the 2008 Hundred Flowers Awards for your performance in The Knot. Also, you won the Best Leading Actress Award at the 46th Golden Horse Film Awards for your performance in The Message. Do you think getting awards is the best way to get people’s recognition and realise your career goals?
Getting an award is like receiving recognition from others – it is really precious and fabulous for all actresses. I am very delighted and pleased to get people’s recognition through my acting. I always say ‘nomination depends on your ability, but getting the award depends on your luck!’ Actually, being nominated means I already got the recognition – the moment of getting the award is like the luck is favouring me. But actually, being an actress gives me an opportunity to experience life in different dimensions. This is the most important thing for me. I really enjoy my acting process, every single shot, every line of lyrics – there are too many things that deserve my love in this job.
Our theme for this issue is Romance. How do you understand romance?
It is always romantic wherever you are, if you are with someone romantic!
What is the most romantic thing you could imagine?
The love between my parents is really romantic. My Mum’s health is not very good, so my Dad has spent most of his lifetime taking care of my Mum. They accompany each other, and that has turned their love into the sublime. That is the most romantic thing in my heart.
What is the most romantic thing that anybody has done for you?
That is a secret, haha! Actually, there is romance everywhere in our lives once you decide to feel, to do something cheerful. I would like to feel the happiness, just like walking on a beautiful path, breathing some fresh air, and looking at those delicate plants. Being aware of these little things is really romantic!
What is the most romantic thing that you would like to do for someone else? 
I just answered, haha, being aware of those little things!
There is a speculation that romance no longer exists in modern China. What is your opinion on this?
Really? I do not think so. Maybe just follow your heart. People cannot judge it, it really depends on what you think.
Who are the most creative directors you have worked with? 
They are all very extraordinary. Every director is creative and talented; they can turn a story into something good enough for the big screen. There is no possibility to complete this task without creativity!
What are the most important things you have learnt from older actors and actresses?
Take everything seriously.
Who has been your mentor inside the entertaining circle?
Too many, haha! Ren Quan, Xiao Lu, Pei Pei … Just like the old Chinese saying goes: “If three of us are walking together, at least one of the other two is good enough to be my teacher.” You could learn whatever you want from everyone!
by Yan Hong
All photographs by Anders Brogaard
Taken from the Glass Archive Issue 14 – Romance 

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