Yao Chen Interview: Meet China’s Answer to Angelina Jolie
专访姚晨:遇见中国的安吉丽娜•朱莉

(选自《英语世界》2015年第7期)

How did a nice middle-class actress conquer Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, and turn herself into one of the most influential figures in the world?
一个善良而平凡的女演员征服了微博,并让自己成为世界最具影响力的人物之一,她是怎么做到这些的呢?

文/萨拉•金利赛德   译/肖博文 魏家海
By Sarah Keenlyside

2015-7封面.jpg

“Is it like having a superpower?” I ask the actress Yao Chen as she raises her coffee cup to her lips. She breaks into a broad smile as her translator explains my meaning. “I’m getting more mature,” she says, avoiding the question. “These days I am much more careful and cautious.”

[2] One could add the word “modest” to that list, because Yao, self-effacing as she is, has more followers on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter) than the population of Britain. And when five per cent of the population of one of the world’s most powerful  countries is hanging on your every word, you have a lot of influence, no matter how cautious you are.

[3] In fact, so great is that influence, she has the ability to change the course of people’s lives with a click of her mouse. Stories abound of children’s operations that were paid for by donations from her Weibo followers, of old ladies who put their entire savings into causes she supports—even of a condemned man who was suddenly hailed as a hero because of her impassioned online defence of his character (he was a friend of her father’s).

[4] So how did a 34-year-old from a small coastal city in south-east China rise from obscurity to become one of Time magazine’s 100 most powerful people on the planet? And, more to the point, why have we never heard of her?

[5] Unlike her compatriots Gong Li, Jackie Chan and Fan Bing Bing, Yao has never made a Hollywood film and speaks almost no English.

[6] “Of course if the right script came along I would love to do a Hollywood film,” she says when we meet in a bustling café on the east side of Beijing. She’s also a fan of British cinema, and becomes giggly at the mention of Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor she admires. “For now, though, I would just be happy if my current body of work in China got some recognition overseas.”

[7] After studying at the prestigious Beijing Film Academy, she scored a role in a martial-arts sitcom, My Own Swordsman. What followed was a mixture of romantic comedies and action films, with Yao often cast as the girl next door. One of her most popular—Color Me Love (2010)—sees her play the lead in a Devil Wears Prada-ish tale of a girl moving to the big city to work for a hard-boiled magazine editor.

[8] It’s hard to imagine anyone else fitting the role so perfectly, not least because she cuts such an accessible figure both on screen and off. Evidently comfortable in her own skin, she arrives for our interview completely make-up free, her hair drawn back into a simple ponytail, wearing a white T-shirt tucked into a black leather skirt, and brogues.

[9] Yao doesn’t have a “look-at-me” beauty – nor is she classically beautiful by Chinese standards – but her appeal is obvious. The first things you notice are her striking, Cara Delevingne-esque eyebrows, which arch above enormous, almond-shaped eyes.

[10] The next thing you notice is her heart-shaped face, tapering to her wide mouth.

[11] Her beauty might best be described as extraterrestrial. “She’s certainly not your cookie-cutter leading lady,” says Alexi Tan, who directed her in Color Me Love. “I think people like her so much because she’s always herself. She doesn’t put on a persona.”

[12] Does Yao agree that it’s her down-to-earth nature that has endeared her to so many? “Well, I’m a middle-class girl,” she says. “So I’m more suited to leading a normal life. What’s familiar to me makes me feel safe.” Which of course would make perfect sense, if it weren’t for the fact that so many stars don’t manage to retain such levels of normality.

[13] The only child of a train driver and a postal worker, she says that her father was “a very humble person” who had a great influence on her. “I would always overhear him and my mum discussing how they could help others,” she says. “Because he worked on the railway, his friends assumed he could get them tickets for their Chinese New Year train journeys home before everyone else. In fact, he couldn’t, but he didn’t want to let them all down, so he’d wake up at the crack of dawn and queue up with everyone else.”

[14] “For me one of life’s great joys is still being able to go out and buy my own food,” she continues. “I bargain for vegetables in the market, spend time with my family, cook for them. I’m very lucky.”

[15] I’m not sure luck comes into it, I say. There are plenty of stars who wouldn’t want to continue with such a mundane life once they’d made their millions. “Yes,” she acknowledges. “Of course, this is every individual’s personal choice.”

[16] Modesty always goes down well in China, where the showiness of the nouveau riche has become reviled. So it’s no surprise that the unassuming Yao has become a national heroine. It’s also perhaps no surprise that four years ago she was approached by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be its Goodwill Ambassador in China, à la Angelina Jolie (who Yao says was one of the reasons she was inspired to accept the role).

[17] Yao is obviously passionate about her work for the agency. When she talks about her visits to countries such as Ethiopia and Lebanon, she speaks with the directness and fervour of someone who has witnessed suffering first-hand, not just put their name to a charity for the kudos it brings.

[18] This hasn’t gone unnoticed by her fellow countrymen, who regularly criticise actors for what they perceive to be a more cynical championing of charities. Yao says that she enjoys her trips with the UNHCR, and has learnt much from the collaboration, sharing stories and online diaries after every trip.

[19] “So I feel a big responsibility to tell others what I have seen.” The results speak for themselves: the UNHCR saw the number of donations from mainland China triple between 2012 and 2013.

[20] Yao is proud of one success story in particular, and relates it with great gusto. “After I posted my Africa diary I heard from the UNHCR office in Beijing that there was an elderly woman who kept visiting again and again,” she says. “On one occasion she came in to donate 800 renminbi [about £80]. She said she’d read my diary and realised that there were people who needed it more than she did.

[21] The touching part is that every time she came to the office she would take the bus. One day they asked her where she lived and she said she was way out in the suburbs, so they asked her why she wasn’t taking the subway. Her reply was that the 2RMB (20p) fare was too expensive, so 800RMB must have been all her savings.

[22] “Sometimes I feel like I really can’t change enough,” she concludes. “I can become quite depressed about it all. But then this kind of story gives me the encouragement to carry on.”

[23] So what’s next for Yao Chen? Rom-com queen, social-media queen… fashion queen?

[24] Her model-like frame does lend itself well to being photographed, and she already has collaborations with Chanel, Adidas and Lanvin under her belt.

[25] For now, though, she is happy just to have time to spend with her son, known affectionately as Xiao Tudou (“little potato”), before her next project. “I’m happiest when I’m cooking and have the chance to stay in with my husband,” she says. “He loves to play with his cameras and of course we love spending time with the baby. Even though he’s so young we can really understand each other. God is really the greatest creator.”    ■

当演员姚晨将咖啡杯举到嘴边时,我问她:“是不是觉得自己魅力超凡?”她的翻译将我的意思传达后,她脸上绽开灿烂的笑容:“我现在更加成熟了,这些日子我小心谨慎多了。”她巧妙地回避了我的提问。

〔2〕“谦逊”这个词可以用来形容姚晨,因为尽管她不爱出风头,但她的微博粉丝人数超过了英国的总人口。当一个世界强国百分之五的民众关注你的每一句话时,无论你多么小心谨慎,你都具有很大的影响力。

〔3〕事实上,这种影响力大得只要她点击一下鼠标就能改变人们的生活。这样的故事层出不穷,譬如,她呼吁为儿童做手术捐款,微博粉丝纷纷响应;还有几位老太太将全部积蓄投入了姚晨支持的慈善事业;甚至她在网络上力挺父亲一位好友的人品后,这个原先备受谴责的男人就立刻受到英雄般的赞誉。

〔4〕那么,这位在中国东南沿海小城成长起来,如今芳龄34岁的女性,是如何从默默无闻到跻身《时代》周刊全球最具影响力的100位人物的?而更重要的是,为什么我们之前没有听说过她?

〔5〕不同于她的同胞巩俐、成龙和范冰冰,姚晨迄今还未出演过好莱坞电影,也几乎不讲英语。

〔6〕我们在北京东边一个人来人往的咖啡馆会面时,姚晨说:“如果有合适的剧本,我当然乐意出演好莱坞电影。”她也是英国电影迷,提及本尼迪克特•康伯巴奇这位令她钦佩的英国演员时,她忍俊不禁。“不过,如果现在我在中国出演的作品能在海外得到一些认可,我也会很开心。”

〔7〕从著名的北京电影学院毕业后,姚晨出演了武侠情景喜剧《武林外传》。此后,她常常以邻家女孩的形象出演浪漫喜剧和动作片,其中最受欢迎的一部是《爱出色》(2010),该片剧情与《穿普拉达的女王》类似,讲述的是一个女孩来到大城市受雇于一个精明强悍的杂志主编的故事,姚晨担纲主演。

〔8〕很难想象还有谁比她更适合这个角色,尤其因为她是本色出演,银幕上下都贴近大众。显然,她更爱素颜,来接受我们的采访时,她完全没有化妆,就扎着个简单的马尾辫,身穿白色T恤衫,下摆塞在黑色皮裙中,脚穿拷花皮鞋。

〔9〕姚晨并不是那种回头率百分百的美女,也不符合中国传统的审美标准,但她的吸引力显而易见。一见她,首先注意到的会是她那双当红超模卡拉•迪瓦伊式的弯眉,在杏仁大眼上方十分显眼。

〔10〕然后,就会注意到她的瓜子脸和尖下巴上方的大嘴巴。

〔11〕她的美或许应该被形容成外星之美。电影《爱出色》的导演陈奕利说:“她绝对不是那种千篇一律的女主角。我认为,人们这么喜欢她是因为她总是保持自我,从不戴面具。”

〔12〕姚晨是否也认为,正是她的“接地气”令她受到这么多人的喜爱?她说:“我是一个平凡的女孩,所以更适合过普通人的生活,熟悉的事物让我有安全感。”这句话当然很有道理,但事实上,众多明星都没能保持这样的一颗平常心。

〔13〕姚晨是独生女,父亲是火车司机,母亲是邮局职员。她说父亲是“非常谦虚的人”,对她的成长影响很深。“我经常无意中听到他和母亲商量如何帮助别人。”她说,“由于父亲在铁路工作,他的朋友就以为他可以优先购买春运火车票,事实却非如此,但是父亲不想让他们失望,便半夜起床排队帮朋友买票。”

〔14〕她接着说:“对我而言,还能自己出门买吃的是生活的最大乐趣之一。我会在菜场讨价还价,花时间与家人在一起,为他们做饭。我太幸运了。”

〔15〕我说,我不确定这是不是幸运。很多明星在挣了很多钱后,都不愿意继续过这种普通人的生活。“是,”她承认,“当然了,这的确是个人的选择。”

〔16〕在中国,暴发户的炫富一直遭到抨击,而谦逊总是得到赞赏。在这种情况下,低调的姚晨自然就成了中国杰出女性的代表。因此,四年前,姚晨被联合国难民署任命为中国亲善大使,这或许也没什么可意外了。安吉丽娜•朱莉也是联合国难民署亲善大使,姚晨说,朱莉是促使她接受这一任命的原因之一。

〔17〕显然,姚晨对难民署的这份工作十分投入。在谈及自己访问过的国家如埃塞俄比亚和黎巴嫩时,她娓娓道来,那种直率和热情是只有亲眼目睹过苦难的人才有的,绝非那些只在慈善机构挂名的沽名钓誉之徒可以假装。

〔18〕虽然她的同胞们常常认为演员并非真心实意支持慈善并因而对其加以指责,但他们并没有忽视姚晨的慈善之举。姚晨说,她很喜欢随联合国难民署出访,每次出访后都会从慈善协作、故事分享和网络日志中受益匪浅。

〔19〕她说:“我觉得身上的担子很重,一定要把所见所闻告诉其他人。”结果不言自明:2012年至2013年,联合国难民署接受来自中国大陆的捐款增至原来的三倍。

〔20〕有一个成功故事是姚晨尤为自豪的,她谈起时兴致勃勃:“我贴出非洲之行的日志后,收到联合国难民署驻北京办事处的来信,说有一位老奶奶一次次拜访办事处,有一次捐了800元。她说她读了我的日记,得知有人比她更需要这笔钱。”

〔21〕最令人感动的是,老奶奶每次都是乘公交车去办事处。有一天,他们问她住在哪里,她说在郊区,于是工作人员问她为什么不乘地铁,她回答说2元的地铁票太贵了,看来这800元钱一定是她所有的积蓄了。

〔22〕她总结说:“有时候我觉得自己的力量实在不足以改变什么,会变得对这一切都非常沮丧,但之后这样的故事会激励我坚持下去。”

〔23〕那么姚晨下一步会做什么?是做浪漫喜剧女王、社交媒体女王,还是时尚潮流女王?

〔24〕她的模特身材使她很上镜,她现在已同香奈儿、阿迪达斯和朗万等国际品牌展开合作。

〔25〕不过,在着手下一项工作之前,她现在觉得和儿子待在一起很快乐,她给儿子取了小名“小土豆”。她说:“我最快乐的事就是煮饭和有空跟丈夫一起待在家里。我丈夫喜欢摆弄他的照相机。当然,我们都喜欢和小宝宝在一起。虽然儿子还很小,但我们真的能明白彼此的意思。上帝真是最伟大的造物主。” □

(译者单位:华中师范大学外语学院英语系)

【版权声明:本文内容版权属于《英语世界》杂志,由该杂志独家授权爱思网使用。版权所有,未经书面许可,任何机构不得全部或部分转载。】

欢迎在邮局订购《英语世界》杂志,邮发代号为2-445