‘Middle-Aged’ Celebs Are Vying to Become China’s Next Girl Group

Some viewers praise “Sisters Who Make Waves” for being inclusive, while others say the show does little to address the real issues older women in China’s entertainment industry face.

A new Chinese talent show is delivering a powerful message: Age is just a number.

Smashing the ageist attitudes that largely dominate China’s entertainment industry, “Sisters Who Make Waves” stars a cohort of celebrities in their 30s, 40s, and 50s — demographics that typically see dwindling screen time. The group of 30 — which includes actresses, singers, and television hosts — are competing for five spots in an all-women band.

When “Sisters” premiered Friday on Mango TV, a video-streaming site under the Hunan Broadcasting System, viewers were reintroduced to several high-profile names including 52-year-old singer Yi Nengjing, 48-year-old actress Ning Jing, 38-year-old singer Zheng Xiyi, and 37-year-old television host Wu Xin. They share common goals: to win the competition and dispel the belief that middle-aged female stars have no place in show business.

Such so-called idol groups in China typically comprise fair-skinned young people in their late teens or early 20s, their unblemished complexions and pretty faces setting a gold standard. Emphasis on appearance and body shape, if not stated outright, is widely accepted as the norm.

Given the industry’s rigid superficial standards, many actresses who age out of their 20s say they’re getting fewer opportunities than their male counterparts. Some of China’s leading ladies of the silver screen have repeatedly called out ageist practices in recent years, only to remain largely unheard.

“Sisters” expressly aims to provide older female celebrities with more opportunities, according to the show’s producers. The premiere was a teaser of what viewers can expect from later episodes, showcasing the participants’ vocal prowess as they performed soulful ballads and upbeat pop songs.

The debut episode set social media ablaze. A related hashtag on microblogging site Weibo had been viewed more than 8.4 billion times as of Wednesday afternoon, while a user-organized fan group on social platform Douban has over 281,000 members.

The reviews, however, have been mixed. Continue to read the full article here



– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.