In early spring each year thousands of young hopefuls apply for places at China’s drama colleges. Here in Beijing there are two particularly prestigious institutions, the Central Academy of Drama, and Beijing Film Academy. Competition for a place is extremely fierce, the CAD had 9000 applicants for 50 places this year, and BJFA was not much better with a mere 75 places and 4569 applicants.
It is no wonder that many applicants will do whatever it takes to improve their chances. Many resort to plastic surgery in the hope of ‘improving’ their looks and thus gaining an advantage. The most popular surgical procedure with young female wannabe’s (as with millions of other young Chinese women who want to improve their job prospects) is blepheroplasty – the operation which creates a double-fold eyelid. This makes the eye open wider and appear rounder, and is considered extremely attractive.
Why young Chinese (and Korean) women are so keen to have their eyelids altered in this way is something I have been pondering. It seems to me that it is because wide-eyed girls are thought to look ‘cuter’, and looking cute in Asia is a particularly desirable trait. Cute is seen as vulnerable, young, innocent, and charming, and by contrast makes men seem/feel more manly, protective and caring. Therefore many of the cartoon characters of little girls and/or animals (think Hello Kitty) used in advertising here in China are cute little moppets with Big Round Eyes!
Blepheroplasty does not come cheap (although it is much cheaper here than in the west), the cost per eye is between 4000 -8000 yuan [£400-800], and it is usually paid for by the girl’s parents or grandparents – when she leaves school it is often given as a graduation present/investment. For many young women this surgery is financially beyond their reach, and so they resort to other means to achieve the wide-eyed look.
In the cosmetic and beauty departments of most shops and supermarkets you can find a range of little DIY kits which will give the user a temporary double-fold eyelid by means of a clear double-sided sticker. The kit usually contains a number of these stickers together with a small plastic wand, forked at one end, which is used to put the sticker in the right place, needless to say it has to be carefully positioned. The eyelid is then folded back on to the sticker and pressed down lightly to create a double fold.
All the famous Chinese film and TV stars (not to mention pop singers) such as Gong Li, Li Bingbing and Yin Tao, have ‘western’ eyes – whether naturally or with the aid of surgery I know not, but the message to all girls is clear – to succeed in life you need to have your eyes wide open in every sense of the word.