A few weeks ago, I woke up to 13 missed calls overnight from China. It was a journalist who had interviewed ZAOZAO when we were first starting out last summer. I remember being super excited as a fledgling company pre-launch to be featured in a Conde Nast publication to the women of China, and even more disappointed when the article fell through. It never got published because the editor nixed the story, billing it as too "commonplace" - really? Oh well, anyway.
Fast forward more than a year later, even after being featured in press all over the world, China still holds a special place in our hearts. A week after being profiled in the June issue of Self Magazine and the Wall Street Journal in China, I was whisked away on a flight on less than 48 hours advance notice from New York. Destination? Hangzhou, in the Zhejiang province of China.
As the person with the worst Mandarin speaking capabilities out of the lot, it was ironic that I was the only one who had ever been to Hangzhou before (English teaching summer, circa 2007). Who would've thought I'd come back to star on a reality TV / dating game show 6 years later? Strange, hilarious, and so fun.
According to my research (this was explained to me all in Chinese so I have had to supplement my understanding with some googling), the show, 轉身遇到TA is an adaptation of a show that nobody's heard of, called "The Choice" which aired on FOX last year. The basic premise is 4 "judges", or bachelors sitting in these swivelly chairs, who then get to decide among a lineup of 15 eligible bachelorettes who to eliminate until they end up with a new potential girlfriend/date at the end of the show. For this episode, Zhejiang TV teamed up with Conde Nast to reverse gender roles - this time, having 4 "beautiful, smart, ambitious" *women* in the chairs deciding which guys were worthy of dating/husband'ing. Surprisingly progressive, right?
I flew out of New York on Friday morning, arriving in China Saturday evening after a layover in my beloved Hong Kong. 24+ hours later, I was sitting in a hotel room being briefed by my TV production assistant and magazine editor, instructing me on how the next 2 days were going to go down. Jetlagged and tired, I prepared my outfits for Day 1 of shooting: this would be my 30-second introductory video-recording, shown to the bachelors before they arrived on stage.
It must have been 100+ degrees out plus humidity when we headed out to a big industrial park for the photoshoot and recording. Hair and makeup artists followed me every minute of the way... my awesome TV guy even fed me my drinks so I never had to lift a finger. I felt like a real princess!
We proceeded to lunch with the other bachelorettes and their respective "guides" from ZTV, to get to know each others' preferences for men (i.e. who wants a Chinese husband? who prefers a lifestyle dedicated to fitness vs. who is just here to have some fun? etc) The point was to make for better banter on the show. After lunch, we went to the studio for the first time to learn how to use the swivelly chairs so we wouldn't embarrass ourselves and fall out during filming.
dress rehearsal: learning how to control the chairs and not fall out
We headed back to wardrobe for fittings - thankfully the stylists were happy with the Lab Diabm dress I got from ZAO a few months ago - I'd been waiting for the perfect occasion to wear it! We then had dinner at Dong Bei restaurant - cuisine from that province tends to be kinda spicy, kinda cold. It was good, but jetlag got the best of me there and I fell asleep at the table.
On Day 2, we all lunched and went straight to wardrobe for hair and makeup. The ZTV van chauffered us everywhere - they purposely housed us in a hotel an hour away from the recording site which was also where everyone else was staying, so we wouldn't accidentally bump into the 15 bachelors they'd handpicked for the show! Our magazine editor kept telling us they were "handsome and tall" and promised me specifically that there were "lao wai"s. Awesome.
By 6pm, we were all ready to start filming. The audience piled in, and we commenced round 1,
whereby each bachelor had 30 seconds to prove himself worthy of our turning around in our chairs. If at least one of us turned, then he would advance to round 2. Once each bachelorette accumulated 3 dudes, she would no longer be in the running to swivel. If more than one bachelorette turned, then the ball was in the dude's court - he got to put us to the test, ask us questions, and select from whomever had turned which girl he wanted to be with.
In round 2, we speed-dated each of our 3 guys for 15 seconds in a lightning round of sorts. I had some questions prepared beforehand, but being on set and in the heat of the moment was pretty nerve-wracking. I am a little scared to see what the final cut looks like! At the end of that round, we had to eliminate 1 guy from our lineup of 3.
In round 3, we each had to ask our remaining 2 guys a question. In historical episodes, they've been about love, or life, or accomplishments. I gave mine a brainteaser.
Unfortunately I think that's all I can reveal about the show before it airs this Saturday in China! The episodes will be available on Youku and Youtube afterward. Hope I don't look TOO ridiculous...