Interview: Jiaoyi Chen Winner of 2019 Miss Phoenix Chinese

Followed up by research on beauty pageants and by comparing differences between the Eastern and the Western beauty standards, I a in-depth telephone interview with Jiaoyi Chen, winner of Miss Phoenix Chinese 2019, who is also an active feminist and presenter. She is a rather suitable candidate and stakeholder who experienced both western and eastern education as a recent MA graduate from UCL. (Interview details is awaiting uploading as I have asked Phoenix TV for permission for personal and academic use). This interview will hopefully also be posted onto Weibo, Instagram and WeChat Moments platforms for further public responses and feedbacks.

Media source: via YouTube. Jiaoyi Chen as candidate 09.

Updates 9th-Oct:

I have to rearrange the interview with Jiaoyi as mentioning Phoenix Television for academic use was declined. (took them awhile getting back to me due to China’s national holiday)

Original plans with uploading onto social media has to cancel too. I rearranged the interview questions without mentioning Phoenix TV; Miss Phoenix 2019 was referred as ‘the contest’. At this point, I explained to Jiaoyi further what my project is about and her role at this interview would be somewhere between a stakeholder and an expert. I wouldn’t classify Jiaoyi as a 100% expert to reference or ask advices from, however her valuable and unique experience and her vision on how to make the change happen would be extremely helpful for my further development.

Draft interview questions:

  1. How did you become interested in pageants? 你是如何对选美比赛产生兴趣以及为何要参与呢?
  2. What were some of the key qualities and characteristics that the judges were looking for in the contest (of you can recall)? 虽然现在距离你当初比赛已经有一段时间了,你认为在比赛时评委所注重的是参选佳丽哪些品质和特点呢?
  3. Do you think that pageantry objectifies women? 你个人认为选美比赛会不会是一个物化女性的存在?
  4. Have you experienced criticism for competing in pageantry? If so, how did you handle it? 你有没有经历过因为参选比赛而听到过一些负面声音?如果有的话,你是如何面对的呢?
  5. What is the most rewarding thing about being a contestant in a beauty pageant?你觉得参与比赛之后做过的最有意义的事情是什么?
  6. How do you define “beauty standard”? 你如何定义‘审美标准’一词?
  7. Do you think certain standard may lead towards appearance anxiety? If so what do you think of the term “appearance anxiety”? 你觉得这种所谓的标准会不会导致相貌焦虑?若是,你对于相貌焦虑有什么看法?
  8. What do you think of beauty standards in the fashion industry? 你觉得时尚领域的审美标准是怎样的呢?
  9. Would you reckon fashion communication would be a powerful tool to help people with appearance anxiety? 你认为时尚交互(把时尚通过照片视频等方式呈现给大众)会不会是一种帮助大家正视以及改善审美焦虑的有效方式呢?

It took me awhile to summarise and edit this interview, I have asked permission to upload online for a short period of time for academic purposes. 

The Miss Phoenix contest is quite well known amongst girls at Jiaoyi’s university back in Beijing. As she spent a year in London and the contest happen to hold in the city, she thought this would be a good opportunity to give it a go and perhaps getting the chance for a new job opportunity. 

I asked whether she thinks that pageantry objectifies women, as I found she’s interested in feminism during her masters at UCL. When she was attending the contest she didn’t think of the word objectify, as she purely went for the job opportunity.  As she reckoned, many may consider the contest  as an activity or a process of objectifying women. In some ways this does exist as there were both male and female judges, and male judges tend to have certain standards that never changed. i.e. all the participants were asked to weigh themselves in the morning, food intake were strictly monitored by the staff. So there were hard standards as such that objectified them as digital numbers no matter what shape they are. 

But on the other hand, Jiaoyi thinks this really depends on people. She reckons from post-feminism point of view that as long as the female individual has the will for certain things, this process would not be classify as objectifying women. – I mean I do agree with her, it’s totally up to the individual. Beauty pageants are existed with a long history, it takes time to improve the prejudices. As long as the participants are fine with fitting themselves into the standards. That’s how I see it, this really is a dialectical question.

I was wondering if she had experienced criticism for competing in pageantry, Jiaoyi said she never heard anything in daily life but had some people commented on her appearance on Weibo. To her it’s hard to define whether these comments are criticism as any public character would have to face. This also lead back to my initial research – what beauty standards are and how are they varied. 

To Jiaoyi, the most rewarding thing about being a contestant in a beauty pageant are participating in charity events across China. The social image of being Miss Phoenix and young female representative grabbed public’s attention and hopefully will help the locals through these events.

Jiaoyi took part in my questionnaires earlier on this project.  She reckoned that beauty standard is a rapidly changing concept. It should full of diversifications but with certain common points. No matter the size, race, height and so on, they are all your identities. Beauty should be unique, if you have you have a standard within yourself, whether it’s the broadly sensed standard in the modern society or it’s the standard of your own; the anxiety would easily occur.  Because the standard of beauty specially the standard of appearances would change all through, people may start to fret when the standard has a deviation. (Like a maths equation)

“The balance of not overly paying attention to it is the key. ” Jiaoyi then added. 

I wanted to gather opinions on delivering different beauty standards to the crowds by introducing fashion in it, as I deem fashion as the most expressive platform of one’s identity. It’s probably rare for my audiences to see how fashion shoots are planned, shot, launched to the public and what I can creatively play around the concept base on the shoot. I then asked opinions and advices from Jiaoyi, I always think she’s the fashionable one, has her favourite designer, give fashion advices to people. But it is a personal sense I guess, Jiaoyi thinks she knows nothing about fashion. She thinks it hard enough to ‘dress appropriately’. I didn’t question further whether this is partly because lack of confidence or what so ever, as the term ‘fashion sense’ would be similar to ‘beauty standards’, there is no standard if you talk about the standards.

Jiaoyi agreed with me, she reckoned that the more uncommonly seen materials being delivered to the public, the more diverse culture would be. People will get to see more possibilities, and to some extent will deliver to people there are many definitions of beauty out there, beauty should be diverse, this will broaden people’s thoughts on how they imagine the fashion industry would be and having positive guidances to reduce the anxieties.

Evidence of video editing