2004-01-02 | Shanghai Daily News
Yue-Sai Kan's success as one of China's leading businesswomen parallels her career as one of the country's top television journalists. Zhao Feifei profiles this remarkable woman and reports on her next move.
There is no typical day in my life,'' Yue-Sai Kan mused in her lofty 500-square-meter downtown apartment at the end of last week in which she entertained former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and supermodel Naomi Campbell. In her life, so many things are going on in so many areas.
She has helped raise funds for ORBIS International, a non-profit sight-saving organization which was launched in the city last month. She is associate producer on the Ivory-Merchant production of "The White Countess,'' now filming in Shanghai. She flied to New York last Wednesday to attend Puff Daddy's birthday party the next day. On her return, she will take part in the Achievement Award for the 2004 Lycra Channel Young In-Style Awards of China on November 26. Other plans include inviting Dutch singer Laura Fygi to present another concert in the city, organize a comprehensive 37-piece exhibition of Rodin's works, including his early sculptures, publish a magazine to tell young, aspiring people how to be successful ... Kan's "to-do" list goes on and on. But most importantly of all, she wants to pick up where she left off decades ago -- to be a TV host again.
The new program in the pipeline is "Yue-Sai's World'' which goes to air in China next February. This will be a complete reversal of the content of "Looking East,'' her well-known TV show from 1978. The new program will introduce interesting stories from Western cultures, various celebrities and other phenomena to Chinese viewers. Hilary Clinton, Celine Dion and Julio Iglesias are some of the guests who will be on her 45-minute weekly show. "I know there are lots of programs around but they don't have depth. This will be a solid lifestyle program. I have a big team in the United States currently producing it,'' she says with perhaps some arrogance. And maybe the Chinese-American woman has a right to be arrogant -- her life and career straddles East and West as a scholar, an author, a journalist, a TV host, a charity worker and an entrepreneur. Kan has been credited as being the first TV journalist to link East and West.
"Looking East'' stayed on the air for 12 years, the last two on the national network of the Discovery channel. In 1984, the PBS network in the United States invited her to host the first live broadcast from China on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. Her other TV credits include the ABC documentary, "China's Walls and Bridges,'' which earned her a coveted Emmy Award. And other popular series, such as "Mini Dragons'' and "Doing Business in Asia,'' fed the West's growing hunger for information about the East. Kan says "Yue-Sai's World" will target cultured and well-educated young people.
Throughout her TV career, Kan has filmed in more than 25 countries. "Travel is important,'' she says. "Your knowledge is supplemented by what you see, sometimes through television, sometimes through travel. That's how I got to know so many great people around the world.'' She is a frequent presence at fashion shows and charity galas. She has an outgoing personality with an easy smile and is always ready to laugh. It seems that Kan has led a charmed life since she arrived in America.
Born in Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Kan moved to Hong Kong as a little girl and then migrated to Hawaii, where she got a job as an assistant to a casting agent in an advertising agency. From there she went to work in public relations for a firm whose clientele included movie stars Bette Davis and Cary Grant. She saw early on the power of television as a means to bridge the enormous gap in understanding between Asia and the West and so she started to involve herself in television production. And the rest is history.
Though she thinks of herself as more of a media person, Kan has also been hailed as an extremely successful businesswoman. Kan founded Yue-Sai Cosmetics Ltd in 1992, because she had been long frustrated by years of needing to look her best before the camera, without being able to find appropriate cosmetics for her Asian skin tones and facial features. It became China's leading cosmetics company, selling products in more than 800 outlets through 18 regional offices in China's major markets. Earlier this year, her makeup and skincare brands were acquired by L'Oreal for an undisclosed price. "It gives me a sense of security since I know that the name 'Yue-Sai' will live on,'' she says with some emotion. "But I think there's something more I can leave in this world. My world is a wonderful world. I have a very unique perspective on the world and want to share it with people. "Yue-Sai's World'' will also be telecast in an English version and will be aired in the Philippines soon.