At 50, Christy Chung Lai-tai has never felt better. Despite being eliminated from the latest round of the Chinese reality TV show Older Sisters Who Brave the Winds and Waves – which pits female celebrities over 30 against one another to form a new pop band – the Montreal-born actress says joining the contest has been an invigorating experience.
“Although I am 50 years old, I am still in a good state,” she tells the Post . “I love showing my vitality, passion and hard work on stage. With energy and [optimism], I am not afraid of getting old.”
For her audition, Chung performed a ribbon dance in a pair of 12cm high heels. She admits she had moments of doubt.
“I waited a long time for my turn to perform,” she says. “I felt nervous as I didn’t have any dancing partners, so I was not confident. [Afterwards] I felt I performed better in rehearsals … The camera also made me look bloated on stage. I am much thinner in person.”
In spite of that, Chung relished the chance to challenge herself.
“The practice was harsh. I would practise dancing for five hours non-stop. I didn’t even need to take toilet breaks as I sweated profusely. Sometimes, it was 2am or 3am when we finished and went back to the hotel,” she says.
Older Sisters Who Brave the Winds and Waves has reportedly had more than 2 billion online views to date and brought in over 500 million yuan (S$990,000) in advertising, boosting the stock value of its producer Mango TV.
The show has allowed Chung to follow her dream to be a singer. “When I was in my 30s, I pursued this dream [in China].
But I gave up after running into difficulties.” She said she was too well known already and fellow band members were overshadowed by her. “Also the music style I wanted … was too avant-garde for the mainland.”
She would have succeeded had she gone to Korea for five years to learn singing and dancing, she says. “My biggest regret in life is not being a singer. I envy people who can master a song after hearing it only once.”
The Chinese-Vietnamese-Canadian actress got into showbiz in 1993 after she won the Miss Chinese International Pageant in Hong Kong at the age of 22.
After her knockout performance in Mermaid Got Married (1994), she starred in a number of movies including The Red Wolf (1995) and Bruce Lee, My Brother (2010).
Since 2013, Chung has appeared in several reality TV shows in China including Perhaps Love (2014) and I Love Kindergarten (2015).
It was in the former that she met her third husband Shawn Zhang Lunshuo. “I never thought that I would fall in love [in real life by joining the show],” she says.
She appeared with her mother-in-law in the reality series My Dearest Ladies in 2019, where the audience got to see the two women getting closer.
“I’ve also been in sports reality TV programmes. People can see my real self in these shows that have no scripts, unlike in movies where I always play the role of a sexy woman.”
The mother-of-three says being in reality TV shows has put an end to that sort of typecasting. And for her latest reality TV venture, Chung says the message of women breaking free of age constraints is empowering.
She hopes when viewers see her and her 52-year-old fellow contestant Annie Yi Neng-jing, the Taiwanese singer, they will understand that women can always pursue their dreams as long as they are confident.
“Age is not a problem for me at all,” Chung says. “In Chinese culture, people think women should get married at around 20 years old and have two kids by the age of 25.
They think that women my age should be a grandma looking after grandkids and playing mahjong at home.
“I don’t think so as age is just a number. As long as you have dreams and motivation, you can attain whatever goals you want.”
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.