It is likely that your frame of reference to Fan Bingbing, would depend largely on the lens by which you are viewing her. If you are from the mainstream movie-going public, you may know the actress from her English language role as Blink in “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. If you’re a fan of couture and European film, you might know Fan as a fixture on the red carpet of the Cannes and Venice film festivals — she was on the Cannes jury in 2017 — in dramatic, show-stopping gowns that somehow never seem to wear her.
At our photoshoot in Beijing, Fan models exquisite pieces from Alexander McQueen, as well as stunning, voluminous couture from the archives of brands like Viktor & Rolf and Iris van Herpen, pulled out by celebrity stylist Min Rui. To say she is a professional is an understatement, as there is a grace and resplendence in which she carries off these gowns. Fan has an old school glamour about her that makes you stop and take notice. In photographs she is magnetic. She is also a hard worker — modelling for the T Singapore shoot late into the evening and giving it her 100 per cent effort with nary a complaint. When it comes to personal style, Fan’s advice is measured but sage. “There are no rules to fashion. Fashion is always changing. Rather than following trends and footsteps, why not establish one that is your own? When it comes to curating your own personal style, it also requires a thorough understanding of yourself,” says Fan.
And if you’re a beauty-lover, perhaps you know Fan as a beauty icon. With her perfectly proportioned oval face, flawless complexion, limpid eyes and lustrous black mane, Fan is considered an ideal face not just in her native China, but in the wider world. In the past she was a L’Oréal spokesperson. Today, she has her own beauty brand, Fan Beauty, that is sold online, as part of China’s booming live streaming e-commerce industry. The self-professed skincare addict has allegedly sold 110,000 face masks in under four minutes. Such is the star power of the beguiling actress.
But before she became known for all of these pursuits, Fan began her career as an actress. In fact it is arguable that she is one of the most popular actresses in China today. She made her debut in 1996 (aged 15) in the television series “Powerful Women” and at first played mainly supporting roles, until she was cast in a leading role in Feng Xiaogang’s 2003 movie “Cell Phone”. The movie “Lost in Beijing” (2007) cemented her as an actress of note. There was acclaim for her performance and the film was even initially banned in China for its multiple sex scenes, before a heavily edited version was shown. Another role in “I Am Not Madam Bovary” (2016) saw her take on the role of a village woman who fights against bureaucracy in a battle with her former husband.
When it comes to picking roles, the process is conscious, but not always deliberate for Fan.
“There is no fixed manner. It still requires you to understand the story and ultimately it depends on whether you fall in love with the character when you first get exposed to her. And this shapes how you dedicate your time to grooming or shaping her personality, and live her life,” says Fan. Not one for fail-safe roles, she says she does not likes repetition. “I would often have something different for my characters to bring to the table, which, at times, would make many [people] shocked. But this is what I think is interesting, meaningful and different for my audiences,” says Fan.
“[I would like to play] someone who is living at the lower echelons of society — someone who has little power and yet still possess plenty of grit and hope.”
Despite the work that goes into developing a character, Fan describes performing as “an enjoyment”. “[Acting is about intuition, and how I understand or interpret the character. Each character has [its] own unique story to tell. These stories depict different challenges and a different way of life,” says Fan. Although she may dabble in other areas like business, it is clear that acting is her first love. “There is no other profession, other than an actor, where you can experience everything a character has gone through within a short period of time — which is why I think acting is so meaningful,” says Fan.
Moving forward, Fan who has several movies in the works, and who is also looking into producing films in the future, would like to be challenged by different roles. She would like to play a character who is deaf and mute — perhaps the allure of wordless expression being the kind of role an actor can truly sink her teeth into. But her second response to a role that she would like to take on, shows the kind of story that she is naturally drawn to. “[I would like to play] someone who is living at the lower echelons of society — someone who has little power and yet still possess plenty of grit and hope,” says Fan.
Givenchy headpiece, mantilla, dress and bangles (from Fall/ Winter ’18 Haute Couture).
Left: Iris van Herpen dress from Spring/Summer ’13 Haute Couture. Right: Giambattista Valli dress from Fall/Winter ’12 Haute Couture.
Alexander McQueen jacket, trousers, earrings and rings.
Alexander McQueen jacket, trousers, earrings and rings.
“There are no rules to fashion. Fashion is always changing. Rather than following trends and footsteps, why not establish one that is your own? When it comes to curating your own personal style, it also requires a thorough understanding of yourself,
Left: Iris van Herpen dress (from Fall/Winter ’12 Haute Couture). Right: Viktor & Rolf cape and dress (from Spring/Summer ’15 Haute Couture).
Alexander McQueen dress, belt, earrings and rings.
Left: Viktor & Rolf dress (from Spring/Summer ’19 Haute Couture). Right: Giambattista Valli top and dress (from Fall/Winter ’12 Haute Couture).
Thom Browne coat, jacket and shirt (from Spring/Summer ’18).
On the cover of T Singapore’s January “Culture Issue”, Fan Bingbing in Alexander McQueen jacket and earrings.
Photographs by Liu Zongyuan
Styled by Min Rui
Model: Fan Bingbing
Hair: He Zhiguo
Makeup: Xin Miao
Stylist’s assistant: Hang Lu
Behind the Scenes | Fan Bingbing
On Set | Fan Bingbing Talks of Acting, Fashion and Life Beyond the Screen
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