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A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

Updated: 2013-02-26 14:05
By Liu Wei ( China Daily)

But she decided to leave her daughter there - the most important reason being granny's "three principles".

The day the girls arrive, Ma makes three things clear: They must go to class every day, return before 11 pm and stay away from alcohol.

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She charges 900 yuan ($142) a month. An's mother does not think it expensive, in view of its proximity to the academy and Ma's strict discipline.

A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

Home away from home for art applicants 

A safe home away from home for young aspiring actresses

 Competition for spots in arts programs

"I can afford more expensive accommodation, but I feel more at ease leaving my daughter here," she said.

Ma has seen hundreds of aspirants come and go year after year, but she has no secret tips for her tenants. She shares only her instincts and frankness.

"Picture the examiners sitting in front of you as five watermelons and relax," she said.

She once told a girl the first time they met: "You will never make it, because you are not good looking at all." The girl burst into tears immediately, but she did fail the exam.

The booming film and TV industry in China has benefited Ma. She does not shy from the profits she has earned thanks to the industry's prosperity. While her son earned 2,000 yuan a month at his job, her cabin raked in 3,600 yuan.

Her business also brings emotional bonds.

"They brought boyfriends to me, and came to me, too, when breaking up with them," she says.

When her brother got cancer in 2011, one of her former lodgers, now an actor, brought her 10,000 yuan and raised nearly 200,000 yuan for her from other tenants.

Once a girl who lived with her said she met someone who called himself a commercial director and wanted to offer her an audition. The man promised Ma he would send the girl back before 6 pm. Ma insisted another girl go along with them. They did not return until midnight, and the other girl called her to say they were in a hotel. Ma went to the hotel in a taxi - something she never did to save money - took off her shoe and hit the man, who turned out to be an imposter.

She keeps an album of the tenants, about 100 of whom passed the exam. But more failed, and graduation from the academy does not guarantee stardom.

"This is a very tough road," she said.


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