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Who will be Mr Laowai?

By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-01 07:54
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Who will be Mr Laowai?

Three Mr Laowai China contestants: James Kite (left), Scott Pruett (right). Photos by Feng Yongbin / China Daily

A dozen foreign men are flexing their muscles for a beauty pageant that has charitable intentions. Tiffany Tan finds out more.

James Kite came home from work one evening and was surprised to discover he was a contestant in a male beauty pageant. "'Guess what? I enrolled you in Mr Laowai,'" Kite, 24, quotes his female French housemate as saying. "What is that!?" he recalls responding. Mr Laowai China, to be held in August, is a pageant for foreign men that aims to promote cultural exchanges and charity work, as well as give participants an opportunity to develop their potential, the organizers say. Applicants should be foreign nationals and at least 18 years old.

Who will be Mr Laowai?

Terence Hew.

Like most female beauty contests, Mr Laowai will feature a talent show, a parade of sportswear and a question-and-answer segment. Kite, a French-American who works as a leasing manager for the Parkview Green commercial center in Beijing, turned out to be a good sport about his housemate's prank. He decided he might as well win since he's already in.

"I'm gonna go ridiculously all out," says Kite, who describes himself as impulsive, a thrill-seeker and a fan of extreme sports like sky diving, heliskiing and cliff diving.

But if Scott Pruett has his say, the Mr Laowai title is not going anywhere, but to him.

The 49-year-old American, a copy editor and voice artist for CCTV who could be mistaken for a professional bodybuilder, thinks winning the contest is the perfect way to show others how older people can maintain a youthful appearance and keep their lives spicy.

"I want to redefine middle age in the Middle Kingdom," Pruett says by phone from Tongdao, Hunan province, where he's shooting a Chinese film.

"There's almost a universal lack of love in middle-age marriages in China. And if my wife and I can, by example, show people how to be better lovers into their middle-age years, then they will absolutely be happier.

"They'll be better people, they'll be healthier, they'll live longer and they'll be more involved with their kids."

Pruett, a Las Vegas singer and actor, moved to Beijing in February 2009 to be with what was his long-distance Chinese girlfriend. They are now married with a 1-year-old son, and are working on a book about their love story.

Besides Kite and Pruett, 10 other men have so far qualified to compete in the inaugural Mr Laowai, organized by the same people behind September's first Miss Laowai China.

David Sinkala, chairman of the Miss Laowai organizing committee, says Mr Laowai is a product of public demand.

"We received a huge, huge amount of feedback concerning Miss Laowai, and a major part of it was women and men asking if we were somehow discriminating against the sexes by only hosting Miss Laowai."

Meanwhile, the committee also received criticism about the quality of the debut Miss Laowai show, a program that ran overtime and had various technical glitches, and had a couple of sponsors who did not deliver on their promises.

"We appreciate the criticism that we got," Sinkala says. "We are improving on the delivery of our services to sponsors make sure that everything we promise is given."

Both Miss Laowai and Mr Laowai are raising funds for breast cancer victims and marginalized Chinese children, such as migrants, orphans and those with special needs. Mr Laowai is hoping to make at least 50,000 yuan ($7,596) for charity, Sinkala says.

Terence Hew, 40, decided to sign up for Mr Laowai to support charity and to help Chinese people better understand foreigners.

"Not many locals know a foreign person. Every time we have a point of contact with them, we represent foreigners as a whole and we should represent them well," says the native of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who is a consultant at a Chinese PR firm.

"For me it's both an honor and a responsibility because foreigners in the future will be judged by what they see in you."

Hew's Mr Laowai ambition is solidly supported by his Chinese fiance Amanda Wang.

"He has a very attractive personality and he can speak very good Chinese," says the 32-year-old lawyer who got engaged to Hew less than six weeks after they met.

"He has a lot of strengths to bring to this competition, and I think he will win."

Wang is so excited for Hew that she's even joked about postponing their August wedding in Kuala Lumpur, if it coincides with the Mr Laowai contest. "You want that, if it will allow you to be in the competition?" she says, looking Hew in the eye.

(China Daily 02/01/2011 page18)

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