The branding (and rebranding) of actress Zhang Ziyi: part one

10:19, August 13, 2010      

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  No offense, but stars are like products; they have to keep selling in order to survive, they look and act differently on TV than in real life, and require constant rebranding. Exhibit A: actress Zhang Ziyi, who attempted to recreate her public image with a cover story interview in September's issue of Bazaar and sadly failed, again.

  Even though it is only August, with Zhang drenched in scandal from her charity fraud to her personal life and incompetent PR team, we can safely say that she is the one of the most notorious and desperate A-listers in China this year (comedian Guo Degang is also up for this title, but he has been getting far more sympathy).

  Before I comment on how she has positioned herself through thes crises, let's recap on how Zhang's "rebranding" over the past ten years.

  Zhang started her career in 1999 with scoring a leading role in Zhang Yimou'sThe Road Home. Her image then was this young and innocent girl who just graduated from university, and had both respect and reverence for everything around her, much like the character she played in the film.

  However, with the box office success of Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 and a later role alongside Jackie Chan in Rush Hour 2, Zhang and her publicists started to bill her as an internationally-recognized actress, a period that reached it's peak after Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005. Press releases of her attending various film festivals were recycled in local media, though she had never actually won any major international awards.

  During these few years, though she still worked on several notable projects, including Zhang Yimou's Hero, Zhang seldom accepted local media interviews, often touting the superior air of an "international mega star" on the Chinesemainland. Even after the Hong Kong media thrashing she endured over photos of feeding Chan grapes while sitting in his lap on the set of Rush Hour 2, Zhang did not feel compelled to respond to mainland media. It seemed she was even enjoying her new "aggressive and slutty" media image (something perhaps she possessed in the first place).

  Memoirs of a Geisha, both a critical and box office disappointment, was a turning point for Zhang.

  Amid the blooming domestic film industry, she began to see the importance of the Chinese market and began making more frequent trips to the mainland. She started working with more directors such as Feng Xiaogang in 2006's The Banquetand Chen Kaige in 2008's Forever Enthralled, choosing roles fit for a serious actress with actual talent.

  Zhang had never been simpatico with local media, which she often neglected back in her Hollywood days, until she produced and starred her own film Sophie's Revenge last year. She was successful in mending her severed media relationships at first, but then scandals started to surface. Her PR team panicked, thickening her predica-ment with bad advice.

  More on how Zhang ended up in today's mess, her newest rebranding and some exclusive tidits between her and Bazaar chief editor Su Mang next week.

  Doriah Morrison is a freelancer for Global Times. To gush the goss on celebrity sightings, spats and salaciousness, email: [email protected]

Source: Global Times


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