Bai Ling: Asian Hair Goddess
Although she is known to her adoring fans as "Bai Ling", in reality Bai is her family name and she is known to some of her close friends as Ling which means "white spirit".
I was introduced to Bai by a mutual friend who asked the gorgeous actress to call and tell me about her latest hairstyle.
When Bai (pronounced "bi") called me on the phone to chat about her latest short hair cut - a fabulous edgy, hip, chic chop - she asked me to "call her Bai instead of Ling".
The bubbly star laughed and told me "her friends would tease her about being "bi" as in bi-sexual" but she took it all in good fun loves to play along". I found myself instantly liking her fabulous sense of humor and effervescent spirit.
Bai was calling me to give me the inside scoop on her sizzling new style which she explained came about as a result of "a little voice" inside telling her that she needed "a new edgier look" for a new film she is shooting in China starting next week.
The International Star confessed "the director on the film based on Shanghai Baby an excellent best selling book all over the world" didn't want her to "do anything at all to her hair" and certainly he did not want her to "cut it".
One thing I discovered almost from the instant Bai came on the line is her fierce willingness to take risks and "go for it". She may look incredibly gorgeous, sexy, vibrant and fabulous on the Red Carpets that she has graced around the world but Bai is a very complex and highly spiritual personality.
Not only does she "honor her inner voices" she follows the longings of her soul which results in her ability to be a fantastic actress and live her life with integrity, insight and ageless wisdom.
Which is why Bai not only cut her hair for her new movie role but pushed the envelope to the very edges. Respecting her belief that "this role needed to be represented by a young, modern, edgy and uber hip girl", Bai visited the "Frederic Fekkai Salon in Beverly Hills to create a sizzling new look".
The only way that her new haircut could be correctly explained is to say it was a "creative collaboration" between Bai and her stylist Lisa. Picking up scissors to cut Bai's hair which she requested be "longer near the chin and shorter in back".
The beautiful actress noted "at first Lisa was reticent to take risks by cutting too much or too dramatically" but Bai urged her to " be fearless and just go for it". With her enthusiastic encouragement Lisa cut more and more until, as Bai explained, she was abandoning her timid cutting and started "chop, chop, chopping" away with hair flying everywhere".
An excellent storyteller, I could almost visualize the Fekkai scene with the newly empowered stylist being urged on by Bai to take it to the limits.
Rather than being filled with any fear at all, Bai was thrilled that Lisa unleashed her inner artist to "go crazy, have fun and co-create Bai's super choppy hair masterpiece which fulfilled her ultimate vision" which Bai "absolutely loves". She feels "free and hip" and is so pleased "Lisa was willing to work with Bai to create a brand new look".
Bai was also happy that she and Lisa were able to merge their individual visions and create a "true artistic masterpiece" almost like the two of them worked together to mold and sculpt a brand new unique piece of hair art.
The actress animatedly explained to me that her many friends "have been very complimentary of Bai's sizzling haircut which they have been telling her is very "60s Mod with flashes of Twiggy". Of course Bai is very flattered to be compared to the gorgeous supermodel.
Shaving Her Head For Anna And The King
Yes, Bai is definitely a self proclaimed "risk taker in every aspect of her life", whether the risks "involve her hair or the roles she takes".
Moving past her charming rendition of her new chop, Bai reminisced about her various hair journeys throughout her acting career starting with her much documented hair cut to appear with Jodie Foster in Anna And The King.
The gorgeous performer (major movie star, actress & model) made International headlines in 1998 when she shaved off all of her spectacularly long shiny black tresses in order to win the part of Tuptim in 1999's critically acclaimed Anna And The King.
The star told the media at the time "it was worth losing her waist length luscious locks in order to win the part in such a prestigious film with the great actress Jodie Foster".
While she admitted to me "her initial reticence" to have her head shaved for Anna, the experience "completely changed her original perspective on a number of levels". I had not been aware that her hair had been completely shaved, thinking it had been merely cut and expressed my surprise at the lengths she went to completely honor the role.
"Yes, completely shaved" she explained. In fact, because her head to appear the same throughout the extended shooting "a stylist on the set of Anna shaved her head on a constant basis" which was "challenging, difficult and completely against all of her Chinese traditions" that spells out head shaving as "something occurring to prisoners" or other society outcasts.
Bai confessed "she felt her privacy had been completely stripped away and in a sense the loss of her hair was very weird giving her the image of being a prisoner".
Baldness & Chinese Traditions
That feeling of "being in prison" and violating Chinese customs" definitely played head games with the gorgeous movie star who noted she had moments of "wanting to buy a ticket to escape before they cut off her waist-length" tresses that had taken her "so very long to grow". She told me "it took a very long time and it was very hard work to grow her hair below her waist".
Yet this woman is a true warrior. Her three years serving in the Chinese Army when she was still in her early teens taught her "personal discipline and a fearless nature". As she pointed out "if she was not an actress she would have refused to have her head shaved" but in order to "achieve her acting dreams she was willing to do whatever it took". Another case of Bai "going for it".
When one door closes another opens and this was the case for Bai who explained that "having her head shaved regularly on the Anna set also pushed those limits of her privacy to the fullest" and thrust her into a new feeling of being totally vulnerable".
She laughed as she told me after her head shaving she would "look up into the sky and wonder what would happen if a bird flew over or it rained and how her head would be protected". After all, before the cut "she had her hair to protect and cover her" but with her shaved head "she was completely exposed to all the elements of nature". It was definitely "a brand new experience" for the actress.
Using her head shaving experience as a springboard for in-depth self examination she stepped back and "observed the flowers and butterflies around her". She was "taken with the freedom and beauty in nature and embraced those feelings". Her personal transformation resulted in "a new freedom of spirit and unconditional self acceptance of who she was". The result? She felt "more trusting and willing to be brave and take more risks in life".
Once she made peace with her bald head Bai "felt like a butterfly leaving its cocoon". She realized she could "have lots of fun with the transformation".
Hair & Bai Ling's Life Changing Transformation
Her newfound feelings of self love and acceptance triggered even more experiences that were very freeing. Bai began to completely embrace her shaved head and felt "sexy, free, open and completely confident". She told me "she felt like a rock singer and started to dress the part having a lot of fun altering her former image".
As a result of her miraculous personal transformations, she now believes "every woman should shave her head at some point in their life" because the experience "forces you to deal with feelings of being naked and stripped of external symbols like hair provides".
It also offers you, according to Bai, "the opportunity to really connect at a core level with the Universe, nature and your inner spirit".
The experience of having her luscious long locks shaved resulted in a fabulous life changing transformation and what initially appeared "as a scary event" became for Bai "the opportunity to appreciate herself in new ways". Learning the "simple art of appreciation was also key for her during this hair journey". Which is why to this day she encourages everyone "to cherish and appreciate everything in their lives." Bai believes "appreciation is a lost art that many people never truly learn to practice".
The liberation of her spirit as the result of the loss of all her hair empowered Bai to "honestly follow her heart and to embrace constant experimentation in every aspect of her life".
Which explains why she can be shy at some points in her life but dancing wildly and having lots of crazy fun the next. It also highlights her capacity "to be subtle and her ability to completely immerse herself in the moment and to flow with the character she is playing".
When I complimented on her acting in her various roles she told me "I am not really acting but reaching deep inside to pull out a series of different personalities" that inhabit her psyche. She said for every one of her roles she is just portraying "the truth of who she is at that moment".
Whether she is "dancing crazy" posing as a fashion trend setter or enjoying very quiet and private times with her guy Bai is just expressing the many and complex facets of who she is.
Bai Ling's Acting History
Born under the sign of Venusian Libra (October 10, 1970 )in Chengdu in the Szechwan province of China, Ling began her performance career in grade school when she joined her school choir. At the tender age of 14 she enlisted in the famous Chinese People's Liberation Army where she dedicated three years as a performer entertaining Chinese solders stationed in Tibet.
From her work in the army she joined a local theater in Beijing. During that period of time Ling joined the now famous pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Her involvement in the Revolution resulted in her emigration to Hollywood in 1991. Shortly after her arrival in the United States she won her first English language role in 1994's cult classic - The Crow - with Brandon Lee.
Her success in The Crow solidified her acting and performing career (she took acting classes at New York University and the famous Lee Strasberg Institute in 1991). Ling advanced to playing the evil Miss East in Wild, Wild West in 1999, a controversial lawyer in 1997's Red Corner and Tuptim in Anna and the King in 1999.
People Magazine named Ling to their list of the 50 Most Beautiful In the World in 1998. She posed for the June 2005 issue of Playboy Magazine which made her the first women from The People's Republic of China on its cover.
Women in China admire Bai for her trendsetting ways that she represents the modern Chinese woman.
Ling also had an appearance in Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) which got left on the cutting room floor and brought its own controversy in the media. The German tabloids have nickname the tiny beauty "die Berlinacte" or the "Berlinaked" because of her revealing attire.
Bai Ling's Hairstyles
The stunning beauty is famous for her many diverse hairstyles over the years. The sometime shy star is a fan favorite both in the United States and Internationally.
In July sharp photographers caught the star in NAA -- Tokyo's International Airport between flights. The Chinese beauty graciously posed for the cameras delighting the photogs and her many fans with her warmth and friendship. The photo was broadcast all over the world as a result.
Since her bald head phase Bai has worn her hair a variety of different lengths and style. For her the key is to have fun and enjoy her life. If a length or new style provided feelings of joy Bai was all for trying it out.
Steal Ling's Latest Hair Style
Even though losing all of her hard-grown hair to her role in Anna ultimately liberated Bai, she did confide "at one point she followed a woman for several blocks in New York who had hair that looked like hers before it was shaved off."
But that was then and this is now. Bai is over the loss of her hair and has moved on which can be witnessed by her many gorgeous hairstyles over the past 8 years.
When I asked her if there would be problems with her cutting her hair into the new chop with her director she laughed and said "I can always wear a wig or hair extensions".
I also quizzed her on her normal hair regime. She told me that on a recent visit to China (to visit family) she had gotten her hair chemically curled. The then took a journey to Korea town and had a straight perm (similar to Thermal Reconditioning) performed on her previously curled hair which she reports is naturally mostly straight with a little wave.
Bai told me "the Koreans give the best straightening treatments" and for a time afterwards her hair was "shiny, soft and straight".
I was intrigued when she said that her hair tends to be "hard and thick". I was a little confused by the term and she explained that the texture is similar to rough but also thick.
While she enjoyed the results of the Korea town straightening she reported that her had had suffered some residual damage from the combination of the perm and the straightening which Lisa graciously cropped off for her during their chop session.
Bai confessed that she receives "tons of free hair care products all the time" from the various companies that wish for her to use them and endorse them. As a result, she "rarely buys hair care products like shampoo or styling treatments.
Instead, in true Bai freeform thinking she "mixes up a lot of things to experiment with different styling options".
Because her hair tends to be naturally dry she avoids any products or treatments that will make it even drier.
Bai only washes her hair every other day or so and almost always lets is "air dry". The bubbly beauty likes to mix a variety of hair gels with related products to create a "wet, almost borderline greasy" finish to her current super chop.
Shine products are also a favorite because she can use "just a little and create a super shiny finish" which she really likes. Bai believes shiny hair looks "hip, young and fashionable".
For special events or when she feels like experimenting she might blow dry her hair or use a straightening or curling iron.
For the most part she is into washing, finger picking and air-drying after applying her latest gel based concoction. When her hair is completely dry she will run a few drops of shine through it for a fabulous finish. And yes, she has lots of fun experiments with wigs, add-on hair and other headwear.
What's next for this incredible actress and hair pioneer? She will be shooting in China for the next six weeks followed by a second film project that will be shot in Germany where she is a very beloved superstar.
Bai confided "she has also agreed to work with CNN in 2007 as the tour guide of the City of Shanghai, China". Which is another reason for her desire to adopt her latest hip, happening and completely modern Chinese woman.
Regardless of what projects Bai agrees to take on in the future there is little doubt that she will be a smashing success. As she explained to me, we must all learn to appreciate and treasure every experience presented to us. We must enjoy the experiences the first time they are presented because they will never be the same again.
Wherever she is or whatever she will be doing I have no doubt that the gorgeous, multi-talented, kind and generous Bai will be going with life's flow and following her heart. After all, as Bai pointed out "it is the only way to live".
I now appreciate the opportunity that I had to meet and chat with this incredible actress who is truly an inspiration.
In her last email to me from Shanghai Bai Ling wrote:
"Our own hair and body is a sculpture for us to paint a beautiful painting as our mood, seasons and life's melody changes, we are our own gift to enjoy.
I enjoy it and appreciate every second of life. Because with out life we have the opportunity to live, to work, to smile, to give, to be in love". A smile to you from Shanghai............... Bailing.
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