After being compared to Susan Boyle, who went from obscurity to stardom in the recent British TV talent show Britain's Got Talent, Liu Meiye had only one question.
"Who is Susan Boyle?" asked 63-year-old Liu, who was named "Guangzhou's Susan" after becoming one of the top 12 contenders in the local TV show, Fresh Weather.
On the popular program, contestants are asked to use their skills to personify the weather.
Liu, the oldest contestant on the show, created a sensation last Sunday by demonstrating a cloudy day through Cantonese opera.
"Judges and audiences were not only impressed by her stunning performance but by her passion for the city and her cheerful and optimistic attitude toward life," says Ye Wei, a senior manager of Guangzhou-based City TV, which organized the show.
Liu's act was "incomparable," says Ye.
The piece, which showed her pride in Guangzhou's rapid development in recent years, was an improvised work.
"I would like to perform a piece of Cantonese opera to depict cloudy weather. Through my singing (I will show that) we can see sunlight in our hearts even on cloudy days," Liu said when asked by the judges to simulate a cloudy day.
A retired worker at a local textile plant, Liu has been fascinated by Cantonese opera, one of the traditional operas of the country, since the 1960s.
"I learned the art of opera by myself. It helped me adopt a cheerful and optimistic approach to life," she says.
She previously won an award in a Cantonese opera contest organized by Guangdong TV station.
Liu was encouraged by her friends to participate in the show.
"There were no restrictions for contestants this time, so I thought why not give it a try?" she says.
As one of the top 12 contenders in the show, Liu has also been chosen as a volunteer for the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games.
She will be included in a promotional film, shot jointly by City TV and the volunteer department of the Guangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee, to promote the recruitment of volunteers and the host city's image, later this year.
Besides her passion for Cantonese opera, Liu is also a lover of sports.
"I play badminton or go running in the morning and then sing opera with others in the park," she says.
(China Daily August 27, 2009)