Model-turned Chinese film star Li Xin, who is now based in Los Angeles, flew from the United States to Beijing last weekend to promote the French action-comedy Double Zero.
"The film is so special to me, as this is my debut as an actress," Li said.
Although in real life, Li is a quiet young woman who talks slowly and smiles often, she acts as a cool, cold fighting machine in the movie. Her character is an Asian kung fu master.
It was simply by chance that she fell into the filming industry, but as soon as she hit the set, she loved it from the first day.
"When the French director said 'Action,' I completely forgot about my surroundings, and all I remembered was my part of the script and how I would act - I just loved it from the very beginning," Li said.
"From that day on, I told myself this is what I need to do - to be a film actress", Li said.
Li trained since her teenage years as an athlete. She was tall at a young age and has been playing basketball ever since.
"Being an athlete has enabled me to face all difficulties with strength," Li said. "I know I can always bite my lip to endure the pain, keeping on no matter how hard the task. After that most difficult part, everything will be better."
Due to her tall figure, Li decided to become a model before graduation, because she "hated the thought of staying in an office eight hours each day."
In the 1990s she took part in a modeling contest, thinking her goal was to become a model.
She left her family and went to Beijing to achieve that goal. "I read fashion magazines with articles about international models. It said that they show up one day in Paris, then the next day they are in New York. That life seemed so cool to me," Li said. She considered travel a hobby already, but really wanted to make it a part of her daily life. Li also claims a love for nature. "When viewing beautiful scenery, every human concern becomes so little and any of my worries subside."
Triggered by this idea, she ventured to travel abroad, first landing in France, despite the fact that she could not speak any French, and had neither friends nor relatives there.
There were many difficulties, but now she does not think that she ever cried over any of the hardships.
"Maybe I benefited from being an athlete. I knew that I could not complain because it was my own choice."
The most difficult thing to conquer was the loneliness. To kill time, her biggest leisure after studying and working was to go to cinemas and watch films.
Her modeling career has taken her to many countries around the world. She has strutted down the catwalk in many fashion shows for major brands such as Giorgio Armani, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Li has also been an image ambassador in commercial shows for Clinique, Lancome, L'oreal, BMW, Swatch and Vidal Sasson.
In the summer of 2003 Li heard of an opportunity to star in a French film from a client. Li decided to go for it, and considered it like any other audition.
"When I got the confirmation call I jumped up and shouted with excitement," Li said.
What attracted her most was that she could learn many new things in order to act in films, she said.
"In the two months before shooting, my time was occupied with courses, learning martial arts, French, and even how to drive motorboats," Li said.
The acting came quite easily to Li, who said the warm words from her instructors and director led her in the right direction.
Li was very nervous when she first watched the film at its debut in France last year, but to her pleasant surprise, the scenes she performed were all there, unedited.
"No matter what the future holds, I have decided to be an actress," Li said.
To a person who loves to face challenges, Li does not have any regrets about drawing an end to her former career as a model.
"I'm happy that my first film is now being shown in China. The film is special to me - it has opened a new door leading to my next goal."
(China Daily March 18, 2005)