January 26, 2018 / 2:30 PM / 3 months ago

Pushing her own boundaries, China's Oprah hails U.S. star's influence

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Dubbed China’s Oprah Winfrey, Jin Xing says she respects the American talk show host’s decision not to run for the U.S. presidency, adding that while looking to push boundaries herself she, too, draws the line at politics.

“Her influence (on) American society is tremendous,” Jin, one of the most famous people in China to undergo gender reassignment, told Reuters Television in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“I fully respect her personal decision and choices.”

Jin said Winfrey had been a role model when she turned her own attention to television.

A former child dance protege, the 50-year-old Jin shot to fame as a male ballet dancer before becoming a woman in 1995.

The former People’s Army colonel now plays a leading role in LGBT awareness in China, where she hosts TV programmes including a popular dating show. Her own talk show between 2015 and 2017 drew an estimated 100 million viewers weekly.

“I was the best male dancer of the country ...(so when I) started to become the best female dancer, that’s a big topic for the society,” Jin told Reuters.

“I told myself (in order to) really become myself in such a tough society, environment, I need to make myself special, in some way.”

The dancer, actor, writer and television star sees China slowly becoming more acceptive of the LGBT community and finds hope in the more relaxed, outward-looking younger generation.

“(The fact) I’m existing in China already means a lot, the society is changing gradually,” Jin said.

Her role is to “communicate”, Jin says, but she stops short of politics.

“I try not (to talk about politics). I think that is the barrier. ...That is the art of talking,” she said, adding that a lifetime in dance had helped her hone that precision.

Transgender people in China, along with other LGBT communities, face discrimination, barriers to professional progress and difficulty in accessing gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.

Along with Jin, other notable Chinese trans women include model Liu Shihan and Liu Ting, who was named a “national role model of virtue” in 2007.

Reporting by Davos reporting team; additional reporting by Qiu Yifan in Beijing; writing by Jason Neely; editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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