Born in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China in 1971, Hu Bing could never have imagined what life had in store for him. Though he possessed good looks and acting talent, China is not exactly known for grooming stars. Sure, some make it big but it is usually those that conform to an accepted stereotype such as martial arts experts Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. The idea of a superstar model, sex symbol or Olympic athlete don’t often fit the tightly controlled scripts allowed by the Chinese entertainment industry.
However, Hu Bing, an internationally recognized model, national rowing champion, former editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar Men’s Style Magazine in China, and TV and film star, is too big a deal for the state-run media to ignore. Bing has made a lasting career by being patient and persistent and the mantra has paid off. A model, designer, singer, actor and producer, Bing is breaking stereotypes while building a persona larger than any he could have dreamed when he landed his first modeling gig in 1990.
Bing bucks a lot of preconceived notions about Asian males. At 6’2”, he holds his own on the runway paired with other models over the 6’ cut-off. His height and athleticism also allowed Bing to rise through the ranks of competitive rowing. He became a national champion at the age of 16, was a member of the Chinese National Rowing Team and joined his rowing mates at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
Bing was the first Chinese male model to walk the international fashion runway
When his career in athletics ended due to a back injury, Bing used another gift he was given, his natural masculine attractiveness and athletic physique, to break into modeling. In the spring of 1990, he was invited by the Zhejiang Silk Trading Company to be the model for their men’s catalog. In 1991, sponsored by the Zhejiang Silk Trading Company, he entered the Chinese National Young Model’s Competition, representing the province of Zhejiang and won first place. In 1992, he became a professional runway model and was soon dubbed “the best male model in China” by Valentino Garavini in 1993.
Another milestone for Bing was when he became the first Chinese male model to walk the international fashion runway. Once he broke down that barrier, Bing would work for the likes of world famous brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana and Valentino among others. Rugged, mysterious and versatile, Bing has a universal quality to his looks that make him accessible to many audiences.
Following his monumental strides across the fashion runway, Bing would use his fame to launch a successful acting career. In 1994, he was signed by the Hong Kong United Artists Entertainment Company who helped Bing publish his first album and gave him his first acting roles in the TV dramas The New York Storm (1996) and The Everlasting Dream (1997). But it was the hit TV drama Love Talks in 1999 that established Bing as a household name across China.
Bing followed up these breakthrough roles with more success in the TV dramas Pink Girls (2001) and Saying Goodbye (2002) that made him one of the most recognized men in China. No small feat for a country of over a billion people. Between 1997 and 2004, Bing starred in over ten TV dramas and numerous films. 2005 marked the peak of his acting career with honors that included the “Ten Most Popular TV Stars”, “Top Ten Actors”, “The # 1 Chinese Idol”, and “Most valuable Personality in TV Advertisement”.
In 2005, feeling he had accomplished all he could in China, Bing decided to move to the U.S. to train under the guidance of a renowned American performance arts teachers and hone his skills as an actor. After three years of intense studying, Bing returned to China in 2008 and accepted the lead role in the French-Hong Kong co-production, The Back (2010), produced by the Oscar-winning French director/producer Luc Besson and directed by the internationally renowned Chinese 6th generation director, Liu Bingjian. The film won a “Best Picture” nomination and a “Best Actor” nomination for Bing during the 2010 International Rome Film Festival.
In addition to dominating the small and big screens in China and Hong Kong, Bing would also expand into Japanese markets. As early as 2005 he had hosted a Japanese traveler’s TV show and co-hosted a talk show “Chinese Angel” with Japan’s top female personality Norika Fujiwara in 2011. During that same year, Bing was selected by the Oscar-winning Japanese producer Toshiaki Nakazawa to co-star alongside Japanese superstar Naoto Takenaka in the film Ken and Mary.
Becoming an International Ambassador for London Collections Men allowed him to educate British fashion designers about the immense and varied Chinese market and counter what he considers bizarre stereotypes.
Bing continues to act, sing, design and produce, and the awards and accolades continue to pile up. In 2010, he received an award for Fashion Icon of the Decade, and in 2013, he was named the Most Significant Chinese Fashion Icons In the Past 20 Years. Soon they will just run out of awards for China’s one-man fashion show.
In 2015, when London’s prestigious Fashion Week was coming to an end, many designers looked to Bing and his 10 million plus followers on Weibo to help British fashion houses tap in to the lucrative Chinese market. Bing was named an International Ambassador for London Collections Men—a role that will allow him to educate British fashion designers about the immense and varied Chinese market and counter what he considers bizarre stereotypes.
“I’m here in Europe and I’m surprised that everybody is saying that Chinese people are too serious and not funny,” Bing said. “It’s not true. Chinese are interested in new things, and are traveling everywhere in the world”.
Bing also alerts major designers that as fashion varies from London to Paris to Milan, it also varies within China’s biggest fashion hubs Shanghai and Beijing. His experience in China’s fashion scene is invaluable to designers and brands looking to sway the largest consumer base in the world. More than just a pretty face, Bing is sought after for his insight, knowledge of Chinese markets and eye for what will be trending next.
At 46, when most models are long gone, Bing is still in demand. An international ambassador for several major brands, Bing is becoming an indispensable part of the marketing strategy for major brands promoting their designs in China. Not bad for a pretty boy from Hangzhou. And if you think Bing’s personal accomplishments are impressive, just imagine the impact his efforts will have on the future of Asian male models. There’s a new wealth of opportunities for models and they have Hu Bing to thank.