In a recent interview with Road2Billionaire, Yue-Sai shares some of her memorable experiences and stories from her previous work in China as a media person, entrepreneur, best-selling author and philanthropist.
Today we are interviewing Yue-Sai Kan – @yuesaikan is an Emmy-winning television host and producer, successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, fashion icon, bestselling author and humanitarian. People magazine called her “the most famous woman in China” and Time magazine proclaimed her “the Queen of the Middle Kingdom.” Born in China and raised in Hong Kong, Yue-Sai moved to New York City in 1972, where she founded Yue-Sai Kan Productions and created a weekly television series “Looking East”, the first of its kind to introduce Asian cultures and customs to a growing and receptive American audience. The series garnered critical acclaim and won dozens of awards, and lasted 12 years. Based on this and other work, Yue-Sai was mentioned in the US Congressional Record and credited as the first TV journalist to connect the East and the West.
In 1984, PBS invited Yue-Sai to host the first live broadcast of a television program from China on the occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The program was the first ever co-production of an American TV station and China’s CCTV national network. This led the Chinese government to offer her a new television series, One World, which was produced and hosted by Yue-Sai, and aired on China’s CCTV. With a weekly viewership of 300 million people, One World gave many Chinese their first glimpse of the outside world, captivated the entire nation, and made Yue-Sai a household name.
In 1992, Yue-Sai successfully transformed herself from a TV personality to an entrepreneur by creating the Yue-Sai Cosmetics brand which grew into China’s leading cosmetics company, selling products in more than 800 outlets through 23 regional companies in China’s major markets. The company started a revolution by encouraging Chinese women to be proud of their image, and truly began the cosmetics industry in China. More than 90% of the Chinese population today recognizes the brand, which was purchased by L’Oreal in 2004. Yue-Sai’s other entrepreneurial ventures include an Asian-featured doll line called Yue-Sai Wa Wa and an East-meets-West lifestyle retail brand, the House of Yue-Sai. She is a director of IMAX China, which went public on the HKSE in the fall of 2015. Additionally, she has written 9 best-selling books in Chinese.
Since 2011, Yue-Sai held the position of National Director for the Miss Universe China Pageant. She uses the final pageant as Shanghai’s most glamorous charity ball. Attended by the Who’s Who of China, the charity has raised millions to build hospitals in poor regions, fund cleft lip and palate correction surgeries and grant scholarships for students in China’s best music, TV and film schools. UNICEF once named Yue-Sai as its first and only Global Chinese “Say Yes for Children” Ambassador. Yue-Sai also sits on the board of China Institute and Prince Albert of Monaco’s Philanthropy Round Table. Yue-Sai is the first and only living American featured on a Chinese government-issued postage stamp. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Brigham Young University in Hawaii, and an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Human Letters from the Worcester State College. She lives between homes in New York and China.
Question: As a female leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Yue-Sai Kan: As an American working in China, I can tell you that there are many barriers out there, the language, the culture, the laws, etc. But as a woman, I found it amazingly easy to do business in China. Chinese women are brought up under the ideal of “holding up half of the sky”. They are treated equally as their male counterparts when it comes to opening a business, getting a loan, buying real estate and etc. Many people have questioned me if I had found it difficult to do business in China as a female. Actually, not at all. I have found that being female sometimes is an advantage. When I started doing business in China in 1990s, there were very few entrepreneurs let alone women entrepreneurs. Today, according to the Hurun Report, 61 of the world’s top 100 self-made female billionaires are Chinese. They cover all industries, real estate, manufacturing, technology, you name it! However, I don’t see that many Chinese women holding the highest political positions. Even if they do, their positions tend to be ceremonial or women related. Here in the United States, we just elected our first female vice president. It’s a big accomplishment. But in Europe, quite a number of countries have female heads of state or government. Even in Asia, look at India, South Korea and Australia, they all have had female heads of state or government already. So both China and the United States have a lot to catch up in this regard.