UCR Pair Participate in Popular Chinese Reality Dating Show

Student and alumna meet during filming of Fei Cheng Wu Rao (If You Are the One)

Michelle Jia (left) and Melissa Tan

Michelle Jia (left) and Melissa Tan visted the Summer Palace in Beijing during a break in filming of Fei Chen Wu Rao (If You Are the One) in September. (Photo courtesy of Melissa Tan)

RIVERSIDE, CA (www.ucr.edu) — When UCR senior Michelle Jia and alumna Melissa Tan (’04) were selected to be contestants on China’s most popular reality dating show, they each expected to have a great experience, to meet new people and maybe, just maybe, find “the one.” But to meet someone from their alma mater? Never.

Yet that is exactly what happened to the pair, who were placed as roommates during the week long filming of Fei Cheng Wu Rao (If You Are the One) in Beijing in September.

In the show, 24 women stand at podiums facing a single man. The man answers the women’s questions and shows video clips to help the women decide if he is “the one.” If they feel he isn’t a match, they switch off the light on their podium. If all 24 lights go off, the man goes home alone. If one stays on, the pair are introduced and are given the chance to get to know one another. The nightly television audience can reach into the hundreds of millions, according to data from the Chinese Jiangsu TV channel. The episodes, which are entirely in Chinese, aired in China in October and most can be found on YouTube.

Earlier this year the show began recruiting Chinese-Americans living in the United States to be on the show. Jia had watched the show online and applied. The producers were impressed enough by her application to fly her to New York City for an interview. Tan, who lives in New York City and was familiar with the show but not a big fan, applied at the urging of friends. Out of the thousands of applicants the pair impressed the production staff enough to be among the two dozen or so women flown to Beijing in mid-September to participate in a week of filming.

Screenshot of Michelle Jia from the October 23, 2011 episode of Fei Chen Wu Rao (If You Are the One).

Jia and Tan first met in the Beijing hotel where they were assigned as roommates.

“It was one of the first things that came out,” Tan said. “I asked Michelle if she was still in school or working and she said that she went to UC Riverside. That was very random.”

Tan, 28, earned a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration in 2004 and went to work as a research analyst for R.W. Pressprich and Co. She recently completed her MBA from NYU. Jia, 25, is in her final quarter as a media and cultural studies major at UCR, having previously graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. She hopes to work in marketing in the cosmetics and beauty industry. She is a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

The visit was a bit of a homecoming as both women were born in China before coming to the United States as children. But there was still a little bit of culture shock – for example being limited on what they could talk about on camera, including religion and information on how much money they made or the kind of car they drove.

“The producer came in and told us there were certain things we can talk about and certain things we can’t talk about,” Jia recalled, adding that taboo subjects included religion, questions about how much money the men made and the kinds of cars they owned.

Screenshot of Melissa Tan from the October 9, 2011 episode of Fei Chen Wu Rao (If You Are the One).

Tan said the cultural difference between how men and women were presented was another difference.

“This is a show where they present the men in the spotlight. The guy is getting 20 or 30 minutes of time, whereas the women, we don’t have much time to introduce ourselves or let the audience know our backgrounds,” she said. “So, one way to look at it is that I think that portrays how China is – it still favors men over women.”

Jia and Tan each said that finding the man of their dreams was not the primary goal of the experience.

“This was a great opportunity to go out there and meet people. I got to see how they filmed the show, how the whole thing works,” Jia said. “I didn’t want to pick anybody. I really did this for fun and I met a lot of great friends from this group.”

“I was there to meet new people. It may not necessarily be the man of my dreams, but throughout the show I met a lot of good friends, for example Michelle,” Tan said, adding that the show allowed her to reconnect with some of the elementary school friends that she left behind when she moved from China at the age of 11.

“Some of them saw me on TV, but they couldn’t confirm it was me,” she said. “They passed it around on Weibo (Chinese equivalent to Twitter) and they found me. That was something that was just totally out of my expectation; it is one of the biggest rewards I got out of it.”

Tan did get matched up with a potential suitor, but the couple did not have a romantic spark.

“We did not go on a date as I was leaving for a flight the next day to come back to the U.S.,” she said. “We did however hang out as a group with other guys and gals on the show after the taping that night.”

“We’ll probably just remain friends,” she added.

And while neither one has become famous as a result of their time on the show, there have been some interesting changes. Jia said that her number of Twitter followers jumped from 20 to over 700, while Tan had an interesting moment at a recent party.

“I was at a Halloween party in New York with a couple of girls from the show,” she said. “We were in costumes and people came up to us and said they recognized us from the show. You don’t realize how popular it is until everyone, even random people, say they have seen you on the show.”

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