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September 10, 2009

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Ex-beauty queen now sports CEO

CHINESE fans will soon be able to watch some FA Championship League games in China. It is the first time the championship will play some important season games outside the United Kingdom.

One of the driving forces behind this move is former Miss Taiwan Denise Li, now chairman and CEO of Global Sports & Entertainment (GSE).

"I have always had a wish. China has experienced and endured a lot of difficult times in the past and now Chinese people deserve to feel proud of our identity," says the former beauty queen in 1986.

"I want to help Chinese people to feel happiness as Chinese. Everyone has that hidden spark and I want to light it by providing them opportunities to enjoy top-quality international sports games and performances and appreciate the culture behind them," she says.

Her company will hold a grand opening for a series of sports and entertainment events in early November, attended by international sports and entertainment stars.

The company is now organizing and promoting Formula One and ice hockey.

In addition to bringing the soccer championship to China, the company plans to hold international training programs for Chinese soccer coaches and bring more international entertainment figures to China.

"I really want to bring top stars to China and show them how great the country is," says Li.

Part of the games' profits will be donated to charities, such as helping kids exercise and stay healthy in the countryside.

"Since we have developed so rapidly, this is a great time to showcase sports and entertainment. It's a great time to show the younger generation how exercising and the sports culture are fulfilling," she says.

Li, in her 40s, looks youthful and retains her energy and curiosity about everything.

She holds a degree in marketing from Webster University, Vienna Campus, and has many successful marketing cases in her credits. She was a backer behind the big marketing campaign in China for kiwi fruit.

Her latest focus is bringing international sports and entertainment to China where she also is promoting the Chinese ice hockey team.

Li, who is twice-divorced, was first married to a rich businessman in Taiwan, then to a member of nobility in the Netherlands.

"Those experiences hurt a lot, but I'm proud to say I have never regretted any of my decisions in life. All the pain becomes part of my life experience," says Li who published an autobiography, "I believe I Can Fly," in 2003.

Her much-written-about marriage into Dutch nobility definitely did not go "happily ever after." Li recalls the rigid manners and protocol obligations in the family, especially with her mother-in-law, a lady-in-waiting to the Empress.

Life experience

"Boring and boring." That's how Li describes those years, attending afternoon teas, wearing proper dresses, working in the garden (her escape) and making conversion with all kinds of nobility. Her marriage didn't last long.

Born into a physician's family, Li was attending medical school in Taiwan when she decided to join a beauty contest.

"A neighborhood friend encouraged me and I considered a chance to gain life experience," recalls Li. The phrase "life experience" comes up a lot in conversation with Li. She has had a lot of it.

When she won the contest, she was under 20 years old. She was astonished, didn't plan to become an entertainment star and felt completely lost.

"My life changed completely. Suddenly, I couldn't be myself anymore and winning put huge pressure on me," she says.

She couldn't go out on the street in ordinary clothes and not bother with makeup. People pointed to her and whispered that she wasn't behaving properly.

Many talked behind her back and said she didn't have the looks to be a beauty queen.

Li said good-bye to the beauty queen title and many contracts with TV stations and talent agencies. She went to Vienna to study marketing with her Dutch fiance. (Her first marriage to a businessman had ended; she has a daughter).

"That was my first European experience and it was very influential for me," says Li.

"That was when I realized what I really like and what I'm really good at," she says, adding she thinks people can only achieve excellence in fields in which they naturally excel. "It felt so great to be myself again in Vienna and to find what I'm good at."

Nowadays, Li is based in Shanghai and working hard to bring soccer Championship games to China.


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