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Makeup skills on reality TV

VETERAN French TV producer Alexis de Gemini has been doing reality TV shows for more than a decade and this latest is one in China called "Beauty Academy" that aims to discover top-notch Chinese makeup artists.

The original-format show he created makes its debut in China and Gemini, who collaborates with local production teams, says it's the world's first reality show to focus on makeup artists.

The finals begin airing weekly on Wednesday at 10pm on Dragon TV.

The 39-year-old producer says he is fascinated by Chinese history and culture and has a Chinese name, Lu Wushuang, after a character of Louis Cha's martial arts book "The Legend of the Condor Heroes."

Gemini started his professional career at Societe Generale in New York where he worked as a financial analyst for two years.

In 1997 he joined M6, France's No. 2 private television channel. In 2003 he created W9 Productions, M6's production studio. He produced more than 100 prime-time shows over four years, including the successful adaptation of "The Bachelor" (three seasons).

Two years ago, Gemini established his own creation and production studio, A2G Creations. He has developed a new generation of documentaries for the Internet and cell phones and created new television formats for both French and International TV markets.

In China's "Beauty Academy," 12 contestants have advanced to the televised finals, vying for a 200,000 yuan (US$30,940) career fund. The three-person jury is comprised of super model Lu Yan, famous stylists Li Dongtian and Kevin Chou.

Q: How did you decide to cooperate in production of "Beauty Academy" and what's special about the show?

A: "Beauty Academy" is an original format we created. It is a Chinese show with a French flavor. I tried to emphasize Chinese culture with my own French sensibility. We also took the contestants for special training in Paris. And the decor we built in Shanghai is very original. For the first time in China, we shot the contestants and the jury through tinted mirrors. The contestants were selected by the jury based on their skills, talent and personality.

Q: How did your collaboration with local TV producers go?

A: Great! Thanks to my local partners, we have gathered an incredibly talented team. The energy on the shooting was great.

Q: What makes successful reality TV?

A: It takes a good casting, a great crew and a superb jury. I have all three!

Q: More and more Chinese shows based on Western franchise formats have been a success, such as "China's Got Talent." Your views?

A: TV is a global industry and good formats are adapted in many countries. It is the trend in China and everywhere else in the world. The reality TV genre is becoming more mature and positive. I focus on developing new-generation TV shows that entertain the audience by giving talents real job opportunities. Coaching will also become a big thing in China.

Q: How were you attracted to Chinese culture?

A: I discovered the culture by reading Eileen Chang's English language novel "I Ching" ("The Book of Changes," 1950) and Sun Zi's "Art of War." I am a fan of Chinese kung fu and I am currently reading Bruce Lee's biography. I have long dreamed to master the art like the Shaolin priests.

Q: What's your impression of China and Shanghai?

A: China is full of energy and creativity. And so diverse! I felt it while shooting in Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai, which are very different. The city of Shanghai is a great mix between China and the Western culture. A great place for me to work.


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