You ask most foreigners what they know about China and you'll most likely get a response ranging from super smart, kung fu, and orange chicken. Even though I'm half-Chinese, I did not grow up speaking Chinese, nor did I know anything about China, besides the fact that my mom is from Nanjing and we visited our relatives when I was 10.
At 16, I was lucky enough to have music bring my family from LA to China; where I would later stay for months competing on CCTV's biggest singing competition, Xing Guang Da Dao (basically China Idol). Not gonna lie, coming over without knowing how to speak Chinese and without a clue as to how big the performance scale of the show I was going to be competing on made adjusting to China daunting and at times, very difficult. Luckily, the people of China accepted me with open arms and my voice continued to advance me all the way to the finale of the show. Of course there were challenges I had to face and grow from; miscommunications, feeling home-sick, cultural adjustments, learning Chinese, and the sad reality that America invented eating rice with soy sauce and that kung-pao chicken isn't really a thing in China.
After an amazing experience competing on Xing Guang Da Dao, I continued going back and forth between China and the U.S to tour around China, and I still currently am 3 years later. Performing to stadiums of 50,000 people and getting to connect with each of them through the universal language of music has taught me that music is understood and overcoming of any barriers. Since being fortunate enough to tour in China; I've picked up more Chinese, I've traveled all over to perform, I no longer fear spicy foods, I'm accustomed to squat potties and crossing the streets (long story short-it can be a nightmare), I've met and worked with so many great people, made some excellent friends, visited family, and I've gotten to learn the culture and explore the heritage that is half of me! I love getting to share what I've learned and love about China every time I come back to the U.S, and vice versa. I feel so blessed to be an ambassador of China and America, so thanks mom and dad for giving me the opportunity to represent two amazing countries.
XOXO, Melissa or if you know me by my Chinese name, Yang Mengdi.