Bella Yao (real name: 姚贝娜 / Yáo Bèi-Nà) was a Chinese singer. She participated in Chinese Young Singer Championship in 2008 and won the champion of the pop singing group. She was known as the singer of the theme songs of Empresses in the Palace, Painted Skin: The Resurrection and Back to 1942. She also sang the pop version of Let It Go in Mandarin Chinese in the Disney CGI film, Frozen for the Putonghua dub when the film was released in China. She competed in The Voice of China television reality show.
Dubbing[edit | edit source]
- 2014 - Frozen - end credits singer (Let it go pop version)
Biography[edit | edit source]
Early life[edit | edit source]
Yao was born to a family of musicians on 26 September 1981 in Wuhan. Her father, Yao Feng, was the former chairman of the Shenzhen Association of Musicians and now serves as the vice chairman of Guangdong Association of Musicians. But at the time of the birth of Yao Beina, he was an Assistant Professor at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music. Under the supervision of her parents, she started to take piano lessons at the age of 4. At the age of 6, according to her father, she could precisely tell the note of each key on the piano and sing it out. Eventually she was qualified as a Grade 10 piano player, which is the highest qualification level in China. Her first recording for the local TV station took place at the age of 9, after her father discovered her unique voice when she was singing the national anthem. She continued to sing for galas on the local TV channels as a child star through her teenage years.
Yao went to Wuhan No. 45th Middle school for Junior High School. She was an average student overall. Though excelled in music she had difficulties with the math class. One time after receiving 21% on her math exam, she took a long walk by herself in the city without returning home till very late at night. She later termed this event as the "only major rebellion during her teenage years." She was admitted by the Wuhan Conservatory of Music Affiliated High School for her senior years. Her father became her teacher in popular music. She excelled in all music subject as the number one student of the high school. After her father's job transfer to Shenzhen, there was no teacher left at the high school to teach popular music and her grades became the second last of the school. After a talk with Mrs. Feng, a teacher of Chinese folks music at the high school, Yao quickly adjusted her attitudes and became the number one student again.
In 2000, she was admitted to China Conservatory of Music with Dong Hua, a master of the Chinese folks music, as her mentor. According to Dong Hua, the most impressive quality of Yao during the admission exam was "her precise notion of the key". "She was quick in understanding, and I decided right away that I wanted to teach her everything I've got."
Career[edit | edit source]
Yao worked for four years in the Naval Political Department of the Song and Dance Troupe of the People's Liberation Army, after graduating from the acclaimed China Conservatory of Music in 2005. During her servicing in the Troupe, she won the champion in 全国青年歌手电视大奖赛 / Chinese Young Singer Championship.
When singing The Spring River on New Year's Eve Gala of 2011, she combined Tibetan folk style with rock to sing this Chinese folk song, finishing with a G5 note that lasted 7.7 seconds.
She rose to prominence after winning the Chinese Young Singer TV competition Championship in 2008 with the first full mark in history. She performed on the stage of Beijing Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.
In 2009, she left the Troupe and signed with a label called 乐巢音尚 / Yuècháo Yīnshàng. After giving her first concert in Shen Zhen in 2010, she released her first album named after herself, 姚贝娜 / Yao Beina. The songs, mainly composed by herself, received widespread praise. She impressed Liu Huan and got the opportunity to sing the theme song of the TV series Empresses in the Palace. Yao became well-known to the public after she made a series of songs for the hit drama Empresses in the Palace, in 2012. In the same year, Yao was invited by the director Feng Xiaogang to sing the theme song 生命的河 / The River of The Life of the film Back to 1942. She sang 画情 / Love in the Painting for Painted Skin: The Resurrection, the highest grossing domestic film in China. As of 2012, she has made songs for 60 TV dramas and films, and performed twice in CCTV New Year's Galas in 2007 and 2010.
Yao returned to CCTV Young Singer TV Competition as the youngest judge of this music show in 2013. In the same year, she released her new album Half of Me (Chinese: 二分之一的我 / Èr fēn zhī yī de wǒ). All of songs in this album topped Baidu Music Chart, making her the No.1 Mandopop Female Singer on Baidu Music. According to the sales and reputation of the album, Yao attained the title "the best female vocalist" on MusicRadio China TOP Charts Awards. She was the first pop solo vocalist performing the finale of CCTV New Year's Gala.
Yao gradually accumulated her fame for singing theme songs of Empresses in the Palace, Painted Skin: The Resurrection and Back to 1942. She was the designated singer of the Mandarin version of the pop version of Let It Go (at the end of the movie) for the Disney film Frozen. She competed in the The Voice of China television reality show. Yao's performance caused an Internet sensation that led to her almost-overnight popularity with the No.1 Internet Searched pop star in the Baidu and Sina Weibo.
Illness and death[edit | edit source]
Yao was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2011.
In September 2013, Yao was invited to become the image ambassador for China Pink Ribbon Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of breast cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, she was considered the most suitable candidate for the post.
In December of that year, Yao released the song Fire of the Heart (Chinese: 心火 / Xīn huǒ), which describes her struggle and pain when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at the age of 30. "If you never cry in the middle of the night, you will never be qualified to talk about fate… don't ask me why, because I have fought the devil several times," she wrote in the lyrics.
Fortunately, Yao survived, but the cost was high. She underwent a mastectomy and had her left breast removed. "It is a wise choice if you face reality and bravely fight and defeat cancer," Yao said. After the surgery, Yao went through eight sessions of chemotherapy, during which she recorded the songs for Empresses in the Palace.
Yao hoped her story and her songs could bring hope to those suffering from breast cancer. "I hope I can bring strength to people and boost their confidence with my songs," she said. Because of her personal experience, Yao had a solid understanding of the fear and pain that breast cancer patients suffer from, both physically and psychologically. After recovering, Yao joined Pink Ribbon campaign to raise awareness of preventing and treating breast cancer.
As is traditional with this campaign, Yao needed to make a topless poster to remind women to take care of their body and raise the public's awareness of women's breast health. The visceral impact of seeing a woman with an amputated breast, especially in an age saturated in images of commodified female flesh, has proven to be a successful, yet shocking method of raising awareness, among both men and women. Growing up in a relatively conservative society, Yao initially felt nervous, but later relaxed after thinking about "bringing victims courage by doing so." In the autumn of 2013, Yao's posters were posted across the country. Through these posters, Yao wanted to send the message "You can win in the battle against breast cancer."
In September of that year, she visited patients at Beijing Cancer Hospital. Yao also talked with members of the Beijing Cancer Rehabilitation Association. Through these efforts, Yao wanted everyone to know that, "When facing cancer, you have no other choice than to defeat it." On the other hand, Yao understood that many breast cancer sufferers fear that they may lose their breasts. With her personal experiences, Yao sought to show them that breast cancer surgery would not cause more damage than the cancer itself and to help to persuade them to choose proper treatment therapies according to doctor's advice.
In December 2014, Yao had a recurrence of the cancer and her situation was reported to have worsened on 15 January 2015. She died a day later in Shenzhen, Guangdong, aged 33. According to her wish, her corneas were donated to two recipients in Shenzhen and Chengdu.
Memorial services were held on 20 January. Her first posthumous album, Eternal (永存 / Yǒngcún), was produced by Liu Chia-chang.
Her ashes were interred on September 4 in the Shimenfeng Memorial Park of her place of birth, the city of Wuhan, China, prior to the release of her second posthumous album "Born Proud" (天生骄傲), which was still under production at the time of her death. It was released on her birth anniversary (September 26) and the celebration of her homecoming. The album was listed as one of the best selling albums in the year list of Jingdong Mall.
Her posthumous single, Glory (风光 / Fēngguāng), was released on 16 January 2016, peaking at No.2 on the QQ Music New Single Chart.
Legacy[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
As an enlisted member of the Naval Political Department of the Song and Dance Troupe of the People's Liberation Army in 2008, Yao was ordered to help relieve the earthquake zones in Sichuan province, where more than 80,000 people lost their lives. She and her colleagues traveled to the disaster zones and performed for the survivors as well as the PLA soldiers working in the area. She personally donated 30,000 RMB (5,000 USD) while her annual salary as an enlisted member was estimated to be less than 15,000 RMB (2,500 USD).
According to later documented interviews with her, she was coping with a long term depression at the moment of the earthquake and she had constant thoughts of death. Due to the depression, she finally left the Troupe after requesting resignation for the third time in 2009.
In addition to cancer awareness activities, Yao also attended an awareness-raising event for the care of children as the "Ambassador of Love" in 2014. Regretting not having any child of her own, possibly because of the cancer, she once commented during an interview: "When you saw all of your friends have children who are old enough to run errands, and post their pictures on the Internet, this was the only time you would feel just a little stimulated."
Her decision came at the end of 2014 to donate her body in case of death. It turned out that before her death in 2015, the metastasis left only her corneas intact and suitable for donation. So far her corneas have helped four patients to recover their visions. Shortly after her death, the number of Chinese people who voluntarily signed organ donation agreement had doubled within a month. This coincides with the government announcement that from the first day of 2015, organ harvesting from executed prisoners was banned in China. The unexpected coincidence was mentioned by the Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, during an TV interview and he said: "Maybe we can still hear her singing in Heaven..."
Her parents auctioned her personal belongings on the Internet after her death. The auction raised 2,510,000 RMB (~400,000 USD) and they were donated to a high school in the Xinjiang province, where Yao Beina and her father had an inspiration for writing a song that incorporated the unique local ethnic music style. The donation was to be dedicated to renovating the school and a scholarship for achievements in music. According to her father, helping the local children was a wish that she had long shared with him.
Asteroid 41981[edit | edit source]
On April 9, 2015, according to the news released by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the asteroid "41981" was named after Yao Beina. The asteroid was discovered by William Kwong Yu Yeung in 2000, an amateur astronomer from Hong Kong. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) named the asteroid Yaobeina, which was suggested by Yeung in memory of the singer. NASA describes Yao Beina in its website as Yaobeina (1981–2015) was a talented and courageous Chinese singer who won numerous awards for the best Chinese pop song performance. One of Yao's songs, Fire of the Heart, was about the reflections on her battle with breast cancer.