“China’s Mariah Carey” Huang Qi Shan talks about the journey that led her to Christ—and to fame.
(Interview by Chen Ying Jie, City Radio)
For 27 years, her labor in the entertainment industry was in vain. But her tenacity and her obedience to God shot her to fame with just one performance.
“The year that I received Christ, I asked Him, ‘You made me a talented singer, so why not give me success as well?’ I never got any answers,” said Chinese singer Huang Qi Shan in an interview with City Radio. “It was not until I stood on the stage of I Am A Singer that I realized His purpose for me.”
Debuting in 1986, Huang was considered the “Number One Female Voice in Asia” by professional singers and producers in China. Her powerful vocal performances won her the nicknames “Chinese Mariah Carey” and “Chinese Whitney Houston”.
“Yes, it was a very awkward situation,” she admitted. “It seemed like every one in the entertainment industry knew me but those in the streets had never heard my name.” In 2013, Huang finally received her breakthrough. Her performance in the popular Chinese reality TV competition, I Am A Singer, stirred the hearts of the audience. Shortly after, she became one of the most well-known names in China.
“Thankfully, God gave me an obedient heart,” she mused. “He asked me if I would continue following Him if I didn’t receive an answer. I told Him I would, and I did. That was how He eventually led me to the stage of I Am A Singer. At that moment, standing on that stage, I was filled with such gratitude toward God. I realized that in the midst of studying in Bible school, I had learned to let go of my earthly desires and I learned the real essence of singing. I realized that in all those years (as a singer), I loved recognition more than singing itself. I loved the fame and the things that being famous entitled me to. When I slowly began to understand that singing has nothing to do with all these, I no longer yearned for the applause of men.”
Huang recognized now that the condition of her heart needed to be right before she could receive her success. “If I had not gone through the journey and developed my relationship with Christ before becoming famous, I believe I would have backslidden. This is human nature.”
FINDING HERSELF IN GOD
Huang told the story of how she became a fervent Christian and a Bible school student in Singapore’s Baptist Theological Seminary.
It all started in 2003 when she had thoughts of suicide. “The next morning, God sent a sister, a well-known mainland Chinese actress, He Qing, to share the Gospel with me. As I listened to her, I felt that someone cared about me, and I felt loved. So when she invited me to church that Sunday, I went.”
Huang started attending church and was baptized a year later. But she continued in her old ways and eventually backslid and left church. Looking back, Huang realized that she did not really know God and the Bible, and that was why there was no significant change in her life.
“In 2009, I felt that it was time to go home. I’d spent enough time roaming in the ‘wilderness’. I guessed God allowed me to spend five years in the ‘wilderness’ so that I would have this yearning within me to return to Him (laughs). As I got down on my knees to pray, God sent another sister, Lu Li Ping, and she brought me back to church.”
Three months later, a Bible School in Xiamen opened for registration and Huang was led by God to sign up for the course. “That was how I started my journey as a student again at 40 years of age. It was as if God was telling me, since you didn’t like to study when you were young, you’ll have to study now.” Huang spent three years at the Bible School studying Gospel music.
She then went on to take up another course at Singapore’s Baptist Theological Seminary in 2012 to study theology. It was at this point that she was asked to take part in I Am A Singer; she was reluctant because she needed to be in Singapore for classes.
“I rejected them in the beginning because I had to come back to Singapore for classes. But the director of the show, Hong Tao, kept telling me that I had to participate in this competition. I’m very grateful for him; I guess God was using him to bring me into the show. I gave him a solution at that time—to put me in only two episodes. My thinking at that time was that if one episode could bring in RMB800,000, then I would have RMB16,000 to pay for my rent, school fees and living cost in Singapore. It was really that simple to me at that time.
“I believe God was opening doors for me. The director told me that he couldn’t allow that. The competition had to go on. So I said to him, just kick me out of the competition at the second episode,” she laughed.
As God would have it, Huang joined I Am A Singer in 2013 and rose to national fame overnight. That year, she was named “Best Chinese Singer” at the 10th annual Huading Awards in China.
“Coming back to the house of God caused me to think: we have a relationship with God, but how deep does the relationship go? Who is God? What is Jesus like? That is what we are studying in theology. The attitude behind going to Bible school goes beyond the question of whether we are willing to give our lives fully to Christ, or if we are willing to become a disciple. It boils down to the kind of choices you make every day. For example, coming to CHC that weekend was a challenge for me. I had a commercial gig that I rejected just so I could come. I told my team leader, commitment is the foundation of your character. Once we have made a promise, even if temptation (to make money) comes, I will choose to do the right thing.”