Bai Ling was born in Chengdu, China during the Cultural Revolution. Her
father was a music teacher, and her mother was a stage actor and dancer. Her
parents were treated cruelly due to their careers, and soon after her birth, Bai
moved to Sichuan to live with her grandmother. She has described herself as a
very shy child who found that she best expressed herself through acting and
performing. She has since said that acting allows you can ignore how society
tells you to behave and allow other parts within you to be expressed. She began
a three-year stint as a "soldier" in the People's Liberation Army in Tibet at
the age of 14. Her main activity there was to entertain with musical theater.
As she matured, Bai's rebelliousness caused friction with the Chinese government. She was accused of insubordination for using tobacco and alcohol, was briefly hospitalized for depression by the end of her army service, and partook in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1988. She temporarily came to New York in 1991 to attend New York University's film department as a visiting scholar, but later obtained a special visa that allowed her to remain in the United States until she became a citizen in 1999.
Bai Ling on the cover of Playboy, June 2005Bai has starred in seven feature films and has appeared in many plays. Since coming to the United States, she has appeared in a number of American movies. Hu guang was her most clebrated role in the Chinese film industry, and Red Corner can be considered her break-out role in English film.
Bai Ling filmed scenes for Star Wars: Episode III (2005) as Senator Bana Breemu, but her role was cut during editing. She claimed that this was because of her posing nude for the June 2005 issue of Playboy magazine, whose appearance on newstands coincided with the movie's May 2005 release, but director George Lucas denied this, stating that the cut had been made more than a year earlier.
She was named one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" in 1998. She was briefly said to be romantically linked to Backstreet Boy Nick Carter. Rumors spread that Ling was engaged to him, but Carter denied the rumors, saying they were "just friends."
Later in 2005 Bai Ling was a castmate of the VH1 program called But Can They Sing?. The show gave several non-singer celebrities an attempt at singing on every episode and then allowed the audience and home viewers to vote off one contestant each week. Bai Ling was most famous for her risquee and raunchy get-ups and her performances of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" and The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated". Bai was eliminated just before the grand finale but was invited back on the final week for a special performance of Divinyls' I Touch Myself.
Bai Ling was singled out for ridicule in an episode of The Showbiz Show with David Spade in late 2005. Spade noted that her high level of exposure in magazines and tabloids, frequently being photographed at movie premiers and parties, was not justified by the relatively minor roles she has been playing, and he implied that she was engaging in desperate self-promotion.
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