Younger Huawei daugh­ter: ‘I’m just a nor­mal girl’

The Star Malaysia - - Focus -

JUST last month, the reclu­sive Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei made head­lines by ap­pear­ing in French life­style mag­a­zine Paris Match with his younger daugh­ter and cur­rent wife.

The daugh­ter, Annabel Yao, 20, posed with a smile in front of a grand pi­ano with her mother, iden­ti­fied by the mag­a­zine as Yao Ling, and Ren, who wore a blue shirt with his hand rest­ing on her shoul­der.

Sud­denly, the whole fam­ily are mak­ing head­lines again – even if for quite dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

Few out­siders had pre­vi­ously heard of the younger daugh­ter, a Har­vard com­puter sci­ence stu­dent and bal­le­rina. But Yao re­cently made a high-pro­file ap­pear­ance at the ex­clu­sive Le Bal Debu­tante ball in Paris.

While Le Bal des Debu­tantes in Paris each year is a nod to the tra­di­tion of young so­ci­ety ladies en­ter­ing the elite so­cial scene of Europe, these days it courts mod­ern debu­tantes, aged 16 to 21, who are cho­sen for their looks, brains and fa­mous par­ents – prom­i­nent in busi­ness, en­ter­tain­ment and pol­i­tics.

They pa­rade in glam­orous cou­ture gowns, waltz with their cava­liers – young men who ac­com­pany the “debs” for the evening – and take part in photo shoots and in­ter­views.

The sched­ule at the event, or­gan­ised by Ophélie Re­nouard, is full of young women such as Baroness Lud­milla von Op­pen­heim, from Ger­many; Ju­lia McCaw, daugh­ter of AT&T founder Craig McCaw; and Yao – one of three debu­tantes cho­sen for the open­ing waltz this year.

“I def­i­nitely treated this as a de­but to the world,” said Yao af­ter the ball. “From now on, I’ll no longer be this girl liv­ing in her own world, I’ll be step­ping into the adult world where I have to watch my own ac­tions and have my ac­tions be watched by oth­ers.”

To­day’s Le Bal, is a di­verse af­fair, a mi­cro­cosm of the shift­ing tides of the global elite. Of the 19 debu­tantes of 2018, there were young ladies from In­dia and Amer­ica, Euro­peans from Por­tu­gal, France, Bel­gium and Ger­many, as well as Hong Kong’s An­gel Lee, Kayla Uytengsu from the Philip­pines and China’s Yao.

Yao – who has lived in Bri­tain, Hong Kong and Shang­hai – was one of sev­eral Chi­nese debu­tantes in re­cent years. Hol­ly­wood off­spring, such as the daugh­ters of ac­tors For­est Whi­taker, Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stal­lone, have also be­come Le Bal reg­u­lars.

“All the girls were down-to-earth, easy­go­ing, help­ful and out­go­ing. No one was pre­ten­tious,” said Yao.

“All of them at­tended top uni­ver­si­ties or high schools like Stan­ford,

Brown and Columbia, so it’s a group of girls who are priv­i­leged, but also work re­ally hard.”

As they swapped their jeans for tiaras and cou­ture gowns and trade teenage an­tics for waltz­ing, the girls got to play fairy­tale princesses for three days and make their grand de­but in high so­ci­ety.

They all ar­rived in Paris two days be­fore the ball to meet, so­cialise with other girls and their cava­liers (Yao’s cav­a­lier was the young Count Gas­pard de Lim­burgStirum), re­hearse and take part in por­trait ses­sions.

Girls are given ques­tion­naires about the fash­ion styles they like, and then choose from a se­lec­tion. Yao donned a cham­pagne gold J Men­del gown.

“An Amer­i­can de­signer with a very French style I wanted some­thing mod­ern,” she said. “I’m not su­per girlie in­side, so I pre­fer some­thing more chic and not so princessy It’s very ele­gant, and I’m not a fan of very [strongly] pig­mented hues. I also loved the tulle tex­ture of the dress, as it re­minds me of a bal­le­rina.”

“I def­i­nitely feel very hon­oured to be in­cluded, as there are only 19 girls in the world this year,” Yao added. “It means I have to work harder, try to ac­com­plish great things in my life and be a role model for other girls.”

She said: “As peo­ple who have more priv­i­lege than oth­ers, it’s more im­por­tant for us to help those with less op­por­tu­nity. I want to get in­volved in phi­lan­thropy and char­ity I still con­sider my­self a nor­mal girl; it’s im­por­tant for me to

work hard and bet­ter my­self ev­ery day.

“My daily life is ac­tu­ally pretty bor­ing com­pared to this. I usu­ally live like a nor­mal stu­dent.”

Com­puter sci­ence is a heavy sub­ject with a high work­load, so she stud­ies a lot. Her spare time is of­ten taken up at the Har­vard Bal­let com­pany (she’s been danc­ing since child­hood). “I try to dance as much as pos­si­ble,” she said.

A quick glance at the Ivy League stu­dent’s so­cial me­dia shows her jet­ting around the world wear­ing Dior, Louis Vuit­ton and Saint Lau­rent, but she’s quick to show

her se­ri­ous side. This sum­mer, she did an in­tern­ship at Mi­crosoft “on a team fo­cus­ing on ma­chine learn­ing and im­age recog­ni­tion”.

How­ever, she noted: “As much as I en­joy cod­ing, I en­joy per­sonal in­ter­ac­tions a lot I have a pas­sion for fash­ion, PR and en­ter­tain­ment.”

In the fu­ture, she sees her­self work­ing on the busi­ness side of tech­nol­ogy. “I’ll try to in­te­grate the tech knowl­edge I have,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be a soft­ware engi­neer but maybe I’ll be more on the man­age­ment side. I en­joy build­ing con­nec­tions.” – South China Morn­ing Post

Di­verse af­fair: To­day’s ‘Le Bal’ is a mi­cro­cosm of the shift­ing tides of the global elite like Yao (far right, front row).

Ar­rest­ing Yao: ‘My daily life is ac­tu­ally pretty bor­ing com­pared to this.’

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