The new debutante

Updated: 2015-01-15 15:19

By Xu Junqian(Shanghai Star)

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The new debutante

Leading the pack: Chaument Debutante of the Year Polly Zhang makes her entrance at the 2015 ball. Photo provided to Shanghai Star

Gone are the days when a debutante had to be demure and delicate. Xu Junqian catches up with the 2015 Chaumet Debutante of the Year and finds a woman who speaks her own mind.

Shanghai's first local debutante is far from demure and delicate. She is a little older than the traditional debutante too. At 28 years old, she jokingly calls herself "the oldest debutante on record".

But in the eyes of Vivian Chow Wong, the founder and organizer of the Shanghai International Debutante Ball, which held its fourth event on Jan 10, these are the characteristics that made Polly Zhang a standout and saw her being crowned Chaumet Debutante of the Year.

"She is hip and straight, rather ungenteel and unladylike. She appears to be the opposite of a Shanghai debutante, but a prototype of the debutante I am looking for at the core," says Chow, when asked by the media why she chose Zhang as the Shanghai representative from the 14 women at the extravagant ball.

Chow has made it clear since the inaugural ball in 2011 that the international event, introduced from London, is held in order to rediscover, and perhaps redefine, Shanghai ladies. Polly Zhang is the first Shanghai-born debutante on Chow's invitation list. However, Zhang moved to the United States with her family at the age of nine and speaks better English than Chinese. In 2010, the graduate of UC Berkeley returned to Shanghai with her family to work in a venture capital firm.

She was previously roommates with Jen Hau, the debutante of the first Shanghai International Debutante Ball, and through her, got to know Chow.

"She is different from many of her peers, who, because of their privileged family upbringing, do nothing but carry their luxury handbags around, ordering a table of fine cuisine, taking pictures of it, if not with it, and eventually never eating it," Chow says.

"I get angry when I am hungry," says Zhang when asked if she went on a diet to prepare for the ball.

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