Search on in Richmond for next Asian star

A search is on across Metro Vancouver for the next Asian superstar.

The annual Sunshine Nation contest is down to eight local finalists who are set to square off in a one-night-only showdown at Burnaby's Michael J. Fox Theatre Friday. They will compete for prizes that include scholarship money, tickets to Asia and a shot at an acting career with Taiwanese TV production company Comic Productions/Meteor Garden Production.

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Fairchild Radio and Comic are organizing the annual talent search, which is open to teens and adults aged 16-25 of Asian descent.

"I only have that little moment to show them what I've got ... it's nerve-racking," said 17-year-old Andrea Ng 17 of Richmond, who started taking ballet lessons at age three and has since added jazz and hip hop to her dance repertoire.

Ng's dancing skills will underpin her performance, which will also include singing and acting.

"I'm going to do it big and rock it," she said.

Ng, like many of the competitors, said she entered the contest for the experience and chance to grow as a person and as a performer. Winning wasn't the main objective.

She is not the only dancer in the contest, which also includes musicians, singers, actors and even a martial arts athlete.

"We all have our own unique characteristics," said 22-year-old Kevin Fang of Burnaby, who said his strongest talent is singing.

He hopes to return to Taiwan, his country of birth, to act.

Sympascho Young, an 18-year-old pianist and violinist from Vancouver, said the finalists are all "pretty talented."

Despite the strong competition and high stakes, the competitors say they've formed strong bonds through more than a month of intensive training together.

"We're pretty good friends by now," said Young.

Organizers of the annual talent search train the competitors in dancing, acting, cat walking, physical fitness and public speaking.

A handful of previous Sunshine winners went on to lucrative careers in Asia. Among them are Calvin Chen and Shawn Dou.

Chen is now a performer in the Taiwanese boy band Fahrenheit. He got his start after winning the 2004 contest.

Dou won in 2008 and went on to an acting career in China, performing in films including Zhang Yimou's Under the Hawthorn Tree.

But competitor Annie Fang said the prospect of a future in show business is too distant to consider.

"I think I'm more in this for the experience, for the ride," she said. "I'm really just having fun."

Fans can vote for their favourite performer in mini-contests staged on the Sunshine Nation Facebook page.

The few remaining tickets to the Aug. 26 show are $30 and can be purchased at Fairchild Radio in Aberdeen Centre. In addition to the eight finalists, Taiwanese singer-celebrity Yao Yao is scheduled to perform during the show.

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