Wand Deshun making his runway debut during the Sheguang Hu Collection at China Fashion Week in Beijing on March 25, 2015 (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Wand Deshun making his runway debut during the Sheguang Hu Collection at China Fashion Week in Beijing on March 25, 2015 (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
By David Kiefaber / November 9, 2016 5:00 am
SHANGHAI, CHINA - AUGUST 23: (CHINA OUT) Drama actor and model Deshun Wang attends a forum on August 23, 2015 in Shanghai, China. Deshun Wang began his acting career at the age of 24, after working as a "living sculptures" for many years, he began getting more work in television and film. He became well-known to the public when he walked during the 2015 Beijing International Fashion Week. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Deshun Wang began his acting career at the age of 24, after working as a “living sculpture” for many years, he began getting more work in television and film. He became well-known to the public when he walked during the 2015 Beijing International Fashion Week. (VCG via Getty Images)
VCG via Getty Images

 

With a body that would put most 20-year-olds to shame, Wang Deshun has been a performance artist, a living statue, an actor in radio, film and theater, and most recently, a runway model. That last item has made him a celebrity in China, where respect for the elderly borders on deference.

At 80-years-old, Deshun is often referred to as “China’s Hottest Grandpa,” and has become a celebrity for his youthful outlook and active lifestyle that upends China’s traditional view of aging, which he admits can feel limiting and overly sentimental. “One way to tell if you’re old or not is to ask yourself, ‘Do you dare try something you’ve never done before?’” he told the New York Times, summing up his overall life direction in the process.

 

Born in 1936, Deshun was young when the Communist Party first rose to power, and he indulged his interest in the arts at the Workers’ Cultural Palace in Shenyang, which offered free acting, vocal, and dance lessons. As an adult, he organized the first proper fashion show in Changchun, and would later move to Beijing and work as a performance artist, which began his current fitness regimen.

Models parade creations during the Sheguang Hu Collection at China Fashion Week in Beijing on March 25, 2015 (STR/Stringer)
Wang Deshun makes his runway debut during the Sheguang Hu Collection at China Fashion Week in Beijing on March 25, 2015 (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Clearly, Deshun follows his passions, setting a bold example in a country that doesn’t typically highlight male attractiveness or encourage active lifestyles for older citizens. But Deshun doesn’t seem to be driven by anger or iconoclasm as much as by fulfillment and curiosity.

“People can change their life as many times as they wish,” he told the Times. His story is similar to that of Philippe Dumas, the 60-year-old Frenchman who found a new career as a model after he posted some photos of himself on the website Reddit, admitting a career in fashion had been a lifelong dream.

To hear more from the man himself, read the New York Times in full here. Or, watch Deshun tell the story behind his catwalk debut in the video above from Redstar Media.