Chen Lili (or Lili Chen) is a transsexual singer, model, and actress from China. She became widely known in 2004 when she competed and attempted to compete in beauty pageants as a woman. At birth in 1980 she was assigned male and born into a peasant family at Yilong County, Nanchong City of Sichuan Province, she received sex reassignment surgery in Qingdao in November 2003. She picked up the new name “Lili”, inspired by a popular Korean transsexual star “Harisu”, or in Chinese “He Lixiu”, who is her idol. On February 11, 2004, she was issued an ID card establishing her female identity by the Public Security Bureau of Nanchong.
The 1.73-meter-tall Chen Lili, formerly named Chen Yongjun, meaning “brave soldier” is a stunning fashion model in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality. Chen attempted to compete in the Miss Universe contest in early 2004. Although the Miss Universe China committee initially announced, on February 23, that she would be allowed to participate, on February 25, they retracted their original decision, stating that she would not be allowed to participate because she was not a “natural female.” Despite being barred from the competition, Chen was nonetheless given the opportunity to perform at the event.
Chen Lili chose to perform in the event even though she couldn’t compete. Shanghai Morning Post reported that she cut quite a figure. Pictures showed Lili having her hair done in the dressing room, on the catwalk in a black suit with sequins all over, to the bikini show. “Chen seemed to outshine all the 37 beauty queen contestants on the stage,” a paper said. It is believed that Lili is the first transsexual woman to attempt to compete in the Miss Universe contest. In late 2004, Chen competed in China’s first Miss Artificial Beauty pageant. She finished as second runner up. In 2005, she appeared in the motion picture The Secret. Newspaper sources are not clear whether Chen entered the Miss World pageant or the Miss Universe pageants.