Kingdom of the Little People

Português Português Português Português Português Welcome to Kunming, “Spring City” of China. [Sound of seagulls] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos reacts with surprise and laughs] [Sound of seagulls] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Kunming is the capital city of the Yunnan province, in southwest China. The weather here always brings to mind early spring. But, I didn’t come from the depths of winter in New York for the weather. I came to check out a very peculiar and controversial tourist attraction, (located) about an hour outside the city, that people have been talking about for years. A place called “Kingdom of the Little People”. [Music] [Chime sound] [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: From what I saw on TV, I expected it to be “The Wizard of Oz” on acid. On arrival, I realized (that what) was touted as a magnificient, and whimsical theme park, was really a run-down, abandoned place that made me instantly feel uncomfortable. [Chime sound] [Sound of vehicle driving past] This is “The Kingdom of the Little People”. [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: “Kingdom of the Little People” was founded in 2009 by wealthy real-estate mogul, Chen Mingjing; and, as you can imagine, has since been the centre of a lot of controversy. Media outlets like the Daily Mail, The New York Times; and organizations like Little People of America and Handicap International have criticized the park with claims that it’s the equivalent of a human zoo, and that (the park) only serves to increase negative stereotypes. Even Warwick Davis, the famous English actor of short stature who played Willow, has openly expressed his distaste for the establishment. But, I wanted to see what the park was really about myself. [Music] [Clapping] [Rap music] [🎵Haters be illin’ when they see me killin’ on the floor.🎵 🎵Looks like I’m missing competition from the roof to y’all.🎵 🎵I know you’re looking at me, I know you’re wantin’ more,🎵 🎵You like those apples? Well, I’m bad, baby; to the core!🎵 [Rap music] [Woman reacts with surprise] [Audience cheering] [Audience clapping] [Rap music] [Sound of crowd] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: My name’s Annette. I like your outfit. Is that the character that you play in the show? So, in between shows, do you get to hang out and- you know, read books, or..? What do you like to do? [Crowd playing tug-of-war] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: At first glance, the little people we met seemed exceptionally cheerful, but I wondered whether it was their directives to appear pleasant at all times; which would be in line with most theme parks, but most theme parks are not almost exclusively stuffed with little people. However, I’m not going to lie; while speaking with them, I became confused about whether I should approach them like children or adults. Perhaps, that was because the park’s higher-ups tended to treat their shorter staff members like kids, even though their ages range from 19 to 49. [Crowd playing tug-of-war] [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: How old were you when your parents told you that you weren’t going to continue growing? [Sound of balloon being inflated] [Balloon pops] [People laugh] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Employees here mainly suffer from two forms of dwarfism: disproportionate dwarfism, the umbrella term for genetic disorders that cause unusual proportions of their body parts; and proportionate dwarfism, which results from hormonal deficiency. What they all have in common, is that they’re no taller than 4 feet, 3 inches; which is the main requirement for working as a performer at the Kingdom. [Sound of crowd] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: One thing about the Kingdom, is that performers who work in such close proximity sometimes fall in love; like Aifang and Chenjiao, a couple I met who have been dating for over a year, and who both suffer from proportional dwarfism. [Chengjiao Shu]: Hi, hello! [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Hi! [Chengjiao Shu]: Hello. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: (I’m) Annette. Chengjiao Shu]: Ni hao. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Nice to meet you! [Woman]: Ni hao. [Chengjiao Shu]: Nice to meet you. Hi, ni hao. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Okay. So, what was it that made you want to switch careers and come to this place? [Sound of audience] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: The little people who work at the park come from all different backgrounds. They make a monthly salary ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 RMB which is roughly the equivalent to what a university graduate would make in the area. They hold positions throughout the company, ranging from accountants to sales representatives, creating a nearly self-sufficient community of their own. [Chime music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: So, Aifang and Chengjiao are going to take us upstairs, to get a look at what it’s like backstage. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Whoa. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos laughs] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: These stairs are a little.. to small for me. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: [Laughing] I’m afraid I’m going to fall backwards. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Ah, great. [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: What are they doing inside here? [Music] [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos laughs] [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: [Holding back laughter] This is amazing. [Music] [Sound of the park] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: After the show is finished, we all got onto the exclusive bus service offered by the park, and headed toward the dorms to eat lunch, and (to) see where the performers live. [Whistling music] [Sound of chickens] [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: So, what’s in here? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: What is that? Are they pets, or.. do you eat them, or..? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Can you pet them? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos giggles] [Music] [Music and sound of people] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: This is the two-floor building, where men and women live on separate levels. It has 20 rooms, and can accomodate over a hundred people; though, saying it’s a tight squeeze would be an understatement. [Music] [Keys jingling] [Music and sound of keys jingling] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Which is your bed? [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs shyly] [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: What are some of your favourite things to do when you’re hanging out in your room? [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: [Laughing] Aww! [Flute rendition of The Blue Danube plays] [Yuzhou Liu (Jingjing) laughs] [Flute rendition of The Blue Danube plays] [Flute rendition of The Blue Danube plays] [Sound of typing on on computer keyboard and the door creaking shut] [Door shuts] [Sound of typing on a computer keyboard] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Hey! [Sound of typing on a computer keyboard] [Chengjiao Shu]: Oh, hello! [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: What’s goin’ on? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: So, how many people live in this room with you? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Do you think, maybe, you can show us some of your friends’ rooms, too? [Chengjiao Shu]: Yes, yes! [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Good/Okay. [Music] [Man]: Hello! [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Nice to meet you! [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Mhm. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: I see (that) you have a lot of, uh, LeBron James on your wall. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: So, you watch a lot of basketball, I take it? [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Well, I really like your room. I mean, do you guys ever sleep in the same room, or you- do you have to sleep upstairs and he has to sleep downstairs? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Mhm. And, what is it that you guys like about each other most? [Aifang giggles shyly] [Chengjiao laughs shyly] [Translator]: He likes that she is very cute. [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Well, it says “I love you” and “My heart belongs to you” above your bed. Where did that come from? [Translator]: Aww, his heart belongs to her! [Chengjiao Shu laughs] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos laughs] [Romantic music plays] [🎵Love is love🎵] [Guitar] [🎵Let’s talk about love🎵] [Guitar] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: And, do you think eventually, one day, you.. would want to have children? [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: What do you think the future holds, for the both of you? [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Well, what- what do you think of organizations that don’t support the park because they believe that, by the performances, it might be drawing negative attention to the community? [Music] [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: After spending a day here at “Kingdom of the Little People”, getting to know everyone, watching their performances, and learning about their everyday lives; I’ve come to the conclusion that the controversies surrounding the park don’t really matter at all. Because here, they found a place where they can really be themselves; and, in the end, that might actually make it a magical kingdom. [Music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos laughs] [Music] [Basketball dribbling and music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos]: Look out! [Basketball dribbling and music] [Man laughs] [Basketball dribbling and music] [Music] [Sound of camera shutter] [Basketball dribbling and music] [Annette Lamothe-Ramos laughs]

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