Loewenberg goes by the more pronounceable Chinese name of “Su Fei,” despite its double meaning as a brand of Chinese maxi-pads. Her shtick — with nearly 3.6 million YouTube hits — has landed her in English-language Chinese papers, on the Today Show and even in a Q&A on The New Yorker’s Web site.
After growing up in California hearing stories about her grandparents’ and father’s escape from Nazi Europe to Shanghai, Loewenberg finally decided to move to China herself in 1996 with a teaching program, where she also learned to speak fluent Mandarin and eventually began working as a journalist.
“It was always just part of the story of my family growing up,” Loewenberg said. “There were always these books of photographs there in our living room. But I never got to meet my grandparents, so it didn’t seem real almost.”
She left China in 2001 to attend Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York, but found herself back in Beijing by 2006, working on a documentary film business called Danwei TV with two of her friends, Luke Mines and Jeremy Goldkorn. Only after she resettled in the city, Loewenberg said, did the concept for “Sexy Beijing” materialize.
The show opens very similarly to HBO’s “Sex And The City,” with the camera spinning over tower cranes atop half-built Beijing high-rises, rather than Manhattan’s glamorous Empire State building. Instead of getting splashed by a New York City bus a la Carrie, Su Fei falls victim to a bombardment of bikers, a rolling dumpster and a stray watering hose. Wearing her signature horn-rimmed glasses, Su Fei types stories on her Macbook in between scenes, interjecting voiceover words of wisdom.