Cyber celebrities are future of China entertainment industry

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/21 18:18:39

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Cyber celebrities (wanghong) are not yet a well-respected group in China. Many Chinese believe that wanghong are just some uneducated youngsters who have attained quick fame and fortune by posting selfies and bragging about their leisurely lifestyles. But the undeniable fact is that wanghong are having a massive social impact on Chinese society, culture and its entertainment industry.

As an avid user of various social media, about six years ago I started following several bloggers on Sina Weibo; most of them were in the fashion, beauty and entertainment fields. Back then I had no idea that some of these bloggers I was following, many who were a similar age as me, would eventually set up their own companies, turning many of them into billionaires.

Despite the constant criticism aimed at wanghong by traditional media insiders and old-school types, I would say this dynamic social group is inspiring the younger generations in a profoundly positive and uplifting way that conventional media and past generations of Chinese celebrities failed to do.

The unique content posted by these bloggers tends to enrich netizens' spiritual life and expand their outlook on the world, as opposed to merely star-gazing at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, which is what we are expected to do with corporate superstars.

Take my personal experience as an example. I have learned many practical and useful tips, including mastering my makeup skills from beauty bloggers, cooking delicious meals from foodie bloggers, and dressing more elegantly and professionally from fashion bloggers.

Cyber celebrities have the ability to make everyone, including the most ordinary individual, feel that they have the potential to better themselves and become a more skillful person in a particular field. Most of these bloggers were also just amateurs when they started.

But their passion compelled them to study up more in their fields; gradually they became self-taught experts, proving that anyone can be what they want to be, and even achieve fame and fortune from it.

Papi Jiang is one of the most well-known and successful video bloggers in China today. Her early videos were amateurish and of poor quality and unprofessional editing. But she pushed herself to explore more interesting and diverse topics, and then upgraded her video equipment to give it a more professional look. In just a few months, Papi Jiang turned herself into one of the most popular names on the Chinese Interwebs.

Many traditional Chinese elders still believe that studying hard and working harder are the only way to achieve the most important things in life: a steady income, your own home and a good marriage. But these rebellious, independent wanghong have proven that young people can climb China's social ladder without having to give up their personal hobbies or sell their souls to a corporation.

In fact, most cyber celebrities do not come from good family backgrounds, higher educations or have important social connections. They simply gained followers by exploring their unique, creative ideas or specializing in an unconventional skill set. In turn, their success has encouraged millions of average young citizens to do the same.

Admittedly, not all wanghong have achieved instant fame and fortune. Many of them also run side businesses online, such as selling apparel on e-retail platforms. But they are clever in that they model the clothes they sell on their video channels, prompting potential customers to purchase their products. Even if they never become star bloggers, many reap millions in profits simply by selling stuff online.

Bloomberg recently reported that foreign media giant BMG has partnered up with China's former dating site Momo to scour Chinese social media in search of future superstars, and offer the best of them deals.

"Momo will host an annual online competition that its users vote on; the tally, plus performers' followers, help determine the final winners. Over the course of the year, BMG will help groom them for a possible contract and global debut."

Let's just hope this next generation of cyber celebrities continue to use their fame and influence in a positive, socially responsible way that inspires marginalized youth to pursue their interests and dreams.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


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