Currently, shooting to fame is a trend in the entertainment industry. Data guides everything – a drama, a variety show, a song…all of these can bring about the birth of a super idol, and the prestige and business value follows soon after. in 2019, the novel-adapted “The Untamed” became this window. This is a story about a young man who grabbed hold of an opportunity. Like other idols born to their generations, his fans multiplied quickly, and he radiated outwards starting from the youths, and finally he gained generational fame. Now everything is declaring, it’s Xiaozhan’s time.
In the summer of 2015, Xiaozhan hadn’t realized yet that he was about to leave the design company started by his teacher. His teacher didn’t think so either, and when he went to attend the variety show, his teacher told him, “Go play, once you get eliminated come back to work.”
The show was called <Xfire>, it’s premise was a large-scale youth development program. When it aired, the rules read, “The 16 selected from thousands of 16-24 year old youths has already received training in secret.” At the time, Xiaozhan was 23 years old — almost at the upper limit.
Xiaozhan just wanted to “go play”. He thought that he would only be there for a read, and that he would be back after a week. As the literary representative in his former university class, Xiaozhan loves to sing, and received many school arts events awards, but never received any dancing and singing training. Having graduated from design, Xiaozhan learned to draw from a young age, but he never thought about being an artist, because “It’s hard to survive, I have to eat too.” He was satisfied with going to work regularly, his life plan was clear: be a designer, do his work well, and start his company.
In the summer 4 years later, the name “Xiaozhan” already means something entirely different: a member of a boy group, the male lead of a hugely popular drama, the one with 22 million followers on Weibo, using a common term in the industry – “top star”. The topics and imagination surrounding him include, Xiaozhan’s visuals, Xiaozhan’s design talent, Xiaozhan’s occupational disease, Xiaozhan’s role Wei Wuxian…
Like other idol stars who broke through in this generation, he has his own records: drama fans mass uploaded their self-made videos on Bilibili, the administrators complained – “I watch him 800 times a day”, so Xiaozhan is teased as the one who “washed over Bilibili”; he was featured on the cover of a fashion magazine and the day the sales begin, the two servers crashed continuously. His popularity only grew into 2020: on Jan. 9, according to Tmall data, Xiaozhan’s Portrait magazine sold 100,000 copies in 3 seconds, and the caption given to it was “fans revive paper journalism.” This is Xiaozhan data.
Xiaozhan said, “Being a celebrity is just a job. I don’t like it when celebrities put themselves on a pedestal; today you’re the interviewer, and today I’m the interviewee. We work together, so that we can both do our jobs. Coming here today to do this photoshoot is my job, and every staff member here is doing that job, just the nature is different.”
Because he’s experienced the ”trials and tribulations” of society, Xiaozhan understands the truth of work and respects society’s division of work.
He has had clients himself, he knows how it feels to be faced with unreasonable demands, so he doesn’t want to become that person. He has standardized requirements for work: complete with high efficiency, have a good result, everyone is working happily and no one needs to serve anyone. And he says, “Once I’m off work I’m done, after that no one come look for me, just let me be alone.”
“You gain some you lose some. Becoming a public figure means that there will be many pairs of eyes staring at you, there will be comments to everything you do. Whether it’s positive or negative, whether it’s true or distorted. Real and fake, isn’t that how this industry is? Whether rumours are real or fake, who really knows?” Xiaozhan said.
At the end of the photoshoot, it was already dark out. Xiaozhan still wasn’t off work, the staff packed up while the manager charged over quickly, arranged for Xiaozhan to get in the car and rush to a rehearsal that night — the time was already pushed back. Our two teams waved goodbye to each other, Xiaozhan was gentle and polite, you still can’t tell if he’s tired. After an hour in the car, he needs to get on stage and sing, then after that, finish trying 20 different outfits.
“I can count on two hands the number of dramas I’ve participated in,” Xiaozhan said, then began to list them off: Battle Through the Heavens, The Wolf, Oh My Emperor, The Untamed, Joy of Life, Jade Dynasty, Oath of Love… Superstar Academy doesn’t count, when he filmed this webdrama with his group members, Xiaozhan was still chubby and he didn’t know what he was doing.
Going into acting was his own idea. When he went to auditions, he hadn’t even seen an acting class. He met the director, for a slip of paper with a plot summary, and had to act. Xiaozhan didn’t find it awkward, if it’s something he’s set his mind to, he will give it his best effort, and try to capture every opportunity. When he joined the film set, he actually became more uneasy, and was more nervous than happy.
Acting and singing is different. Singing is something he had always liked to do, Xiaozhan’s first song since debut was a result of his fans voting. Being watched by fans while on stage makes him want to do better. Acting was a foreign door for him.
In 2018, Xiaozhan was running between filming sets, until The Untamed. This drama was filmed over the course of four months, the directors divided into groups ABC, and they worked from morning to night. Xiaozhan didn’t feel that it was hard, he was fine as long as he could get some sleep. “The job is something I’m willingly doing, so I’ll only feel motivated, and want to do better tomorrow than I did today.”
Xiaozhan likes Wei Wuxian, he thinks he feels alive. In the first month of acting, he would continuously question himself, “Is this portrayal accurate? Will the audience accept this?” Xiaozhan discussed the character with the director everyday. After a month he stopped asking, because he felt like he was Wei Wuxian. It’s very hard for such drama adaptations to be received well, and his hope for Wei Wuxian was, “I hope people won’t dislike this character through my portrayal.”
In addition to drawing, Xiaozhan also learned violin, go, calligraphy, etc. He went to a prominent junior high and high school, but as an art student in a regular school, his math grades were not good.
On a show, Xiaozhan was told to diet. He replied, “I’m not fat, why do I need to diet?” Back then he was 183CM and 75KG. Then they showed him the video, and he realized, “the camera is a scary thing, I look like a ball.” Now he’s 63KG, but this is not the thinnest he’s been.