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Lu Han: Rising to Stardom

王烨昇 Johnny Wang 2016-11-30 16:49

Lu Han Effect 


The name, Lu Han, seems to have exploded out of obscurity directly into the stratosphere of the collective Chinese consciousness. You may not have heard of him a year ago, but now you can hardly step out of your door without hearing it or seeing his face. 


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His fans are fiercely devoted and mob his Weibo posts whenever they appear. On the morning of the first day of 2016, a post by Lu on Weibo harvested 720 thousand likes and 240 thousand reposts and comments. While such a response would be a great achievement by almost any other celebrity, it’s just an average day for Lu. Previously, one of his Weibo posts received more than 13 million comments, setting a world record that went down in the Guinness book of World Records. His catchphrase: “Hi, darling”, even directly took a new e-commerce brand into popularity, driving many investors to make up their mind to upgrade cooperation within 24 hours and invite him to join as a shareholder. 


Before the release of Lu’s first movie, Miss Granny, the director Chen Zhengdao admitted to not knowing the now ubiquitous star. However, when Lu joined the cast, Chen and the film crew were shocked when news of their hotel location leaked to the public, resulting in a sea of fans turning up and surrounding the premises day in and day out. Experienced actress Gui Yalei even joked: “ After all these years working as an actress, I finally learn the feeling of being a superstar thanks to Lu Han.” 


Run into Debut 


Success rarely happens overnight, but in Lu’s case, it certainly came close. In his youth, Lu focused on playing football and worked hard for many years in hopes of becoming a professional football player. The thought of going down the acting route would have shocked him then, as he revealed: “There are other students in the class who played in band, but for me, at that time I despised those interests and thought playing football is more masculine.” 


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While Lu trained hard to achieve his dream, in the end he gave up the pursuit following opposition from his parents. “In their opinion, being an athlete was too physically taxing and dangerous,” Lu recalls, “They just wanted me to go to college and get a decent job that will allow me to support myself.”


The life-changing moment in Lu’s life that set him down his current path occurred when he was 18. That year, he went to study abroad in South Korea and was approached by a talent scout while walking down the street. Nobody back home had expected that the boy who dreamed of being a footballer would end up in a boy band. “A classmate of mine in junior high texted me saying ‘I thought you went to South Korea to be a football player, but to my surprise, you became a singer.’”


Emerging Approach


The way that Lu rose to fame differs from many other stars. But maybe his experience of the reality show Running Man leaves some clues. In this TV show, Lu showed audiences a more approachable and friendly image, even earning a new nickname: “Stupid Deer” (“Lu” means deer in Chinese).


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The baby-faced singer/actor managed to do spectacularly poorly at solving puzzles, yet this potentially career-damaging performance conversely left viewers with a “cute”, “naive”, “upright” impression, and captured the adoration of the show’s numerous viewers. Perhaps this is exactly the “unusual way“ of Lu Han. In addition, Yang Zishan, who starred with Lu in Miss Granny, said that his most captivating feature is not “naive, good-looking, or sweet”, but rather, shy: “During a scene, he said to me ’why do you always bow, is it a long time that you haven’t hung out with a boy?’ As he finished saying the lines, his face turned red immediately.” When mentioning this small detail in the interview, Lu’s face turned red again, and he begged, “I am a really shy person.”


In addition, according to industry insiders, what Lu does on Weibo plays perfectly into the public’s expectations of him - being a bit dim and self-deprecating and all the while endearing himself to a huge audience of fans.


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For an actor, gaining such immense popularity with barely any notable works under one’s belt would have been inconceivable from the perspective of traditional idol making. At present, besides starring in the movies Miss Granny and the Great Wall, Lu is now highly sought-after by advertisers. This seemingly backwards process of becoming a huge hit on social media first, and then turning that popularity into tangible work would have been hard to imagine just a decade or so ago, but it increasingly becoming the norm for a world obsessed with social media and the reality-TV style lifestyles of the new generation of “wang hong”.


In this regard, financial writer Wu Xiaobo commented, “this is an ongoing, very interesting thing: a new star-making model by the Internet has made its way to impact Chinese entertainment economy.” 



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