Sporting a bashful grin in bright-eyed selfies, Fu Jiayuan was an aspiring pop star aiming to become the next teenage heartthrob. That is, until the Chinese teen—who gained popularity as a contestant in a boy band boot camp—confessed that she is actually a girl.
Fu Jiayuan was a participant at a winter boot camp organized by YGN Youth Club, a boy band in China made up of 11 to 16-year-olds. At the boot camp, hopefuls are trained in song and dance techniques as they attempt to become future stars.
Fu’s youthful good looks had won the hearts of Chinese fans during her stint there, but a reveal this week about her gender shocked social media users. According to local reports, the 13-year-old came clean about her gender in an apology on major Chinese microblogging site Weibo on Oct. 11.
“I was young and ignorant. I hid my gender from the company and deceived my fans. I’m sorry again, and hope everyone will give me another chance,” reads a screenshot of one of her posts. According to the image, Fu also promised to never appear in the entertainment industry or on any video platforms in the future.
Her Weibo account appears to be deactivated as of Oct. 14, but some of her old Weibo posts that were reposted on a YGN Youth Club fan Instagram account remain online.
Fu’s confession has gone viral on Chinese social media, with posts containing the hashtag related to her apology garnering over 120 million views in total. Some are shocked that she was offered a contract to attend the idol boot camp without her identity being verified, but most are simply tickled by the absurd story.
Some have dubbed her a “modern Mulan,” a reference to the legendary Chinese heroine who disguised herself as a man to enlist in the army in the place of her old father—a classic tale that has been turned into a popular Disney franchise.
But more people are drawing comparisons between Fu’s story and the 2009 South Korean TV series You Are Beautiful, where a young woman poses as her twin brother to join a male idol group and falls in love with one of the members.
“TV shows really do imitate life,” read one of the top comments on Weibo.
“I can’t believe the K-drama I watched as a kid is coming true like that,” wrote another.
While Fu initially participated in the boot camp in the hopes of becoming a member of YGN Youth Club, she eventually left without joining. Fu’s contract ended a few months ago, said a statement released on Monday by Yiguangnian Media, the company behind the boy band.
According to the statement, Fu and her parents had concealed her gender from the company and claimed that she was a boy at the audition, held virtually due to the pandemic.
There is a growing demand for highly marketable, very young pop idols in China’s highly competitive entertainment industry.
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