Ego pays off
THE name "Sister Furong (lotus)" has recently appeared in the entertainment news on one of the largest portal websites in China, sina.com, together with the hottest news such as that of Tom Cruise's marriage to his young sweetheart on July 4. By June 27, this name had become the most frequently googled entertainment word, receiving about 1.27 million searches, followed by those for top Taiwanese singer Jay Chow.
Sister Furong's fame arose soon after her photos - with farcical poses to highlight her S-shaped curves - accompanied by her narcissistic words from the Tsinghua University BBS were posted onto tianyaclub.com, one of China's largest online forums.
Now thousands of people wait in front of their computers for her newest photos every day, either making fun of her body or condemning her opinions about herself. On the other hand, some speak of her courage and have become her fans. Collectively, they are called the "Furong Cult" and the fans are humorously referred to as "lotus roots."
Furong doesn't have a pretty face but she has the voluptuous figure that most Chinese women don't have - what she describes as: "D-cup breasts, round bottom, a 50-cm slim waist and weight under 45 kilograms. Wherever I go, I soon become the focus of the crowd." That description is not exactly what people see in her photos - she does have big breasts, which people can easily see through her transparent clothing, but she is not slim and even has a sagging belly.
Her biggest interest is dancing, which helped her become known to students in China's elite Peking and Tsinghua universities. Links to the video of her exaggerated dance performance at Tsinghua University were shared among friends through MSN and there is an online site to educate "Furong illiterates."
She also became a sought-after figure by the media, but after several interviews, she kept herself away from the limelight.
When a Shanghai Star reporter tried to contact her cell phone, the call did not get through for the phone had been switched off. She did not reply to the reporter's short message, but she has posted a message on the web, saying that she will hold a press conference soon.
Furong said she has believed she would become famous since she was a little girl because of her special qualities. Yet she never expected that she could realize her dream so soon and be known to so many people within such a short period.
Yu Hai, professor of sociology at Fudan University, sees Furong as an extreme example of an ordinary person striving to become a celebrity.
"To some extent, everyone can find part of him- or herself in Furong," Yu said. "We all want to show off, to make others pay attention to or like us."
Hunger for fame
Sister Furong is not the first "Internet celebrity" to become famous almost overnight.
In 2003, Muzimei (her real name is Li Li) became the forerunner of the trend for female bloggers to gain fame through bold descriptions of sexual activities in their writings or naked photos of themselves. In one of Muzimei's blog stories, she wrote about "wild sex" she once had.
Like Furong, Muzimei is not especially pretty.
"When a person is not the type that always gets attention and is envied but wants to be known, he or she has to realize it in a 'special' way," Yu said.
The Internet celebrities in China, almost all female, have chosen to use their body or sex to become famous.
"The Internet is like karaoke, where everyone can express themselves. But women can use their bodies to gain attention right away. New figures like Sister Furong and Muzimei will appear and they will all climb onto the stage in the same way," Yu said.
Cost of fame
Beijing blogger Wang Yufei thought the incentives for those bold female Internet celebrities at the very beginning might not be the desire for fame.
"They are different from ordinary people so they naturally attract people's attention," she said. She told the Shanghai Star that she never wanted her own blog to be read by anyone beyond friends.
However, online fame did change the celebrities' lives.
Sister Furong has received an audition for a movie and she said she wanted to become a comedienne.
A book by Muzimei, priced at 20 yuan (US$2.40), which contains her diary, poems and short stories, was quickly published after she became well known. Muzimei, who was once an editor of a Guangzhou-based magazine, has been given a job as marketing manager of blogchina.com, the largest Chinese blog.
Zhuying Qingtong, another online star who posted her own naked photos on a BBS, quit her job and charges people who want to set up websites in her name and journalists seeking exclusive interviews, in order to "make a living".
Muzimei and Zhuying Qingtong quit their former jobs because of the pressure from their employers after their online activities became known. Sister Furong's superior has asked her to stop her Internet activities. No matter whether the talk between Furong and her employer has affected her or not, she has removed all her stories from her blog, saying she was tired of people criticizing her every day.