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The (r)evolution of an internet celebrity

By Raymond Zhou | China Daily | Updated: 2017-01-16 07:09

In the past year and half, many of her early detractors have publicly apologized for their ugly words of prejudice against her.

Each of her articles is followed by an endless string of apologies such as this on the iFeng site: "Sister Phoenix, I was one of those who had ruthlessly ridiculed you. I didn't know it was a complex thing to evaluate someone. I just took the surface for what it is. I have since discovered your talent and your insight and your perseverance.

"I have read all your writings. And I can say that many of those empty-talking experts are just out there for self-gain. Only you have articulated the hardships of people at the bottom of society like us. My sincerest apology to you."

Sister Phoenix, or Fengjie, is her online moniker, patterned on a character in a literary classic. For several years it was a name people loved to hate, or at least to laugh at. A profile in People magazine called her "China's most hated reality star". Indeed, there was reason enough to take her as a joke as she was positioning herself as more or less a clown for the purpose of public attention.

Luo, born in 1985, hailed from a poor village in the hinterland. She attended a three-year college and worked as an elementary school teacher for two years. Then she decided to strike it out in bright lights. Moving to Shanghai, she found that competition was even fiercer in the big city.

She was working at the checkout counter of a supermarket when she began to use the dating game as her platform for self-promotion. She turned herself into an instant laughing stock when she listed her ideal men, which included a couple of Chinese superstars and the US president.

Her outrageous remarks, such as her self-assessment as "one with the highest IQ in 300 years and 300 more years from now", kept her in the limelight, winning her a title "worthy of the Nobel prize in chutzpah". Coupled with her lack of physical beauty as defined by stars, her brazenness stood out glaringly in a culture that traditionally values modesty and self-effacement.