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The (r)evolution of an internet celebrity

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

Luo made her rounds on the nation's reality shows, but rarely made it to the finals. Just as her 15 minutes of fame seemed to be used up-there was a report that television shows that included her were considered "too vulgar" by the regulators and faced a regulatory crackdown-she got a visa to the US.

After a few years as a footnote to the last internet dynasty, Luo reappeared, this time as a contracted columnist for iFeng, a website previously affiliated with the Phoenix television network. Surprisingly to many, she has mellowed.

Yes, she still throws the occasional repartee that blends a superiority complex with an inferiority complex. But when she uses the form and length of writing traditionally for the old media, her persona emerged with more subtlety and maturity. She is able to discuss complicated social, political and cross-cultural issues with earthy humor and sharp insight.

Luo's observations of American society, seen from the ultralow perspective of a wannabe immigrant, and the contrast she provides with Chinese society in flux, have exalted her to a position rarely achieved by anyone with better education or pedigree. She gains a ringside view of the US far from the office towers of prestigious media and relays it to a Chinese public who would never bother with a newspaper, let alone its opinion page.

Maybe Luo had a split personality from the get-go. When she was still playing the dating game, some of her poems surfaced, revealing a sensitive soul and the writing proficiency up to the par of professionals. But they were lost in the crazy whirlwind she had helped whip up around her.

Jane Eyre would not take this route to fame or fortune, but Luo, a product of reform-era China, has even less to fall back on than the character in the Charlotte Bronte novel. She may not have clawed into middle-class respectability yet, but nobody can deny her effort.

For her latest posting on Jan 12, titled "I want your blessings and encouragement", she received a tidal wave of empathy and appreciation, especially from the huddled masses who used to taunt her.

Contact the writer at raymondzhou@chinadaily.com.cn

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