Are China’s “Little Fresh Meat” Idols Losing Their Luster?

Major platforms like iQiyi and Tencent are recruiting diverse faces for their competition shows. Does this mean China’s idol aesthetic is changing?

Among a hundred idol hopefuls, five boys stand out.

Well, “boys” may not be the right word to describe them. “Men” is perhaps more appropriate, considering the oldest of the quintet is 31, and even the youngest looks more mature than his doll-faced peers. Sporting facial hair and tracksuits in the opening episode of Youth With You 3, the third season of iQiyi’s hit reality show, the Produce Pandas seem more like misplaced staff members than competitors at first glance.

Dubbed China’s “XXL boyband,” the singing and dancing group certainly doesn’t fit the usual mold of male celebrities. Yet, with the prevalence of China’s “Little Fresh Meat” aesthetic over the years — thin, dainty boys decked out in extravagant outfits — many of the show’s viewers found them to be a breath of fresh air. Others, however, complained that they were lowering the standard for idols with their heavier, scruffier appearances.

Since 2018, survival shows like Youth With You 3 have become incubators for the country’s next KOLs, helping multi-hyphenated talents amass large followings and gain the attention of global brands. At the same time, fashion and luxury names have also been eager to collaborate with these youths, as their dedicated fans are often willing to shell out millions to show them their support.

So, with idols playing a starring role in brand marketing strategies, what does it mean when mainstream programs like Youth With You 3 and Tencent’s Chuang 2021 start showcasing contestants that go against beauty conventions? Here, Jing Daily examines whether China’s idol scene is becoming more diverse and what opportunities a change could offer luxury brands. Continue to read the full article here