The Broken Dreams of China’s Wannabe Pop Idols

Inside China’s ultra-competitive fame academies, the chances of making it are brutally slim.

Jiang Yu thought she was destined for pop stardom.

Aged just 20, she was chosen from a lineup of 100 street dancers by a talent scout in her hometown of Kunming in southwestern China. With her angular features, petite figure, and flawless dance skills, she had all the ingredients to be an elite performer.

Soon after, Jiang signed a contract with Star Master, an agency now with over 3,000 performers in its books, including several Mandopop stars. The young woman became a “trainee idol” — just one step from a place in a major act.

“I felt so excited when I knew the company was planning to produce an idol group that would release albums and shoot music videos,” Jiang tells Sixth Tone. “I decided to go for it.”

Jiang traveled to Star Master’s academy in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, and then to another of the company’s centers in Beijing. There, she lived with dozens of other aspiring trainees in a dormitory while receiving hours of dancing and singing training each day.

As her skills improved, Jiang began attending tryouts for televised talent shows. Girls she trained with started getting noticed, and some even hit the big time and attracted millions of fans.

Yet Jiang’s moment in the spotlight never arrived. Four years later, she’s still stuck in the wings, still attending endless auditions — and still earning zero income as a trainee. Her pop dreams appear to be dimming by the day.

“For four years, I’ve been waiting for a chance,” says Jiang. “Countless times I’ve thought maybe I should give up.”

The experience has taught the 24-year-old a harsh lesson about the realities of Chinese showbiz. The entertainment industry has become brutally competitive, with thousands of young talents vying for a tiny number of spots in the country’s pop firmament. Though most train hard for years, the vast majority will fail.

“I’m not young anymore, and I’m still a trainee — it’s so pathetic,” says Jiang. Continue to read the full article here


– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.