As if the joys of fame and fortune were insufficiently capricious, China's online celebrities are now demanding yet more kudos and this time they want "official recognition."
As authorities debated cyber security in the past week, "Papi Jiang," a vblogger from Shanghai, was trying to schmooze her way back online.
China's media watchdog described Papi's use of swear words and language as insulting, and took down much of her content. This came a month after she raised 12 million yuan (1.84 million U.S. dollars) from companies hoping that some of Papi's stardust could infect their products with her pizzazz.
Papi was quick to apologize, and promised to be more careful in the future to "pass on positive energy to the public." The offending content was removed from her clips and a new one was posted the next day on the subject of dieting.
Papi, a graduate from the Central Academy of Drama, began posting videos in August 2015 and quickly gained a huge following for her satirical monologues. The dieting clip garnered more than 2 million views in five days.
Yang Wenxi, 22, said Papi's latest show was not as sharp as before, "but I still love her and will continue to follow her shows."
China's online celebrity culture has spilled over into retail, telecoms, textiles, etc., and certainly fueled consumption. Increased consumption is regarded as a new driving force for China's lumbering economy.
Everywhere in the world, social networks have provided a way for ordinary people to reach a wide audience. Quite simply, many companies are keen to have these celebs endorse their products.
In fact, many online celebs have cashed in on their fame and set trends in fashion, food, and lifestyles. The clothes they wear, the snacks they eat, the games they play and the cosmetics they use, could become the products of choice for their legions of followers, generating untold revenue for businesses involved.
Papi's online empire is now valued at 120 million yuan, with an advertising slot on her channel recently selling for 22 million yuan.
TIME TO REMOVE THE MAKEUP
Liu Yan, CEO of 6.com, a streaming website, estimated there would eventually be 10 million web anchors, compared just 1 million today.
In the meantime, there are risks behind investment in Internet celebrities. Fans might inevitably tire of them, and when creativity dries up, fans will unfollow.
On the day Papi's videos were taken offline, several popular streaming platforms were warned or even shut down by authorities for broadcasting pornography, violence and crime.
Parents are justly worried that, faced with many online examples of "beauty for success," their children may seek easy routes to prosperity and neglect the tried and tested routine of studying hard and working hard.
Gou Yiyong with the Guizhou Academy of Social Sciences in southwest China said that Internet celebrities are already public figures.
"The transition from face to content is a step forward for China's Internet celebrities. But growing pains are not easily avoided," Gou said.