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Danny Wallace: My experience with a Chinese video blogger

Danny Wallace’s absolute favorite Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger, Your Highness Qiao Biluo, offers fresh lessons in the art of faking it.

Until just recently, if you’d asked me who my absolute favorite Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger was, I might not have had a very satisfactory answer for you.

In fact, some of you might even have begun to suspect that I didn’t actually have an absolute favorite Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger at all.

But all that changed during my research for a new project all about lying, when I stumbled across a young woman who immediately became my absolute favorite Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger. Perhaps ever.

Her name is Your Highness Qiao Biluo.

Known in the Chinese press as a “cute goddess”, Your Highness Qiao Biluo became very popular on the social media platform Douyu, amassing an army of tens of thousands of (mainly gentleman) fans whose fascination with the long hair, big eyes and chiseled cheekbones of this woman in perhaps her early 20s was very obviously pure. Many of these people became so enamored by the blogger’s sage advice on make-up and pop music that they would pay her handsomely for her time. One man shelled out nearly £5,000 for just one live stream, so whatever she’d said was obviously deeply useful to him, and I hope he uses that wisdom as wisely as he uses his money.

But in the last week of July this year, a problem.

Your Highness Qiao Biluo was livestreaming as usual, chatting amicably with another blogger while attempting to share a video. She was wearing a shirt with love hearts on, and perhaps she was a little distracted because she didn’t notice a slight technical hitch. A technical hitch that affected many of the filters that she’d been using. Filters that she’d employed to make her eyes a little bigger, her hair a little shinier, her surroundings a little more impressive and heavenly, just little things like that.

Anyway, it turns out those filters were quite important to her brand. Because the very second they disappeared, her fans were very surprised indeed to see instead a 58-year-old woman sitting on an office chair in a beige room.

Well, there was uproar. Who was she? People began logging off in their hundreds. Before long, 50,000 people had vented their frustrations on her hashtagged name. There was talk of legal cases. Her account was suspended. Her crime? She lied to us.

They must have known, of course. They couldn’t have thought she really looked like that. She had strayed into ‘uncanny valley’ – projecting an image that on some level we instinctively sense can’t be real. But the collective fury brought about by something so basic (you lied to me!) is a powerful thing.

We’re all guilty of it, on some level, of course. We all curate our own little museums on Instagram, packed with sunsets and dog walks on beaches and sideways glances ‘caught unawares’ in impressive places. Though I often go another way, which feels good but can backfire. I recently took a picture of some onion rings on a baking tray, entitled “And I call this dish ‘Ooooooooo!’”. It was this very honest portrayal of my own home life that led to the actor Kate Beckinsale deciding to unfollow me almost within seconds.

We are at a point in time, though, where lying has become the norm and shame is no longer guaranteed to follow it. 10 years ago, a lie from a politician could end a career immediately. Now, as we stand in a hurricane of lies, we manufacture a little outrage with what little energy we have left, shrug it off and wait for the next one to land. Certainly, Your Highness Qiao Biluo does not seem to have been particularly affected by being caught out. She recently proudly revealed that all the publicity has led to her attracting more than half a million new followers. There’s talk of a collaboration with a ‘beauty filter’ company. And now, the ultimate accolade: she’s made it to the pages of The Drum.

All of which means that perhaps I have to adapt to the times and refrain from posting pictures of onion rings on baking trays. I will buy a dog and move near a beach. I will employ someone to follow me around all day, catching me unawares near fountains as I sip perfectly-poured lattes and read the Wall Street Journal. I will find a filter that will give me freakishly huge eyes. Maybe then I can win Kate Beckinsale back.

Until then, I suspect there is suddenly a gap in the market for a brand new Chinese beauty and lifestyle video blogger.

And his name is Your Highness Danny Wallace.

Danny Wallace is a bestselling writer and broadcaster. His latest book, F*** You Very Much, explores why people are so rude.

This piece was first published in the October issue of The Drum, guest-edited by Rankin. The issue explors truth-telling in the advertising industry and includes interviews with Carole Cadwalladr, Sir Martin Sorrell, Oobah Butler, Munroe Bergdorf and Oliviero Toscani; along with comment from Jonathan Freedland and Matthew Todd. Get your copy here.

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