Teen idol Wang Junkai makes waves with new chapter in life. Yan Dongjie reports.
Wang Junkai, Chinese boy band TFBoys' oldest member, cuts his 18th birthday cake, and sings with a kid, in a recent celebration event with fans. (PHOTO BY YAN DONGJIE / CHINA DAILY)
Singer Wang Junkai, from Chinese boy band TFBoys, is at a turning point.
Following a massive 18th birthday celebration with his scores of fans, the teen idol is completing his freshman military training and getting ready to face college life.
"I didn't have the time to figure out how I really felt about becoming 18 as I've been too busy with work and studies ...But I have been longing for this day," Wang, the oldest member of his band, penned in a diary entry that was released to the public.
"It's like a ceremony, after which I'll enter the world of adults and say goodbye to my teenage years."
On Sept 21, Wang's fans put together nearly 100 activities, such as flying hot air balloons labeled with his name in Turkey, to mark his 18th birthday. There were also more than 30 related events that included beneficiaries such as African elephants that were being adopted to protect them.
Wang, widely known as China's answer to Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Bieber, became the first Chinese celebrity to have his name "sky-typed" and seen over the Hollywood sign in California, according to his fan group Kaijia. The fans hired five pilots to mark the sky with trails that formed Wang's name, a heart and the number, 18.
Other birthday celebrations included adopting endangered marine animals and renting a satellite that will carry his picture "around the universe".
Wang, who is attending the Beijing Film Academy, says he is looking forward to his new student experience but will also "remain true" to himself.
He tells his fans he has been getting used to dormitory life with his new classmates.
(PHOTO BY YAN DONGJIE / CHINA DAILY)
"I will be studying acting but I will keep practicing singing as well, and I still have plans to hold concerts in the future," says Wang, adding that he will aim to balance his work with his studies.
TFBoys, one of the most popular bands in China, had its debut in 2013 when Wang was 14 and the other two members, Wang Yuan and Yi Yangqianxi, were 13. The boys, with good looks that complemented their singing and dancing aspirations, quickly struck a chord with audiences.
The band now boasts more than 20 million fans, according to its contract agency, Time Fengjun Entertainment.
TFBoys has also proved to be popular with many parents in China.
Tian Ye, whose teenage daughter is a fan of the band, says her girl follows its singing and dancing closely but "also studies hard and tries her best in everything that she does. She says 'if my idol can do it, I can do it', so, why not let her be?"
Wang Junkai is well aware of his influence on the public. "You are a positive influence on people. They know that if this teenager can do things well, so can others. I am bringing this energy to the public and that's one of my main responsibilities."
"Some people might question whether it is worth spending so much time on these celebrities and wonder if it might be better to focus on the activities, like charity work," says Jiang Mengnan, 23, who is pursuing a master's degree with a United Nations program.
"But being their fan for more than two years, I have learned a lot from these boys. It is not only about being hardworking and remaining humble, I also care more about the charities they are helping out and the issues they are concerned about, including education, environment and poverty alleviation."
The positive influence of celebrities such as Wang and his bandmates on fans and society is also becoming more obvious and widespread.
"Normally the idols of popular culture are expected to act as role models for the younger generation, but it isn't fair to lay the burden of moral education barely on their shoulders, given the fact that they're mostly adolescents themselves," says Chang Jiang, associate professor with the Journalism and Communication School of Tsinghua University.
"If the idols have good personalities, are fond of philanthropy or are vocal on public interest issues, it would be perfect. But again, that's our expectation. It's not their duty to do so."
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