As internet access grows in China, new opportunities such as internet celebrity have emerged. An internet celebrity is an individual whose fame is primarily derived from their Internet presence and followers. It is an industry almost entirely pioneered by young people, but even though most of them live in big cities and enjoy a luxury life, people like Cao Huan has proven it can also extend to more than just that.
Cao Huan, who is an internet sensation at only 25 years old rose to fame by blogging and posting farming videos of his far-off rural community. In the village of Zhanghan where he grew up, it is rare to find young men of his age still living there. Usually, as soon as they are old enough to take care of themselves, most of them head to bigger cities for work.
Cao, also moved out to the southern city of Guangdong at the age of 16 where he worked as a security guard. He used to love watching videos about other internet celebrities on his smartphone, and became inspired.
“Back then my camera work was not good, and I made most of the videos for fun,” said Cao. He finally made his way back to his village and upon his return, decided to focus his videos about his village and the Miao minority community.
“My first video was made in August or September in 2016, it was a hit. On the first day, I had never expected that so many people would like it,” said Cao.
His first few videos attracted hundreds of viewers, then thousands, then millions. Many were grateful to Cao for helping them recollect memories from the villages they have left many years ago.
As for the filming and editing – in the beginning, he did it all himself. After he started making money, he asked his brother to move back home to help. Two years later, with stardom transpiring, Cao hired more people to help and even an agent.
His channel Huanzi TV has five million fans, earning him enough to have a comfortable life. He gets paid per click by platforms who sponsor his videos, bringing in around 800 U.S. dollars a month.
Across China, the live-streaming or video blogging industry is booming. In his village of merely 2,000 people, where they do not have indoor plumbing, let alone full access to the internet, the residents had a tough time understanding Cao’s videos. However, Cao does not shy away from daring tasks, in one of his videos, he braved torch fire sparks to show his viewers the unique Miao torch festival in Yunnan Province.
“The torches are a local [culture]. The more they splash sparks on you, the more you will be blessed,” said Cao. He says he feels blessed with the now two billion viewers who have watched his videos. In fact, he is still overwhelmed by his own success. “I didn’t [have the chances] like those big stars, but when so many people liked my videos, I feel like living a dream,” said Cao.