Trapped Russian who joined Chinese reality TV show 'by mistake' voted out from contest after months of begging to be sent home
Ivanov, a 27-year old native of the Russian Far East capital, Vladivostok, was invited to sign up as a competitor on Produce Camp 2021 after moving to China to take up a job translating Mandarin, which he speaks fluently. Producers were said to have spotted his fresh-faced good looks and invited him to “take a shot at having a new life” by putting himself forward as a potential boy-band member.
However, things quickly turned sour for Ivanov, who performed under the stage name Lelush, and he grew to resent starring on the show, frequently appearing unhappy and distracted. He even told viewers that “becoming a member of a boy band is not my dream as I can’t sing and dance.” Urging the audience to vote him out, the Russian added that “I hope the judges won’t support me. While the others want to get an A, I want to get an F as it stands for freedom.”
Ivanov was unable to simply quit the show under the terms of his contract, which he apparently signed without reading, and would have been liable for a substantial fine. Were he to place among the top 11 contestants, he would have been contractually obliged to form a boyband.
His downbeat demeanor made him an unwilling star, with Chinese viewers following his bleak performances. One online commenter urged fellow fans to vote for Ivanov, saying “don’t let him quit.” Others backed his bid to escape the show, using hashtags like #freelelush to highlight his plight. Young Russians following the show decried his predicament on the internet, with one saying that “a human being is not a toy.”
Now, the unwilling singer’s ordeal is over. On Saturday, after failing to make the final cut of contestants, footage emerged of ‘Lelush’ reportedly flying home from a Chinese airport. He thanked fans and checked in for the flight that would take him far from the studios where he has spent the past few months.
Ivanov had previously said that he'd been dreaming of opening a Russian-style boutique clothing company in China. It remains to be seen whether he will find himself back in the public eye, this time for something he actually wants to do.
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