Vladislav Ivanov reluctant contestant

Vladislav Ivanov was one of 25 finalists on Chinese tech giant Tencent’s Produce Camp 2021 (Photo courtesy of Tencent Video)

A Russian man who joined a boyband competition show on Chinese TV on a whim but quickly regretted his decision has finally been released from his ordeal after making it all the way to the final. Vladislav Ivanov, a 27-year-old part-time model from Vladivostok, was working on the show Produce Camp 2021 as a translator when producers reportedly noticed his good looks and asked him to sign up as a contestant.

Ivanov told the programme he had been asked “if I’d like to try a new life” and agreed, but quickly came to regret the decision. Unable to leave on his own without breaching his contract and paying a fine, he instead begged viewers to send him home and deliberately performed poorly in the hope of being voted off.

The programme concept, which originated in Korea, pits young performers against each other to train and eventually form an 11-member international boyband, chosen by a voting public. Ivanov and his fellow contestants were sequestered in dorm rooms on Hainan island and their phones reportedly confiscated.

Using the stage name Lelush, Ivanov told viewers “don’t love me, you’ll get no results”, and repeatedly pleaded with people not to vote for him. His first song was a half-hearted Russian rap, in stark contrast to the high-pop of his competitors. “Please don’t make me go to the finals, I’m tired,” he said in a later episode.

“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,” the South China Morning Post reported him as saying.

His pleas went unanswered, however, and he was propelled through three months of competition and 10 episodes, plus supplemental digital content. A fanbase which had taken to his grumpy, anti-celebrity persona, or were perhaps driven by schadenfreude, urged each other to vote for him and “let him 996!” in reference to China’s digital industry culture of chronic overwork – 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

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[Thank you to Alex Teitz, http://www.femmusic.com, for contributing this article.]

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