Who is she?
Yamy, whose real name is Guo Ying, found fame when she appeared on the reality show Produce 101 on Tencent Video. With her versatile rapping and dance background, the 28 year-old Guangdong-native was voted onto the 11-member pop band Rocket Girls. But just two years after its formation the group announced in late June that they had parted ways.
Why is she in the news?
Last week, Yamy wrote an emotional weibo post detailing the emotional abuse she claims to have endured from Xu Mingchao, chief executive of JC Universe Entertainment, her talent manager.
“Since Produce 101, I’ve had netizens calling me ugly and old,” the former leader of the girl band wrote. “As an artist, I know that I can’t escape criticism… But the self-confidence that I painstakingly built up crumbled three months ago. Xu Mingchao, the boss whom I trusted and relied on the most, asked all the staff to talk bad about me during a meeting.”
She went on to post a voice recording which included Xu criticising her looks. In the clip Xu could be heard saying, “Tell me. Do you think Yamy is pretty?… She’s really ugly. This is the truth. What else is there to say? She’s so ugly. She’s really, really ugly. She’s so ugly, and that’s the truth. Is there anyone who doesn’t acknowledge this?”
He went on to make fun of her fashion choices. “Yamy thinks she’s stylish but do you think she’s fashionable? Every time she shows up in the office she dresses like a hedgehog… She was never stylish,” he mocks.
According to Yamy, it is not the first time Xu has verbally abused her. “You’re the boss and I’m just one of your staff. Perhaps I won’t be able to earn [a speck of] the money that you’ve made in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that my job is worth less than yours. You might not think I’m beautiful, but that doesn’t mean you can trample all over my dignity,” she wrote.
An ugly exchange
After a torrent of criticism, Xu published an open letter to Yamy on social media. But instead of saying sorry he accused her of using the voice recording as ammunition in a bid to cancel her contract with his agency. “If your only motive is just to break the contract, there is really no need for this big publicity stunt,” he wrote, adding that he would not apologise to the pop star.
Interestingly, there were supporters of Xu’s position, who claimed that, as a manager, he has the right to critique his artist. “When we talk about Yamy we are not talking about her as a person but Yamy as a product. For a lot of these ‘traffic stars’ [i.e. young celebrities that generate a lot of traffic on social media], image, strength and even personality are all attributes of a product that the company creates,” one netizen argued.
Others pointed out that Xu’s comments exemplify the kind of everyday sexism that many women in China endure. “Being judged for their physical appearance is something almost all women have experienced when growing up. Some men feel like they have the power to critique – and to demean – womens’ appearances based on their own aesthetic and taste. In fact, a lot of men deliberately trample [on women] to maintain their male privilege and superiority,” commented Jiemian.
As the row continued to worsen this week Xu threatened to take Yamy to court if she insists on breaking her management contract.
Insiders said the fracas did not bode well for the young star’s future: “A lot of celebrities have broken up with their management companies in the past but they have all had to pay an enormous amount of money for terminating their contracts or risk being ‘frozen’ [i.e. seeing their jobs cancelled]. That can ruin the career of someone who just got their start in the business. Perhaps, as Yamy has predicted, she will be relegated to the role of a backup dancer again,” warned Tencent Entertainment.
“After Rocket Girls disbanded, all the girls now have to rely on the resources of their management company to stay in the business. Yamy’s termination of the contract at this time means she will lose the opportunity for her career development.
From this perspective, Yamy has already fallen behind the other members of Rocket Girls significantly. If the lawsuit drags on, after a year and a half, who is going to remember her?” another entertainment critic warned.
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