What Happened: Actor and ambassador for Tissot, Dior and Kiehl’s Arthur Chen Feiyu, became embroiled in a sex scandal this week, after compromising photos of the 22-year-old celebrity were leaked via social media. Chen, who is the son of acclaimed film director Chen Kaige, best known for his film Farewell My Concubine, came under fire for engaging in an illicit affair with a fan, also known as shuifen 睡粉 in Chinese slang.
Besides his father’s storied film canon, Chen Feiyu is famous in China for being a “traffic idol,” a term used to describe “fresh-faced” male and female celebrities who often front campaigns for beauty brands targeting a wide female consumer base. Chen also recently starred in the popular drama Lighter and Princess (点燃我, 温暖你), a series about university students who fall in love.
Though brands like Dior and Tissot have yet to comment on the matter, Chen and his management company swiftly released an official statement admitting that the star had indeed engaged in a “relationship” with his fan when both were reportedly single. The statement asks that the public cease disseminating and sharing the actor’s illicit private photos.
The Jing Take: Despite issuing an official statement with his management company, widespread backlash and fan outrage against Chen Feiyu has already begun. “How can you share this declaration? Is this a statement of your resign/withdrawal from the industry?” wrote @哎做什么做什么少管我, whose response received an overwhelming 141,000 likes. Another reply to Chen’s statement read: “So why did you pretend to be single all this time?” wrote @三岁就会把妹_, with 96,000 likes.
China’s fan economy is a major driver behind entertainment, food, fashion and beauty retail. Traffic idols such as Chen Feiyu — who has 13.13 million followers on Weibo — rely heavily on their fan bases to rally, support and consume the products, services and content they promote. China’s idol economy was worth about $724 billion (RMB 4.94 trillion) in 2021, and will grow to $940 billion (RMB 6.42 trillion) by 2023, according to expert forecasts.
Given traffic idols’ youthful and chaste public image, fans often expect their favorite stars to behave ethically, if not with restraint and good form. Chen’s scandal stands to greatly impact the actor’s earning power, as well as the effectiveness of the brand campaigns he participates in.
While Chen’s scandal caused fan outrage due to his perceived hypocrisy and misconduct as an idol who presented himself as single, if not virginal, other recent scandals including Kris Wu’s rape charge and subsequent 13 year jail sentence have rocked China’s entertainment circles. Not only have they raised questions about what goes on behind the scenes of the industry, but they have fueled the government’s ongoing crackdown on idol culture.
Additional reporting by Huiyan Chen
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.