Youth With You, now in its second season, is an iQiyi talent competition/reality show that aired in March, during the COVID-19 lockdown, and became an instant hit in China. The premise of the show is simple: select nine out of a 100 trainees to form a new all-female pop group, with the show’s vast audience casting votes on who moves forward and who doesn’t. It’s an inviting setup that is meant to create buzzy topics online and incubate fan groups.
The success of the show mirrored another female reality idol show, Produce 101, which aired in 2018, showcased its potential to create budding fashion stars. Yang Chaoyue, who finished third, has become a national sensation for her naive personality. She was invited to attend the Paris Fashion Week and was seated in the front row at the Miu Miu catwalk. Meng Meiqi, who was the winner of season one, was not only spotted at a Louis Vuitton event, but also became a brand ambassador for Tom Ford lipstick and Giorgio Armani perfume products.
Youth With You is considered iQiyi’s attempt to garner the wider international audience. It invited the Thai rapper, Lisa, from the South Korea girl band Blackpink to be its resident dance mentor, which has helped her attract the attention of fashion publications and has been dubbed the new “It” girl. Other super star mentors on the show include: the Chinese singer and songwriter Cai Xukun; the Taiwanese singer, actress, and television host Ella Chen, and the Chinese pop singer Jony J.
Like Lisa, Cai Xukun is well-known in the fashion world. Ranked no. 4 in March’s celebrity ranking, he is also the new face of Prada in China and was featured in the brand’s Chinese Valentine’s Day 520 campaign. Cai Xukun first rose to fame after appearing on the hit reality show, Idol Producer, and then became a leader of the boy band Nine Percent. He had multiple No.1 hits on the Chinese music charts, and with over 27 million followers on Weibo, he’s become the latest heartthrob among Chinese youth.
Another dark horse on the show, Yu Shuxin, a trainee who is currently ranked first in season two, went viral on Chinese social media for her exaggerated reaction to performances on the show and her dramatic personality. She has been referred to as the copy of Yang Chaoyue, a Chinese teen idol, though it’s said they come from different backgrounds. Yu is more a Fu’er Dai, which is a Chinese term for the children of the nouveau riche in China and comes from a financially well-off family and is often seen wearing head to toe luxury labels.
While some fans complained that the show is now overly focused on individual participants and highlighting the drama of competition to build more social hype during the home quarantine time in China, others feel that it has lost the authenticity and surprise elements that made it so popular in the first season. However, time will tell if season two of Youth With You will create more fresh-faced fashion darlings.