CHINA, Sept 14: Feeling trapped in her "boring" life as a member of China's modern workforce, ‘Yaorenmao’ escapes online, where she prances and preens in cosplay outfits for her 1.3 million fans.
Her alternative world is bilibili.com, a Shanghai-based video-sharing platform that has attracted more than 150 million Chinese users with its eclectic mix of user-generated videos and animation largely inspired by the Japanese world of ACG (animation, comics and games).
Spurred in part by a shortage of engaging youth-oriented content in China where Facebook and YouTube are blocked, and media and entertainment outlets are heavily censored, Chinese ACG is developing into a multi-billion-dollar industry, analysts say, drawing investment from tech titans such as Tencent and Alibaba.
And with amateur video uploads booming in smartphone-addicted China, platforms like bilibili are fuelling and capitalising on the ease with which the average Chinese armed with a camera can attain viral celebrity.
The twenty-something Yaorenmao, a pseudonym meaning "cat that bites people", began a few years ago to upload brief DIY videos from her home in the southwestern city of Chengdu in 2011. She dances to saccharine-sweet tunes in the clips, acting out an unfulfilled childhood dream of becoming a dancer.
You can never leave
"I worked like a normal person after graduation (from university), but normal life and work are just too boring," she said, withholding her real name and occupation to keep her two lives separate.
Fans accumulated, often sending gifts or money, which she ploughs back into increasingly elaborate costumes and settings, including a 10,000 yuan ($1,500) trip to Japan to shoot videos during the picturesque cherry blossom season.
Her fans approach her amateurish work "with a generous heart and encourage me because they want to see me getting better and better. It's as if they are getting better and better themselves," she told AFP.
Based heavily on hugely popular Japanese ACG sites like Niconico, bilibili hooks many with its signature live-comment feature, in which waves of user remarks flow across the screen in real time, often obscuring the videos being commented on.
Bilibili chairman Chen Rui told AFP Chinese millennials born in the internet age are increasingly inhabiting the virtual world.
"Everyone is afraid of loneliness and everyone wishes for a better world where you can speak your mind and don’t have to see people you don’t like," Chen said.
"Once you've seen the world bilibili created, you can never leave."