Freed from Chinese boyband competition, but reluctant Russian idol Lelush is still stuck in the limelight

Lelush seen walking around Changsha on May 11, enjoying a bowl of smelly tofu.
PHOTO: Weibo, Instagram/bogatcio

He has finally been liberated from the Chinese idol survival competition Chuang 2021, but handsome Vladislav Ivanov — better known as Lelush the sulky Russian man — hasn't been able to tear away from his adoring fans' attention just yet.

It's been over two weeks since the final episode was streamed live and he "knocked off work", but there hasn't been a day without his name appearing on the top trending topics on Weibo, China's social media site.

While the 27-year-old part-time model officially goes about his daily life now, seemingly inane hashtags such as "Lelush goes window shopping", "Lelush goes for a stroll", and "Lelush what's good in Chongqing" continue to dominate social media, as fans find amusement in how he's been celebrating his newfound freedom.

Even his rejection of an interview with BBC didn't go unnoticed.

"He's probably thinking, 'I've finally knocked off work, you want me to come back again? Impossible'", fans wrote.

Lelush (left) with his trademark glower. PHOTO: Screengrab/Weibo

Others joked: "After Teacher Li was released, he doesn't even respond to BBC. Teacher Li: Out walking, don't look for me." 'Teacher Li' is a polite way for fans to refer to Lelush.

Since the competition ended, he's appeared on Happy Camp, one of China's most popular variety shows, today (May 11) as well as in an endorsement for Luckin Coffee.

A promotional video for the latter, uploaded yesterday, sent netizens laughing over his signature glower and deadpan voiceover.

In contrast with fellow competition trainees Hanyuda Amu and Kiuchi Yujin, Lelush — who speaks Russian, Mandarin, and English — appears impossibly gloomy as he recited the promotional taglines. 

The ad even included a scene at the end where he asked the camera if he could leave already.

He also attended a photoshoot in a dramatic costume on Thursday (May 6). 

Hahahaha, he drinks it so emotionlessly. PHOTO: Screengrab/Weibo
An emotionless liking bot. PHOTO: Screengrab/Weibo
The three of them are so cute hahahahaha. PHOTO: Screengrab/Weibo

Lelush shot to internet stardom (and memedom) earlier this year after he was unwittingly dragged onto the idol training show — where he was made to attend a boot camp that saw him and other hopefuls undergoing rigorous dance and singing training with their phones confiscated — for three long months.

He had originally joined as a Chinese teacher-translator for two of the Japanese talents, but agreed to take part as a contestant when the show did not have enough trainees, thinking he would get kicked off almost immediately.

His dour personality and sulky face struck a chord with the young Chinese working population, who dubbed him "the most miserable working slave". Many found his extreme sense of defeatism similar to their own.

They joked: "If I have to work tomorrow, Lelush has to continue attending camp!"

Despite his repeated pleas for fans to stop voting for him — which would allow him to leave the show without paying a hefty fine for breaching his contract — they loved him so much that they continued voting for him, keeping him in the show till the finale.

The moment the show ended, he was spotted running towards the exit arms wide open and the show's staff chasing after him.

ALSO READ: Russian model wows audiences on Chinese boy band show — but he says he just wants to go home

rainercheung@asiaone.com