As I stepped into the small cramped elevator with a pound of make-up on my face, beads of sweat trickling down my forehead, and my heart racing like I was sitting front row at a Justin Bieber concert…it started! Alas, no 16-year-old boy with golden locks came dancing around the stage to serenade me and all the other 12-year-old girls. Instead, I heard the words: “CAN YOU FEEL IT?”…
Though, let’s backtrack for a moment…
At the time, I was a student at the Johns Hopkins-Nanjing Center in Nanjing, China studying International Affairs. My days consisted of studying international politics, economics, and law in Chinese. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? YEAH BUDDY! My goal was to work long-term and start a career in China. So with that in mind, I was more focused on my studies and finding a job after graduation than being a reality TV dating show contestant. (The last sentence was Tiger Mom approved!) Yet, the opportunity to appear on a nationally-syndicated Chinese dating show doesn’t come often. I figured, what’s the worst that could happen? I didn’t want to look back and say I had a chance to appear on a Chinese dating show but was too chicken shit to do it. As a rule, I try to seize every opportunity that comes my way and take advantage of unique opportunities that present themselves to me. This was no exception.
Shortly after I decided to take the plunge I decided to meet with one of the producers. Originally, I had met with one of the producers from the Jiangsu TV network for another show similar to “Choose Your Own Adventure”, where they were looking for foreigners with stories or dreams the TV show could make into reality. When the producer also asked me to apply to be on a contestant for “Fei Cheng Wu Rao”, I didn’t even know what the show was or what I’d be getting myself into. I thought to myself, “Okay, dating show, I think I can do that”…
I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous leading up into the taping. I wanted to be super prepared for whatever challenges that might have been ahead. I started to do my homework and watch previous episodes of the show. I started to get intimidated by the difficulty of the questions asked by the girls and how intense certain girls would be in terms of grilling male contestants. Soon afterwards, I found out how difficult it really is to win this show. As I watched previous episodes and saw men get torn apart, I had my reservations about continuing on. It’s extremely difficult to make it to the end, get your dream girl and win a free trip to Hawaii, so in that regard I consider myself extremely lucky. I consider myself a fairly confident individual but the thought of getting chewed out on national television would shake the most confident of men.
In addition, being on stage at times was extremely intimidating and nerve-racking since there is a live studio audience but it’s not taped live. My episode was aired one month after taping. Also, if your Chinese is horrendous or if you’re unable to think on your toes, or just socially awkward on stage… I’m sorry, folks… But there is no rewinding, do-overs, or anything of that nature.
As an overseas Chinese participating on this show, there is definitely added pressure. Chinese is not my native language. Like a lot of ABCs who grew up in the States, our parents speak to us in Chinese and we respond in English. Hence, a working understanding of the language but in terms of adequately expressing myself in an intelligent manner besides ordering what I want to eat and saying “bu yao”… The show was a nice platform to showcase my Chinese and to give ABCs I feel a bit more street cred. A lot of my close friends who I regularly talk to in Chinese would give me shit along the way by saying, “Why did your Chinese suck so much on the show?” Perhaps I was nervous. Maybe it was the KFC 墨西哥肌肉并 I had right before I went on stage…
As an ABC, you’re faced with a lot of advantages and disadvantages in China. I couldn’t get an English teaching job to save my life. They take one good look at my face and assume that my English is not as good as the Swiss-German with blonde hair and blues eyes. Yes, that has happened to me on numerous occasions. Though, an ABC competing on this show has an overall edge since we have the best of both worlds. For a lot of the female contestants on these shows, their biggest worry is that you’re a flight risk. If they see that you have a vanilla face, most times the question is: “What about your family back home? Do you plan on seeing them or returning back to the States?” It’s a valid point. Women in China do not want to invest themselves in a relationship with a “laowai” who is a flight risk more so than an ABC. Also, I don’t think the show wants to promote the idea that white guys can come on this show and easily take away Chinese women. If you’ve noticed, Caucasian men do go far on this show but they are oftentimes cut at the very end for numerous reasons such as, “I’m sorry. I’d rather date a Chinese guy”…
My life post-Fei Cheng Wu Rao has been interesting. Oftentimes when I’m walking around the streets of Nanjing, China I’d get recognized. High school girls would secretly take photos of me and chatter among their friends in the restaurant. I’d get stares and hear whispers as I walk by. Someone called me the “Rain Assassin” cause I was the only man able to walk away with Jiang Yu (蒋雨, Yu means “rain” in Chinese) after so many failed attempts by others. The attention is extremely flattering but I tried to keep it low-key. Though, sometimes the attention was unavoidable. For example, I recently interviewed with a big company and was immediately asked if I was a contestant on the show so to my surprise, my experience has been pretty helpful in interviews. I’ve used this experience quite a lot as a response to the “Tell me something interesting about yourself?”, “Tell me a time when you had to go outside your comfort zone”, and “Tell me a story” interview questions, and I recently landed a gig as an iReporter for Adidas/Youku in China as a result of being on the show. Overall, being on the show has helped me out in a lot of regards.
I want to let you in on a little secret… 99.9% of people can’t find true love off this show within a 1-hour segment. I’m part of the 99.9%. Don’t get me wrong, Jiang Yu is amazing. We still talk and we’re friends. However, don’t expect wedding bells in the near future. Jiang Yu is definitely the type of girl I’d want to be with. Very sweet personality, down to earth personality, very chill and easy going. A lot of people who are spectators of the show come up to me and always ask me “how my girlfriend is doing?” and if we went to Hawaii? Well, I’m here to finally end the suspense. We’re just friends and we didn’t go to Hawaii. :( Each contestant gets a separate ticket to Hawaii. She wasn’t able to go during the time I wanted so alas we did not go to Hawaii together.
Interesting facts that you didn’t know:
- Jiang Yu didn’t use me for my US passport and she doesn’t have a green card.
- Jiang Yu told me after the show that if I lost some weight, I’d look exactly like Wilbur Pan.
- Every single person who comes up to me after watching the show comments on “How skinny I am in person as opposed to when I’m on TV”. Yes, the Camera does add 10 lbs.
- I have no regrets about doing this show and felt that it was an extremely humbling experience.
Though, I have gotten some negative feedback from some viewers of the show. Overall, I was actually really surprised of how many motherfucking haters are on YouTube and Youku/Chinese forums after the show aired. I thought it was pretty funny actually. Here are some of my favorite comments that people have written about me and Jiang Yu on the show. The last 3 comments are my favorite.
- “Fuck this ABC! He took my favorite girl”
- “All for a green card. She is cheap!”
- “I’m okay with the fact that he is an ABC, I’m not okay with the fact that he’s an ugly fatso and there’re still Chinese bimbos who dig him…”
- “小眼睛 肥仔 。中国女孩的最爱”
- “Ew fuck. he’s probably nothing in america and he comes to china and he’s “all that” just cuz he’s a so-called “abc’ . ewwwwww.”
What I love about haters is that they are gonna hate you no matter what… There are probably gonna be a good percentage of people who will hate on this article as well. However, what I’ve come to realize is that one is hated for the same reasons why one is loved. You just gotta gotta be you and not worry about the naysayers, doubters, and haters.
Lastly, I want to say that I got truly lucky on this show. That’s real talk and no bullshit. I had the best-case scenario and am truly grateful for the experience that was Fei Cheng Wu Rao. I got 24/24 in the first round, a free trip to Hawaii, and I walked away with one of the most sought after girls on the show. Just lucky I guess. As cliché as it sounds, I would totally do it again. I would do it in a heart-beat. The main reason why I participated in the show wasn’t for fame, the possibility of a free trip to Hawaii, or even to find a future girlfriend/wife… In the simplest terms, my main motive was experience. Sounds like bullshit, right? It’s not. Carpe diem. I felt very fortunate to be in the position that I was since a lot of guys have tried numerous times to be on the show and failed. I was fortunate enough to be chosen as a contestant. I felt like it was one of those “once in a lifetime opportunities” that you would regret later down the line if you didn’t seize it. In addition, I’m thankful for being able to share my experience with you.