Sep 22, 2017 05:31 PM

Video: Six Years Old, 16-Hour Workdays – the Making of a Child Star in China

Ask 6-year-old Liu Yuxi why she’s working 16-hour days posing in front of a camera and her father will tell you that’s what it takes to become a child star in China’s hypercompetitive entertainment industry.

Yuxi, who goes by her screen name Lara, is one of the hundreds of children searching for stardom who flock to Beijing during summer breaks. A whole industry has sprung up — with talent scouts, acting gurus, promotion teams and directors who charge parents money to cast their children — to search for China’s Shirley Temple.

Yuxi’s father says he spent nearly 400,000 yuan ($60,940) in the first half of this year alone on costumes, entry fees to pageants and talent competitions and for producers to sign her up for their TV dramas and music videos.

One producer, who asked to remain anonymous, said he charged around 58,000 yuan to cast a child as the female lead in a video series he made for a charity campaign.

“Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that you pay for the role,” he said. “In fact it can be seen as a form of sponsorship. I will accept a child star with money only if they perform well because it’s a big gamble.”

“Every parent wants their child to be famous. Unfortunately, most of the children (who audition for small scale productions) are all far away from being successful. A child artist can only be called a star when he or she is known to the public. Right now, many are just unpopular actors in the cold,” he added. Caixin followed Yuxi to uncover what happens inside China’s many “talent factories” churning out child stars.

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