Fatty - the face that launched 1,000 clicks

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-15 06:27

Watch out Harry Potter, here comes Harry Fatter.

Most entertainers have to jump through hoops to get media exposure, but this young man was catapulted to celebrity status with just one photo.

'Fatty' Qian Zhijun has sparked a burst of image-doctoring online, as shown in the posters for the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. [China Daily]
More Photos of Xiao Pang

On a spring day in 2003, Qian Zhijun, 16, was attending a traffic-safety class. As he stood among a group of classmates, he happened to glance sideways. The angle proved irresistible, someone snapped a picture, and a star was born.

This photo soon found its way online. Something about the Shanghai youth's plump, reddish face that squint with just a hint of contempt captivated netizens. Without knowing his name, identity or the circumstances in which the photo was taken, people dubbed Qian "Fatty" (Xiao Pang).

What followed was a burst of photo-altering creativity that exceeded anything the country has seen. Fatty's face became a favourite for PhotoShop practice. If there is some conspiracy afoot, Adobe, which makes PhotoShop, must be behind it.

Fatty's face replaced such iconic visages as those of Harry Potter, Austin Powers, Jackie Chan, Marilyn Monroe, and even the Mona Lisa. Whenever a blockbuster makes headlines, one can expect the Fatty edition of the poster to follow close on its heels. For Zhang Yimou's Hero, Fatty stood in for all the superstars who got top billing.

Fatty was unaware that his likeness had been popping up on hundreds of thousands of websites until the day he wandered into a cyber caf and found himself sitting face to face with himself or at least his face perched atop the shoulders of some of the world's best-known celebrities. Embarrassed, he left with a blush.

Fatty thought of suing, but he didn't know who had taken the photo and posted it online. And none of the later recreations was signed, either.

That's when he noticed that people were laughing out of goodwill. "They like me! They really, really like me!" he might have gushed from behind the podium at the Academy Awards.

He soon became a Fatty connoisseur. "I like it when they put me on the body of heroes, such as Russell Crowe in The Gladiator. But I hate it when they place me on the shoulder of naked women or when the touch-up job is terrible," he said.

He said his idol is comedian Jim Carrey. As soon as this information became public, posters of Bruce Alfatty and Fat and Fatter appeared online.

With his image still in the limelight, Fatty has moved on from high school to vocational school. Currently he is working as an intern at a petrol station, earning somewhere north of 1,000 yuan (US$125) a month.

Fatty, who weighs some 100 kilograms, is tempted by the prospect of a career in the entertainment industry. Yet, despite the thousands of fan clubs dedicated to his face and tens of millions of web clicks, he has not made a single penny from his enormous exposure.

"It would be nice to work as an entertainer, even though it'll mean I'll have to give up some of the pleasure of being a regular guy."

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