How I became Time's Person of the Year

By Wang Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-24 21:22

Last October, I was at the Kunlun Hotel in Beijing to discuss a project with a TV producer. While waiting for a taxi to leave the hotel, I noticed a black leather wallet on the ground. Nobody was around, so I picked it up and opened it.

There were credit cards, a passport and 0. It belonged to an American named Richard Stengel. Why couldn't it have been a beautiful babe?

Figuring he might be staying at this hotel, I asked at the check-in desk and found he was a guest who happened to be in the room. A few minutes later, he stood in front of me.

My English was rusty, but I could tell he wanted to thank me. Turning down the reward he offered, I agreed to a coffee. We used a lot of hand gestures and I gave him my card. "Oh, you are a reporter," he smiled.

I nodded and he looked at the magazine rack. Thinking he wanted to know what kind of publication I work for, I picked up Time and explained to him: "This is the kind of magazine my boss wants to do. Of course, it's still a dream."

Stengel was animated and handed me his card. "You're the editor-in-chief of Time?"

I kicked myself for not practicing my English while in school. I grabbed a bilingual lady at the nearby table and she translated. "I want to be in Time," I told Stengel.

"Why?" he asked. "I want fame, money and attention. Why don't I want to get on a Chinese magazine? Anyone can be covered by a Chinese magazine, but Time is different. Only Chinese politicians piqued your interest. I want to try, and now I've got to know you," I said.

I feared my shamelessness riled him, but he was amused. "Give me a reason why I should write about you," he said.

"Very simple. If I got famous, I can sell books and can auction off my book rights. I've published books before, but they didn't sell. I can also be a singer. It doesn't matter whether I can sing or not. I can be a movie star or TV host. Wherever I go, paparazzi will follow me like flies.

"When I make an appearance, I want to descend on an Apache helicopter. I want my fans to write 'I love you' on giant balloons. I want tabloid gossip about me sleeping with other celebrities so that my name will make headlines every day, on every newspaper, every website"

"But you're so ordinary," he said.

"Once you put me in Time, I won't be ordinary any more. By the time you visit Beijing next year, you'll find my name on giant billboards," I argued.

"You're truly frank. This has been a fascinating trip for me," the senior editor said.

I delivered a box of chocolate to the Kunlun Hotel every day for the following four days. A few months later, I got a letter from Time's editorial team. "Dear Mr. Wang, we're glad to inform you that the title of the Chinese movie Dream Shines into Reality is the most apt description for you. From now on, you can be whatever you want to be: singer, actor, etc. But we have to remind you that it is not necessarily a good thing to get constant attention. But pay attention to our year-end special."

Editor's note: Time selected "You" as its 2006 Person of the Year. Wang Xiaofeng is an award-winning blogger known for his sarcasm and irreverence and featured in Time's special coverage.

(China Daily 01/10/2007 page20)

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