This article originally appeared on VICE Asia
A popular Chinese vlogger, worshipped by her 100,000-plus followers as a young “cute goddess”, was recently exposed as a 58-year-old woman when her beauty cam filter glitched during a livestream. “Your Highness Qiao Biluo", as the woman calls herself, was giving a routine live broadcast on the streaming platform Douyu when the software that altered her appearance to make her look younger malfunctioned, revealing her true identity.
Qiao didn’t realise she was streaming without her digital mask until her viewers started leaving in droves, the BBC reports.
The vlogger was previously praised by her followers for her “sweet and healing voice” and “cute” features, according to Chinese tabloid the Global Times, with some particularly loyal fans sending her more than 100,000 yuan (about $21,000 AUD). Chinese online celebrities of her ilk are known as wanghong, and often attract huge sums of money or virtual gifts from followers.
Qiao’s fans, who seemed to be aware that she was using a filter, repeatedly urged her to show her true self. She insisted, however, that "I can't show my face until I receive gifts worth 100,000 yuan. After all, I'm a good-looking host."
Once the glitch occurred and her identity was revealed, many of her original devotees are said to have stopped following her and withdrawn their transactions. Global Times suggests that most of these followers were "indoorsman": people who spend a lot of time sitting in front of computers, and who—in the case of wanghong—are given the opportunity to interact with “dreamy women”.
Qiao’s Princess Fiona moment did little to dent her online following overall, though. In the wake of the incident, her Douyu profile page has accrued some 650,000 followers—and she’s since claimed that the whole ordeal was in fact a conscious powerplay to attract fame. She’s reportedly started taking advertisements for beauty cameras like the one she used to dupe her followers, and yesterday morning announced plans to release a music album.
China, a nation with draconian restrictions around broadcast media, is somewhat nervous about the growing popularity of live-streaming among its citizens, according to the BBC. More than 425 million people currently broadcast themselves on platforms like Douyu—many of them singing karaoke, or eating strange foods in their bedrooms, and many of them applying face filters like the one used by Qiao.
When reporting on Your Highness Qiao Biluo’s recent beauty cam glitch, Global Times, which is controlled by the Chinese government, admonished that the incident “mirrors China's chaotic online celebrity industry, where no one knows what's really behind the screen, and anything—including illegal information—can be transmitted through the internet.”
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.