Emphasis on the Hardworking Type
Opening up Zhang Yixing’s tightly packed work schedule, you will find that he’s in screen-dominating mode: From variety shows to movies, from tv shows to various award ceremonies, you’ll see his silhouette figure there. But towards the question “Do you feel like you’re an idol?”, he emphasises NO: “I’ve never really felt myself to be an IDOL. If it’s necessary to give a label for my current status, I’m the Hardworking type.”
Working Hard Is Also A Talent
According to the trademark lines of the fans that give unprincipled protection to idols: “Do you know how hard-working he is?” However, there is this type of idol, his Weibo nickname is “Work hard, work hard, working harder”, and he is Zhang Yixing. He wrote in his very own first book “Established 24,” “Why is it that (I) work hard? It’s because (I’m) scared, scared because of the uncertainty of how to face the future, that’s why I need to prepare more.”
To Zhang Yixing, 2015 has been a year that’s defined by milestones, and one of these milestones, is this year’s phenomenal variety show “Go Fighting!” Before becoming a part of the “Go Fighting Team,” he is a member of the extremely popular idol group EXO with crazed fans, receiving piercing screams and enthusiastic love at airports and concerts. However, in the eyes of the public, he’s just a young man who’s born to be a little attractive. In other words, his level (of popularity) amongst nationals (t/n: referring to China) isn’t sufficient. He said: “While filming “Go Fighting!” when HongLei-ge asked ‘Who’s willing to help me?,’ regardless if it was male or female, old or young, they all raised their hands. When I asked: “‘Are there any Zhang Yixing fans?’ Silence. A lot of aunties asked me: ‘Young handsome boy, what’s your name?’ ‘Hello, my name is Zhang Yixing.’” But now, he can appear on Mango TV’s ‘without nation-wide popularity, you won’t appear’ Double 11 Evening, moreover, as Changsha’s Little Pride, (he) lead the singing of the national anthem before the World Cup qualifying round between China vs Bhutan.</b
Talking about “Go Fighting!” again, his eyes were both shining: “To me, I feel like every episode was a growing experience, every situation and person contains human nature and principles. This show isn’t popular solely for it’s strong entertainment, but by delving into the details that are easily overlooked in humanity and life, it allows those born in the 1990s and 2000s to rapidly comprehend these problems. Just like community college, everyone has to attend (t/n: attending school in order to learn).” It’s kind of like a small piece of positive energy ‘fresh-out-of-the-oven’ that’s equipped by veterans.
“To me, I feel like every episode was a growing experience, every situation and person contains human nature and principles. This show isn’t popular solely for it’s strong entertainment, but by delving into the details that are easily overlooked in humanity and life, it allows those born in the 1990s and 2000s to rapidly comprehend these problems. Just like community college, everyone has to attend (t/n: attending school in order to learn).”
Others that were born in the 1990s are still seeking knowledge at the Ivory Tower (t/n: refers to institutions of higher learning), or beginning to enter the workforce, while Zhang Yixing who is born in 1991 has already attended 7 years of community college. 7 years ago, because of the love and dream of music, the 17 year old youth arrived at Korea’s SM Entertainment alone to become a trainee. To a youth who barely entered second year of high school, a trainee’s world was a risk. That’s why after experiencing several hardships, he promptly grew up: “Everyone can only help the you who wants to mature. No one will beg you to grow up, because this is your own business.” As a SM Entertainment trainee who was easily demonised by the public, he only mentioned casually: “Being a trainee is a magical journey, it’s all written inside my life’s very first book. Can’t say that it was strenuous, but can’t say that it wasn’t strenuous. Can’t say that it was joyful, but can’t say that it was sorrowful. With regards to my life, this experience is absolutely indispensable. It can be very helpful for life.” In the four years he was a trainee, from someone who had no foundation in dance, through hard work, he practiced and became EXO’s main dancer. In everyday life, besides dance practice, there was more dance practice — having a meal was done hurriedly in five minutes. After practicing the amount of time set by the company’s teacher, he himself would also go outside and search for new dance studios to practice. “Of course, there were a lot of days alone in pitch-black nights. Sometimes, I was so tired to the point of lying down on the floor. Once I touched the floor, it was all sweat; sometimes when I opened my eyes, I realise it’s already morning. Sometimes, walking on the streets in the middle of the night, all the stores are closed, and there’s only the indistinct glow of neon lights.” He said he doesn’t know what colour those few years living in Korea is, because he doesn’t know what colour hard work is.
Sun HongLei, who was in “Go Fighting!” with him, and became his close friend due to a serious scene concerning trust, evaluated Zhang Yixing as such: “I’m this type of person — towards people who work hard, I’ll worship them regardless how old they are, even if they’re ten years old. Zhang Yixing is someone who is extremely hard-working. Because I understand dance, with regards to dance it’s entirely dependent on hard work. Like me, my dancing is reliant on talent, my talent is better than that of Zhang Yixing’s, Zhang Yixing entirely relies on hard work. In a high-standard group like EXO, he unexpectedly became the role of main dancer. I worship this type of person, really excellent!”
In the words that Sun HongLei didn’t finish saying, there is another level of (underlying) meaning — and that is, working hard is also a talent. If someone is able to grasp onto and diligently overcome laziness and act on something, this devotion without distractions will become his biggest talent.
“Ba Man” Little Lamb’s Toughened Glass of Heart
(t/n: “Ba Man” is a Hunan term indicative of stubbornness)
Fan Ye’s famous words: “However much slander you can take, is however much praise you can bear.” This phrase is suitable for all celebrities that achieve fame overnight, and Zhang Yixing is no exception. In “Go Fighting’s!” earlier episodes, because of the other brothers’ high level of name recognition within the nation, the show received lots of attention. To the public, it was easy for the slightly more foreign and clueless him to be placed under the magnifying glass of the public. Every word and action triggered controversy, even the way he addressed the seniors as “ge-ge” was interpreted to be “his words are fake, white lotus” (t/n: “white lotus” refers to someone who pretends to be pure and on a morally higher ground). This single phrase started an era of Internet mockery. Once keyboard warriors don’t like the look of you, your crying is wrong, your laughing is wrong, even your breathing is wrong. In the end, even “Bad Uncle” Huang Bo couldn’t take it any longer: “Zhang Yixing being too polite, people say he’s pretending. When he relaxes a bit, people say he has no manners.” And Sun Hong Lei, who protects Zhang Yixing the most, was even more direct: “Zhang Yixing is the one I care for most. He’s very similar to me, I’ve been around a few rounds before returning (t/n: referring to slander, scandals etc), and he’s only 20-something years old.” And he who is 24 years old this year, sees it quite clearly: “To say I’m not upset, that’s false….But when people don’t like you, there must be a reason to it, and this allows for self-reflection. If they purely dislike you, then you can’t do anything either. I’m not RMB (t/n: Chinese currency), not everyone will like me. Just looking at you once, okay, thank you customer, that’s alright, okay.”
“Go Fighting!” allowed Zhang Yixing to gain the nickname “Little Sheep”, which he feels is quite good. “Sheep look like they have a warm temperament, but they also have a stubborn side. Anything that goes against their principles, they definitely will not do, my personality is actually like that.” Using Hunan dialect, it’s said as “Ba-Man” (t/n: strong-headed). In Nan Pai San Shu’s new drama “Lao Jiu Men” (Old Nine Gates), he will be acting as Er Yue Hong who’s character is like that. “Currently, all the roles that I’ve accepted are very similar to myself of the cluelessly-cute style, that’s why accepting the role of Er Yue Hong is a bit of a risk. But I feel that his attachment towards feelings is quite similar to me. I hope that I can portray this role well, and he is even someone from Hunan Changsha, and also an opera actor. The moment I received the script, he resonated strongly with me.”
Zhang Yixing’s usual blankly cute image has also become a huge cute point in the eyes of fans. Some fans who fell for his cuteness followed up on EXO’s various activities, and found that any Zhang Yixing related CUT, besides eating and sleeping, most of the time it was (him) being blank. He mentioned in numerous interviews: “Actually I feel that I am quite smart, it’s just my reaction is a bit slow.” In “Go Fighting!,” his follow PD hit it with one sentence: “He is still younger in age and has less experience. In various game segments, his reaction is extremely slow. But his unexpected specialty is to sell his cuteness. Even privately when we talk, he often acts cluelessly cute.” On B-site, there is a Zhang Yixing related fan video series titled “Zhang Yixing’s Reflex Arc is so long”. In total, there are over 70,000 clicks and the comments exceed 2000. The uploader even kindly uploaded bold captions reminding everyone that “The following content are not still JPG.” Then you will see Zhang Yixing’s iconic Little Sheep expression GIF package, he has his own slow-motion playback. Fans all mockingly commented: “All of this boy’s reflex arc totalled up can circle the globe twice.” “His entire life’s agility has been devoted to dance.”
Aside from Music, His Life is in Power-Saving Mode
In the many forms of art, his favourite is still “music,” this was his original dream. During the cover photoshoot, he who was originally in his clueless-cute power-saving mode, upon hearing the studio’s radio shuffling to his role model Michael Jackson’s song, he immediately started break-dancing everywhere. And whenever he heard certain new music that he enjoyed, he even asked the photographer’s assistant to write down the name of the song so he can download when he goes back (home). “Of course what I will love forever is the never-changing music. I hope to continue to work hard and grow to give a satisfactory answer to life in terms of music. But I will also try even more art forms under circumstances if I have energy, such as drawing. As all art forms are interlinked, through them I hope to fill in the areas where music is insufficient. I’m interested in stage plays too. Previously a master even invited me to Wu Zhen Theatre Festival, but unfortunately my schedule recently is too packed. But next time I must go and learn, including fundamentals of script and culture can all be reinforced.” Although he is so busy now, he still persists to return to Korea to continue learning music composition and other related classes.
“I’m actually quite a hermit. At home, I only have two interests which are playing games and composing music. Currently, I am so busy that I don’t have time to play games. Once there is time, I will write songs, compose music, makes sounds and create tracks.”
“To me, the happiest thing is to be alone in the computer room, listening to a Demo I just finished. Those beats, notes, many many tracks woven together to become one song. This kind of happiness is completely different from anything else. This is the kind (of feeling) where you are creating, the feeling that you’re living.”
At the end of the interview, while he was being blank, COSMO took the chance to immediately use Changsha dialect and asked: “Usually when you return to Changsha, where do you go to eat? “ He replied without thinking at all: “ Po Zi Street! When you turn in, there is a noodle restaurant, and also chicken egg cakes, super delicious!” (t/n: Yixing’s response was said and written in Changsha dialect)
Eh, it seems that in terms of eating matters, he isn’t on power-saving mode either!
Q: While filming for the “Go Fighting!” movie, are there any interesting moments to share?
A: When filming the movie with my brothers, I learnt many things. Every day I secretly observed how they acted out the script and did impromptu performances. But because when we started, I would easily NG, so later I infected everyone and we all NG’d. Xiao Zhu-ge (t/n: Show Luo) laughed until he had a breakdown. Right now when I recall it I still feel so happy. Even geges will NG!
Q: If using animals to compare the “Go Fighting!” crew to, what do you think everyone is?
A: Of course I’m the little sheep. Xiao Zhu (t/n: Show Luo) and Wang Xun-ge would be a big squirrel without any objections. I feel like Master (t/n: Huang Bo) would be a fox. Huang Lei-ge…..mm a little prince (confusing everyone), Hong Lei-ge is a lion! (Nodding repeatedly)
Q: If in future works there is a kiss scene, do you have any specific hopes for a certain type of partner?
A: If there is a kiss scene, of course I would have to pay attention to personal hygiene. Chewing more on chewing gum to prevent misunderstandings, you know. (I don’t know….)
Q: What role would you most like to play?
A: Tyrannosaurus Rex! Ever since I was young I’ve been a fan of Jurassic park. Recently, the Jurassic World movie was also great! Heard that the dinosaurs in the movie are acted out by real people, and they later add special effects. That’s why I really want the challenge of playing a T-Rex. Thinking about the end of the movie where the T-Rex stands on top of the roof and roars towards the skies, it’s too impressive! (This should be history’s most adorkable T-Rex……)
Q: What book have you read recently?
A: Recently, I have been busy reading scripts…. In terms of novels, (my) favourite would definitely be detective novels, especially Sherlock Holmes. If there is the opportunity, accepting similar roles would be so great. You need to know that I watched the first two Sherlock Holmes films in the cinema by myself.
Q: Do you have the habit of cooking? What is your specialty dish?
A: I specialise in a lot of dishes! (Manager reveals: Is it mixing salad?) Actually I’ve always enjoyed cooking for the people I love. Right now, I cook for my mother and the jiejies who work for the studio. I’m hoping I’ll have the opportunity to cook for my girlfriend in the future. If you like Hunan cuisine, I’ll cook Hunan cuisine. (If you) Like Korean cuisine, I’ll make Korean cuisine. If it’s something I don’t know how to make, I’ll work hard to learn.
Q: Your skin is very nice, do you have any secret tips for skincare?
A: Every day when I go home after work, I have to seriously remove all the makeup, but afterwards there really isn’t any secret tips. Just put on some lotion! Actually my skin isn’t that good, I’ll tell you a secret (Manager reveals: You don’t have any secrets), if you see acne on my face, without fail, the previous day I must’ve eaten fried or oily food. But I really love eating those foods, especially fries. That’s why, I’ve limited myself to eat it only once a month, just letting the acne grow for a week or two……
Q: So you don’t avoid any certain foods? You’re not afraid of eating high-calorie foods?
A: Definitely not avoiding any foods. Besides drinking a black Americano every morning to reduce swelling, I normally eat whatever I want to eat. But the biggest problem is actually there’s no time to eat properly. My favourite is still Hunan cuisine, followed by Hong Kong-style cafe-restraunts and Korean BBQ. I feel that currently there are a lot of females who rely on not eating to lose weight, but the most important thing is that everyone is healthy. If you want to stay in shape then you can rely on exercising.
Q: Usually do you have a habit of exercising?
A: Of course! After today’s photoshoot I’ll definitely go to the gym. I already feel guilty because I was so busy yesterday I couldn’t exercise. Normally every day, I have to maintain 30 minutes to 1 hour work-out session. Usually it’s swimming, if there’s extra time, I train on fitness equipment and do high-intensity anaerobic exercise.
Q: Usually if you have time, will you go on TieBa or DouBan to view posts related to yourself?
A: Of course I will, in particular TieBa. My TieBa was already established in 2004. To this year, it’s been 11 years already. I remember at that time I participated in ‘Star Academy,’ and everyone established a TieBa for me. Initially there were 50 fans, and it slowly grew with little steps and reached 1,000,000+ fans today. I hope that my hard work hasn’t let them down.
Q: What’s the most memorable gift that you have received from a fan?
A: There’s a lot ah. For example, hand-made stars, plushies, there’s also a sponsorship for wild animals in Africa done under my name, and also donations to primary schools, etc. Around 2013, I told everyone not to give me gifts anymore. I hope everyone can take care of themselves and their family first, and only if you have the capacity, to help those who need help. This way, I will be very happy.
Q: Fans give you various nicknames, such as, ‘SheepXing,’ ‘DanDan’, which one is your favourite?
A: You forgot ‘Changsha’s Little Pride!’ I feel that I am going, without any egg-pain (t/n: a colloquial term referring to moving forward without anxiety or fear), step-by-step to becoming Changsha’s Little Pride. (Proud Face)
Q: Are you able to show everyone a “Silly White Sweet” (t/n: refers to a blank and cutely sweet) expression!
A: (0o0) Please let me go…..