While Produce Pandas excited audiences and sparked discussion about how a pop idol should look, some taunting also appeared online. Users of China’s Weibo microblog seized on the Chinese word for panda, a homonym of which appears in the Chinese name for the Japanese horror movie Ring, suggesting that watching them dance was similarly frightening. Mr. 17, the band’s main dancer, was the oldest contestant in the competition at age 31. He had been discovered on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, where he posted clips of himself dancing in pajamas or while holding a bowl of rice.
He nicknamed himself “17” after his favorite age. The former petroleum company worker said he doesn’t feel old, but admits that after rehearsals, “I felt my energy was emptied.” The five were solicited from over 300 hopefuls by Beijing-based DMDF Entertainment, which wanted to build a band that would be rotund and approachable as well as inspiring. Husky, who worked in IT, thought he would fit in perfectly because he has been chubby since primary school and has failed repeatedly to lose weight.
“I often work out one day then take a rest for the next three days, so the result is clear that I gained some weight instead,” he said. The point is “stay in shape (and) not to lose weight, but to lose fat.” Echoing Husky, Cass said the upside to being on such a team is that they don’t need to abstain when it comes to food. “We don’t mind eating like a horse. I feel sorry for the ‘little fresh meat’ bands whose members must follow a diet to stay slim. I feel great whenever they look on enviously as we dig in!”
Team leader DING quit plus-sized modeling when he heard about auditioning for an “XXL” boy band, saying, “I feel this is probably the closest I can get to being on a magazine cover.” The five are now working on a new album, with songs including “Pursue Your Dreams.”
“Saddle up on the horse and pursue your dreams. Don’t idle your time away,” the lyrics go. Vocalist Otter, who has idolized the South Korean boy band Super Junior since he was 7, never thought he could be in a band that lives and performs together, and more importantly, encourages ordinary folk. “I hope people will feel encouraged when watching our performance,” he said. They can think, “If Produce Pandas can make a breakthrough and perform on a bigger stage, then ‘why can’t I?’”