A popular video app offers rural celebrity hopefuls a taste of fame

It’s valued at over 2 billion USD, has more users than the population of the US and UK combined, and is the fourth most popular app in China. But if you’ve never heard of the live-streaming app Kuaishou (快手, literally “Fast Hand”), you’re not alone.

On Kuaishou (or Kwai, as the English version is called), the stars are rural nobodies and their acts are worlds apart from the attractive urbanites paid to document branded lifestyles on mainstream apps like UpLive, YY, and Six Rooms, or celebrity app Huajiao. On Kuaishou, instead, there’s the 46-year-old woman who made a living eating everything from light bulbs to bugs and cacti; the heavily obese nine-year-old whose mother filmed him swigging from a beer bottle, carrying a lit cigarette; the 15-year-old proudly displaying her baby bump.

It is characters like these that have earned Kuaishou an unenviable reputation of being coarse and exploitative, an image that its CEO, Su Hua, takes issue with. “In most cases the videos are simple depictions of joyful moments in everyday situations,” Su told the Chinese site TechNode last June.

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author Wu Hao (吴皓)

Wu Hao is an independent documentary photographer and filmmaker born in Nanning, China. He currently based in Beijing. He focuses on how people live amid social changes and the conflicts they face during China's social transitions. His works have been published and exhibited internationally.

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