|Years active||November 7, 2007 - August 2008|
Honglaowai (simplified Chinese: 红老外; traditional Chinese: 紅老外; pinyin: Hóng Lǎowài), also known as Red Laowai (English: "Red Foreigner") is an Internet celebrity popular in China and within the Overseas Chinese communities. He quickly became famous as a Caucasian singing Chinese patriotic songs in videos that he uploaded to numerous Chinese video-sharing sites like Tudou, Youku, 56, etc. Frequently featured on the front page of these sites, and attracting millions of views, he drew the attention of the media in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Americas, and Europe. He has given multiple interviews to newspapers and television stations and is a topic of discussion by the media.
Honglaowai's first video, singing "Without the Communist Party, There Would Be No New China" (没有共产党就没有新中国), was uploaded to several video-sharing websites on November 7, 2007 as a celebration of the 90th anniversary of the October Revolution. It featured Honglaowai singing topless against a white wall with a photo of Mao Zedong. In the following two weeks, he released three more videos that featured similar setups and in which he sang "The East Is Red" (东方红), "My Chinese Heart" (我的中国心), and "March of the People's Liberation Army" (中国人民解放军军歌).
Naked Singing Controversy
Because Honglaowai was not wearing a shirt in his first several videos, this caused a controversy among China's online community and China's media. Several newspaper articles questioned whether his singing of traditional Communist songs were meant as an insult to the Chinese Government or as art. People's Daily, the organ of the Communist Party of China initially called for the screening of websites that show Honglaowai's videos. Several online polls also appeared asking whether Honglaowai was offensive to China.
In his blog entry dated November 20, 2007, he explained that his intention had not been to insult China. "True Communists say that it is not clothes, but ideas that are the most important!", he stated. In his subsequent videos, he was no longer seen naked.
Until present, Honglaowai continues to release videos with a frequency of about once every one or two weeks. He has so far made cover versions of patriotic and Communist Chinese songs, songs by Taiwanese stars Jay Chou and Jolin Tsai, and others. His video "Injury of Cease-fire" (止战之殇), an anti-war rap song originally performed by Jay Chou, has been seen more than 4 million times on the Chinese video-sharing sites.
The Honglaowai pseudonym was created by George Costow, a 30 year old Wall Street investment banker, graduate of Princeton University, and resident of the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City. His videos often feature buildings and streets situated in New York, such as the World Trade Center site.
On his blog, and in his interviews, he states that he has learned Chinese by himself, and that he had not been to Mainland China yet. Honglaowai announced on his blog that he would visit Mainland China for the first time on June 13, 2008. He was interviewed by Youku a week after arriving and performed a Cultural Revolution "Loyal to Mao" dance on Nanjing Road in Shanghai.
After the closing of Lehman Brothers, Mr Costow aka Honglaowai, shied away from his Sina blog. He currently works at DW Investment Management, a capitalist investment firm located in Midtown Manhattan, on some of the most expensive real estate in the world (590 Madison Ave, the former IBM building).
Despite the controversies that Honglaowai has created, he remains popular with the public in China. The media has described his audience as thinking of him as "cute" and "handsome". His fans have set up several fan websites and pages dedicated to him.
- Tan, Kenneth (2007-11-29). "The Red Laowai releases latest single". Shanghaiist.
- (Chinese) Xie, Zhengyi (2007-12-29). "Hottest Video Producers of 2007". Jiefang Daily.
- (Chinese) "TV Interview with Honglaowai". SinoVision. 2007-01-28.
- (Chinese) Li, Chunxiao (2007-12-27). "Honglaowai Attracts More than 5 Million Viewers (紅老外自演自拍MTV吸引逾五百萬人次觀賞)". World Journal.
- (Chinese) "Website that Shows Foreigner Singing Revolutionary Songs Naked Needs to Be Screened (老外裸唱革命歌网站应该屏蔽)". People's Daily. 2007-11-28.
- (Chinese) "Honglaowai Explodes on the Internet Singing Chinese Revolutionary Songs (唱中共革命歌拍MTV 紅老外熱爆網)". The Sun (Hong Kong). 2007-12-28.
- (Chinese) Lee, Rita (2008-01-10). "TV Interview with Honglaowai". ETTV.
- (Chinese) "Not Distinguishing Between the Nationalists and the Communists, Honglaowai Amuses (国共不分「红老外」自拍MV笑掉大牙)". ETTV. 2008-01-08.
- (Spanish) Broto, Antonio (2007-11-23). "Red Foreigner Is The New Internet Phenomenon in China (El 'extranjero rojo' es el nuevo fenómeno de Internet en China)". El Mundo (Spain).
- (Chinese) Chen, Qimei (2007-12-13). "Wall Street Gold-Collar Honglaowai (唱中文歌成红人 本报独家采访 华尔街金领红老外)". Youth Weekend (青年周末).
- (Chinese) Zeng, Minyan (2008-01-31). "网络英雄传：彼岸来了个红老外". Yangcheng Evening News.
- (Chinese) "If Singing Naked Red Classic Songs Is Not an Insult, Then What Is It? (红网:裸唱红色经典不是恶搞炒作是什么？)". Xinhua. 2007-11-30.
- (Chinese) "红老外博客裸唱东方红 被网友质疑辱华". ynet.com (Beijing Youth). 2007-11-27.
- (Chinese) "Questions From The Comrades (Honglaowai's Blog)". 2007-11-20.
- (Chinese) "Injury of Cease-fire on Youku". Youku.
- (Chinese) "All Newyorkers Live Like Lei Feng! (Honglaowai's Blog)".
- (Chinese) "QQ Fan Page".