William Hung

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William Hung
Hung in St. Cloud, Minnesota in July 2008
Born (1982-11-10) November 10, 1982 (age 41)[1]
Alma materMarist College (MBA)
California State University, Northridge (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (no degree)
Pasadena City College
Occupation(s)Singer, actor, motivational speaker
SpouseJian Teng (divorced)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese孔慶翔
Simplified Chinese孔庆翔
Musical career
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
GenresPop, outsider music
Years active2004–2011

William Hing Cheung Hung (Chinese: 孔慶翔; born November 10, 1982) is a Hong Kong motivational speaker and former singer who gained fame in 2004 as a result of his unsuccessful audition singing Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs" on the third season of the television series American Idol.

At the time of his audition, Hung was a civil engineering student at UC Berkeley. After his spirited audition to be the next American Idol, he won the support of many fans, ironically, based on his perceived lack of musical talent. Hung voluntarily left university to pursue a music career. His recording career was marked by negative critical reaction.[2][3][4]

He brought his own career as a musician to an end when in 2011 he accepted a job opportunity as a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and decided to pursue law enforcement. Since then, Hung has reflected positively on his pop music career.

Personal life

Hung is a 73rd-generation descendant of Confucius.[5][6]

After growing up in the Sha Tin district of British Hong Kong, Hung moved with his family to the Van Nuys area in Los Angeles, California, at age 11.[7][8] He was a civil engineering student at University of California, Berkeley, when he competed on the US television contest series American Idol.[9] He exited college to pursue his music career and later graduated from California State University, Northridge with a degree in mathematics.[10][11] Hung later completed an MBA from Marist College.[12]

Hung was married to Jian Teng on June 18, 2014.[13] Prior to this marriage, he had already gone through a divorce. This second marriage also ended in divorce.[14] In 2022, Hung admitted that his gambling addiction had contributed towards his divorce and that he was taking steps to eradicate it from his life.[15]


Initial fame

While studying civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, Hung auditioned for the third season of American Idol in San Francisco in September 2003, becoming the final auditioner on the show of January 15, 2004.

"I want to make music my living," said Hung, before he started singing and dancing to Ricky Martin's "She Bangs". As judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul tried to restrain their laughter, judge Simon Cowell dismissed Hung's performance, remarking "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?", to which Hung replied, "Um, I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all." Jackson and Abdul applauded his positive attitude, with Abdul remarking, "That's the best attitude yet." Hung's response to Cowell's criticism starkly contrasts with the often confrontational rejoinders of other contestants. Hung added, "...you know, I have no professional training of singing and dancing," eliciting mock surprise from Cowell, who replied, "No? Well, this is the surprise of the century." Hung was not admitted through to the next round.

Cult following

Hung rapidly gained a cult following. A William Hung fan site, set up by realtor Don Chin and his wife Laura, recorded over four million hits within its first week. Remixes of Hung's audition performance topped song request lists at a number of radio stations.

Hung subsequently appeared on several television programs including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Entertainment Tonight, George Lopez, the Late Show with David Letterman, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Howard Stern Radio Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dateline NBC, Arrested Development and CBS's The Early Show. Hung was featured in several national magazines and newspapers; he was parodied on Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, Celebrity Deathmatch, and The Fairly OddParents. He was reportedly invited to perform at MTV's Asia Awards held in mid-February.

Hung performing at UC Berkeley's Haas Pavilion in 2004.

An online petition to bring Hung back to American Idol included more than 100,000 signatures by late February. Hung was brought back to American Idol as part of a mid-season special titled Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented, airing March 1, 2004. The special documented what it was like to experience the audition process and, in Hung's case, emerge as an inadvertent celebrity.

At the 2006 Artichoke Festival in Castroville, California, Hung was crowned the Artichoke King; Marilyn Monroe had previously received a similar honor.[16]

Record deal

William Hung was offered a $25,000 advance on a record deal from Koch Entertainment in 2004, and released three albums on that label in 2004 and 2005. His first album was Inspiration. Produced by Giuseppe D, it was recorded over a March 2004 weekend with Hung singing vocals over karaoke music. To promote it, Hung performed before nearly 20,000 fans during half-time at a Golden State Warriors basketball game on April 6 and performed "She Bangs", included on the album, on such shows as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The album received highly negative reviews,[2][3][4] but ultimately went on to sell about 200,000 copies and reached Number One on Billboard's Top Independent Album Chart.[17][18] His two follow-up albums were far less successful, as Hung for the Holidays (a Christmas album) only sold 35,000 copies, despite a national promotion campaign including appearances on The Howard Stern Show, and Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung (another karaoke cover album) only sold 7,000.[18] In a February 2006 interview, he said he was working on a fourth album of 5 or 6 tracks,[19] but none was released, and he retired in 2011.

Television, commercials and movies

Hung appeared in commercials for the search engine Ask.com, the Game Show Network (spoofing Freddie Mercury and singing an off-key "We Are the Champions"), as well as the mobile phone service provider Cingular Wireless.[20] He also appeared to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in May 2004 at the Rogers Centre for the Toronto Blue Jays.[21]

His first movie, a low-budget Hong Kong period comedy called Where is Mama's Boy (2004), was released in January 2005. Hung played a good-natured village kid who sells Chinese pancakes to pay his mother's medical bills. His character gets discovered as a singer, and helps a woman protect her business from her jealous, conniving elder sister. In the film, Hung played opposite veteran Hong Kong actress Nancy Sit and parodied his own American Idol performance with the song "Siu Beng" (Cantonese) ("Chinese Pancake"), an allusion to his American Idol audition song, "She Bangs". Despite solid financial backing and the involvement of Nancy Sit, the film was a box office flop.

Lampooning his own career, Hung later made appearances in Airline,[22] Arrested Development, and George Lopez.[20]

Retirement from music

In 2011, Hung became a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department,[10] and retired from music. Hung remains optimistic about his new career path, and states he does not regret that his music career has ended. "I showed that even the Average Joe could succeed," he remarked on his short-lived time as a pop star.[18]

Hung later joined the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health around 2014.[23] In 2017, Hung became a motivational speaker; he has been booked as a keynote speaker for groups such as the Asian Realtors Association of America.[24][23]

On April 7, 2016, he made a surprise performance of "She Bangs" on the American Idol season 15 finale.[25]

On May 2, 2022, Hung made another surprise appearance on American Idol season 20.[26]

Analysis of popularity

Commentator Emil Guillermo claimed that Hung may not have gained as much attention had he been of another race, and his popularity may be derived from his being a representation of the Asian stereotype, characterized by nerdiness, bucked teeth, studiousness, speaking with a strong "fresh off the boat" accent, and lacking singing talent or rhythm. Documentary filmmaker James Hou commented, "As Asian Americans, we look through this racial lens, and we see this guy who embodies all the stereotypes we're trying to escape from."[27]

Some analysts have argued that Hung's career arose out of mockery, and that the media exploited him as a joke rather than as a talented or inspirational figure.[28] Ron Lin, former editor in chief of the UC Berkeley's Daily Californian asserts: "It's really difficult for Asian American males to break through and (Hung) may not be the most appealing example."[29]

Amber Eliza Watts suggested that Hung's cult following derived from him being the antithesis of everything Idol represented, with his lack of musical talent and odd looks, and how unlike other audition failures he was not arrogantly expecting to be made a pop star, he just wanted to sing.[30] In a 2008 American Idol extra, in response to the question, "Why do you think it is that people gravitate towards William Hung so much?", Hung stated, "I believe it's my attitude and charisma, I tell people constantly, media, everywhere I go, just never give up on your dream."



Studio albums

List of studio albums with chart positions and sales
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales[18]

AUS Heat
Inspiration 34 1 89 4
  • US: 200,000
Miracle: Happy Summer From William Hung
  • Released: July 12, 2005
  • Label: Koch
  • Format: CD, digital download
  • US: 7,000
"—" denotes the album did not chart.

Extended plays

List of extended plays with chart positions and sales
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales[18]

Hung for the Holidays
  • Released: October 19, 2004
  • Label: Koch
  • Format: CD, digital download
  • US: 35,000


List of singles as lead artist showing year released and album name
Title Year Album
"We Are the Champions"[34] 2004 Hung for the Holidays
"Achy Breaky Heart"[35] 2005 Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung

Music videos

Title Year
"She Bangs"[36] 2004
"We Are the Champions"[34]
"Achy Breaky Heart"[35] 2005

Hung's music video, "She Bangs", was viewed over 2 million times on YouTube before it was made private.[37]

See also


  1. ^ @williamhungofficial (November 10, 2023). "I can't believe I am already 41!" – via Instagram.
  2. ^ a b "Inspiration - William Hung - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "IGN review". IGN.com. Archived from the original on February 8, 2012. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Inspiration". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on June 17, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "受成吉思汗后人啟發 孔子准后裔想驗DNA" [Inspired by Genghis Khan's descendants, Confucius quasi-descendants want to test]. People's Daily (in Chinese). Archived from the original on August 1, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  6. ^ "海內外孔子後裔約300萬" [About 3 million descendants of Confucius at home and abroad]. big5.china.com.cn (in Chinese). Archived from the original on July 30, 2016. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  7. ^ "American Idol reject William Hung chases fame in Asia". Associated Press. August 3, 2004. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  8. ^ Hubler, Shawn (February 6, 2004). "Off-key, on the map". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  9. ^ Theakston, Rob. "William Hung". Allmusic. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  10. ^ a b Kohn, Daniel (January 16, 2012). "William Hung Speaks, Fresh off Being Crowned the Greatest Musician of All Time, in Any Genre". LA Weekly. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  11. ^ Miles, Dylan (May 9, 2008). "Yes, that is William Hung on campus". The Sundial. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  12. ^ blogtalkradio.com[dead link]
  13. ^ Ehrich Dowd, Kathy (August 21, 2014). "American Idol Alum William Hung Gets Married". PEOPLE.com. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  14. ^ "How William Hung got his girlfriend by owning his quirks". Youtube.com. November 15, 2019. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021.
  15. ^ "William Hung on LinkedIn: Hey everyone, I've been struggling with gambling addiction for a long time… | 42 comments". www.linkedin.com. Retrieved March 10, 2023.
  16. ^ Meizel, K. (2009). "Making the Dream a Reality (Show): The Celebration of Failure in American Idol". Popular Music and Society. 32 (4): 475–488. doi:10.1080/03007760802217725. S2CID 192058209.
  17. ^ "Inspiration – William Hung". Billboard. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d e Grossman, Samantha (January 19, 2012). "American Idol's William Hung: Where Is He Now?". Time. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  19. ^ Catching up with William. Ecentral.my. February 21, 2006. Accessed from June 27, 2013.
  20. ^ a b Carter, Brooke (April 27, 2017). "What Happened to William Hung - What He's Doing Now". Gazette Review. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  21. ^ "Jays had wanted Hung for Opening Day". ESPN.com. Associated Press. May 30, 2004. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  22. ^ "Airline DVD news: A&E's reality show gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the flying biz". Tvshowsondvd.com. Archived from the original on January 14, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Chan, Louis (December 31, 2017). "American Idol Legend William Hung Goes from Humiliation to Opportunity". AsAmNews. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  24. ^ "willhung.com". Archived from the original on July 27, 2020. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  25. ^ Otterson, Joe (April 8, 2016). "'American Idol' Finale: Watch William Hung's Triumphant Return (Video)". The Wrap. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  26. ^ "Idol Reunion: William Hung Comes Back To Perform "She Bangs" - American Idol 2022". Archived from the original on January 18, 2023. Retrieved January 23, 2023 – via YouTube.
  27. ^ Guillermo, Emil (April 6, 2004). "Hung Out to Dry". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  28. ^ Guillermo, Emil. "Emil Amok: The William Hung Joke". AsianWeek.com. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
  29. ^ Guillermo, Emil (April 6, 2004). "William Hung: Racism, Or Magic?". SFGATE. Retrieved May 4, 2024.
  30. ^ Watts, Amber Eliza (2008). Laughing at the World: Schadenfreude, Social Identity, and American Media Culture. pp. 24–30. ISBN 9780549505761.
  31. ^ "William Hung Album & Song Chart History". Billboard 200 for William Hung. Prometheus Global Media. Accessed from July 15, 2013.
  32. ^ a b "William Hung Album & Song Chart History". Billboard Independent Albums for William Hung. Prometheus Global Media. Accessed from July 15, 2013.
  33. ^ a b "The ARIA Report: Week Commencing 3 May 2004" (PDF) (740). Australian Web Archive. June 7, 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 6, 2004. Retrieved August 17, 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ a b "William Hung to record 'We are the Champions']". Today. Associated Press. June 12, 2004. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  35. ^ a b "William Hung Teams Up With Billy Ray Cyrus for New Album". CelebritySpider.com. Marketwire. June 25, 2005. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2013.
  36. ^ "William Hung – Hangin' with Hung (2004)". Retrieved July 16, 2013 – via Amazon.
  37. ^ "William Hung – She Bangs". Archived from the original on April 18, 2007. Retrieved April 8, 2016 – via YouTube.

External links