Micro-influencers from China are buying their way onto the Cannes 2019 red carpet

Society & Culture

This year’s Cannes, one of the “Big Three” film festivals alongside Berlin and Venice, is in full swing. High-profile filmmakers are presenting their latest projects to critics, while A-list Hollywood stars are sipping top-shelf booze at after-parties. But if you think the party’s open only to the highly accomplished, you’d be wrong. This year’s Cannes is astonishingly accessible, thanks in large to an army of internet influencers from China who have stormed the festival’s red carpets with their deep pockets and a palpable thirst for attention.

As the Hong Kong-based newspaper Oriental Daily News pointed out (in Chinese), Cannes city in France, where the festival is hosted, has “become a Chinatown” this year due to the perplexing presence of no-name Chinese influencers. “A group of self-proclaimed celebrities hijacked the festival,” the newspaper wrote, scathingly. “Western reporters were appalled. Internet users from mainland China felt ashamed of them.”

Before we delve into how they managed to crash this supposedly invite-only event, let’s first give the spotlight to some of their red carpet looks and judge the hell out of them.


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That is an irredeemable mess. The Chinese fan inked with “Made in China,” the odd take on a traditional Tang suit, and the unmatched socks…apparently this unknown singer on some livestreaming platform thought she was at a cosplay convention rather than a high-brow film festival.

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The thinking behind this choice of outfit is self-evident, but flaunting cleavage isn’t always a good idea when everyone else is flirting with high fashion.

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According to Chinese reporters at the scene, Shi Yufei 施予斐, the woman in the above photo, lingered on the red carpet for so long that the staff had to ask her to leave multiple times.

So how did these people snag access to the red carpets, walking alongside mega movie stars like Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt? Yuli 娱理, a Chinese entertainment and pop culture blog, published an investigative story (in Chinese) about how a thriving black market of agencies selling tickets to the festival has brought more and more self-indulgent Chinese influencers to the Cannes Film Festival in recent years.

There are a few major takeaways from the article. First and foremost, black-market ticket services in China are thriving. According to people close to the matter, there are more than 10 companies that specialize in this kind of business, and they have invented their own ways to acquire tickets through “relationships” with fashion brands and magazines, which receive legitimate red-carpet tickets from Cannes each year but always have spare ones to give out.

Second, ticket prices are astronomical. When interviewed by the blog, a scalper revealed that one anonymous singer was brought by an online reality show, which paid 200,000 yuan ($28,935) per ticket to bring a team of seven influencers to the red carpet.

The article also raised alarms about swindlers in the market who have earned a fortune by ripping off attention-seeking influencers desperate to elevate their profiles by making a forgettable appearance at Cannes. One of the victims this year was Maomao 毛毛, who told the blog that a scalper scammed her out of 100,000 yuan ($14,468) as a “broker fee.” The swindler, who called himself “Boss Jiang,” claimed that he could link his clients with Leonardo DiCaprio and get them on private jets owned by Hong Kong Cantopop star Eason Chen. “Looking back, it was a blatant fraud, but somehow I believed him,” Maomao said, adding that she later paid a fairly reasonable price of 65,000 yuan ($9,400) to another agent and successfully made her debut at Cannes.