Recently, a new entertainment show has been catching the attention of  many Chinese viewers both at home and abroad. “Youth With You” is a  reality show documenting the training of 109 girls. Their ultimate goal  is to become a member of the final debuting girl group. 109 enter, yet  only nine will make it into the group, which will debut as the show ends  in June.

One reason the show has gained so much  popularity is that everyone is quarantining at home and running out of  things to watchWith this show, you can participate in online  discussions and voting with other viewers. It is the perfect opportunity to be  social while practicing social distancing.

Among  these discussions, there is no shortage of controversies over who gets  to debut. Of course, many viewers root for more traditional concepts of  the “Asian girl group,” whether it’s the “cute and sweet” concept or the  more recent “girl crush” concept. The majority of trainees fit under  those categories.

The “cute and sweet” concept is defined by puppy-dog eyes, bangs and pigtails, and soft, baby-like voices.

The “girl crush” concept (originating from K-pop) is about being sexy, cool, chic, and fierce, while maintaining cute and girlish traits as well. (See Blackpink as an example.)

Yet the series also showcases trainees who don’t seem to fit into these accepted “Girl Group” concepts or appearances. Meet the girls who are breaking the mold!

  1. 1 上官喜爱(shàng guān xǐ ài)

    Although her look and style lean towards the “girl crush” vibes, some viewers say she is  not anyone’s “crush.” She doesn’t have the ideal, slender “Girl Group” body, and many do not consider her to be pretty at all. Some harsher viewers have also said that she looks more like an aunt than a youthful girl and do not consider her to be “Girl Group” material at all. 

    Nonetheless, Shangguan has proven herself in singing, dancing and rapping. She has a unique jazzy voice that stands out and carries power. Despite the haters, she carries herself with poise. She is hardworking and fierce and is capable of holding down the entire stage even if she is the only one on it. 

    More importantly, she has a heart of gold. Even though she was chosen as the leader of her group, she gives the best lines of the song to her teammates. In the group’s showcase, she stood behind her teammates and gave them the opportunity to shine. She was genuinely proud for her teammates and friends even as they got higher points than her. 

    “That’s my girl!” She cried loudly from the crowd as her friend received high points.

  2. 2 张钰(zhāng yù)

    Her big, permed hair doesn’t have any precedent in Asian Girl Group history. She isn’t a fan of the sweet, soft and girly style that many around her have, and she doesn’t have a super sexy vibe either. 

    Instead,  Yu has a more grounded, artsy, retro vibe and likes to compose her own  original songs in foreign languagesEven when she is assigned to sing a cheesy love song with sappy lyrics, she finds a way to put a bit of  herself in the music and mellow out the sappiness. Yu isn’t a fan of the  typical “trying to be cute” dance moves and prefers moves that are  expressive and fun. She doesn’t try to conform to the accepted standards  of Asian girl groups and likes to stay true to herself.

  3. 3 刘雨昕(liù yǔ xīn)

    Xin has already made quite a few breakthroughs in her performance career before joining “Youth With You.” Even in a popping dance show years ago dominated by male dancers, Xin was able to hold her ground. In the end she brought home the gold.

    Even though she has won many competitions, she hasn't exactly reached stardom yet. In fact, even one of her former male  competitors is now on “Youth With You” as a mentor and producer, while she is only here as a trainee

    Moreover, when recording the show’s theme song, Xin was chosen to stand in the center position. Yet when the video was released, many viewers asked, “Why her?” Although she already proved to her audience how mature her skills are, many didn’t want her in the “C position.” They wanted someone who fit their ideas of a typical girl group. Some viewers voiced confusion over why Xin would choose to adopt the “boy look” at all.

    To these viewers, Xin replied: “Staying true is my only response. I feel myself when I look like this, not with long hair and girly dresses.” For her, it’s important not to change just to appeal to others.

    While preparing to record the theme song, Xin wore a skirt like her fellow trainees. But before getting into position, she chose to change her skirt back into the shorts she felt comfortable in, defying expectations of the typical girl group. 

    That’s the theme of the show: to find an “X Factor Girl Group” that redefines the typical “Asian Girl Group.”

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Lisa Liang

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