She may not have won the title of “punchline king” (or queen) in the latest season of hit Chinese online stand-up comedy competition Rock and Roast, but Li Xueqin upstaged the winners of the top prizes with her down-to-earth personality and unusual backstory. At heart, the native of Liaoning in China’s northeast is an ordinary 25-year-old who happens to have an intense crush on her idol, Kris Wu. Since the popular actor-rapper-model has 51 million followers on his Weibo account and 7.4 million Instagram followers, Li is hardly alone. However, her infatuation with the Chinese-Canadian singer goes further than most; she posted videos of herself on Douyin, China’s version of Tik Tok, greeting Wu from landmarks around China. Dressed casually, wearing no make-up and speaking with a distinct northeastern accent, Li adopts the same direct and down-to-earth tone in all her videos. In a clip in which she stood at the entrance of Tsinghua University in Beijing, for instance, she says: “Hello Kris Wu. I am Li Xueqin. I am at Tsinghua University. You see how white the entrance door of Tsinghua is.” She uploaded many similar videos, and eventually they caught the attention of Wu – who last year posted a video addressed to her. In it, he mimicked her accent and way of speaking, and said: “Hello Li Xueqin, I am Kris Wu. No matter where I am, you see how bright the lights are [here]!” How comedian Vivek Mahbubani came to be the funniest person in Hong Kong Wu’s video post brought instant fame to Li, who now has 6.6 million fans on Douyin and three million on Weibo, China’s Twitter. With fame came criticism when it was revealed she graduated from one of the country’s top universities. Why would she squander years of study to make silly videos and not get a proper job? Here is where Li’s story takes a darker turn. Li was once a top student at Peking University. Three years ago, she went to New York University to study for a master’s degree in education. But life in the United States did not suit her. She felt very lonely, fell into a depression and tried to kill herself. Following this unhappy period in her life, Li went back to China in 2018. On her return, she received treatment for her depression but, as the only child in her family, she also had to help supplement the family’s income. At one point, she worked part-time in a bar washing dishes. Now, with her acclaimed performances in Rock and Roast, it appears Li has found her calling in stand-up comedy. She uses self-deprecating humour and has no qualms talking about her life, from her difficulty in finding a boyfriend to her parents’ divorce to having an emotionally unstable mother. Her stand-up comedy is tinged with melancholy because of her troubled past. Having earned fifth place in Rock and Roast , Li has emerged as a star in her own right. She is no longer just a key opinion leader (KOL) riding on the coattails of Wu’s popularity. When it comes to doing stand-up comedy, I am just a novice who is still trying to find their bearings. But I have to thank every internet user who has encouraged me. Chinese stand-up comedian Li Xueqin Many of the phrases she uses in her stand-up comedy performances are ones people use to cheer others up at times of adversity. One is: “Happiness comes in tiny doses. Go to the wet market to get a fish vendor to scoop you a fish whenever you are unhappy.” Li recently posted on Weibo a thank you to the public for the support she received. “When it comes to doing stand-up comedy, I am just a novice who is still trying to find their bearings. But I have to thank every internet user who has encouraged me. I [have] never had so much praise in my whole life,” she wrote. “Although I feel quite stressed, I am very happy. I will work harder from now on to become a brilliant stand-up performer.” If you, or someone you know, are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255.