Beijing Student Disguises Herself As Socialite And Lives In Capital For 3 Weeks Without Spending Money
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Now, we all know that part of ‘the student life’ involves attempting to find somewhere to live that is the most central to the nightlife, all while having the cheapest possible rent.
But Beijing art student Zou Yaqi has taken this a step further and has taken it upon herself to disguise herself as a socialite in order to live in the capital for 3 weeks without spending a penny.
In May this year, the 23-year-old dedicated herself to this project in the name of art. The aim: to ‘break the rules’ and enter the ‘world of the rich’ as a disguised socialite as criticism of capitalism and consumerism.
To do this, she first had to look the part. So, she researched what socialites tend to wear and bought herself a fake Hermès Birkin bag (the most expensive handbag in the world - when not fake, obviously), a knock-off designer tracksuit and faux-diamond ring.
She then straightened her hair and put on some red lipstick before hitting the town in her new identity.
Explaining her rationale behind her new look, she told Sixth Tone: “I'm more cautious and casual in daily life, but I had to present an elegant, haughty, and self-confident image.”
On day 1 of her experiment, which she later turned into a performance art piece, Zou gained access to an airport VIP lounge with a forged pass ‘valid’ for 3 hours, where she was able to stay for 3 whole days.
During this time, she lived off the buffet, of which she would smuggle the contents of into her paper Gucci bag – another part of her disguise.
During the rest of the anti-consumerism conquest, Yaqi documented gaining access to saunas, steam rooms and bathrooms at a famous hotel by using fake names and telling staff she’d ‘just checked out’.
The artist also attended an auction, where she was invited to try on an emerald ring that was later sold for thousands and walked into a Louis Vuitton store where the sales assistants immediately dropped their other customers and invited her to one of the brand’s exhibitions.
By the end of her 3 weeks, the student stated: “I was constantly playing the role all day. I soon got used to the contradiction: My body was dirty and slimy, but I was seen as a beautiful and rich woman by others.”
Reactions to this project have been mixed, with some people criticising Zou for not seeing her own privilege - that her natural looks lead to her actually being able to pass for a member of the elite.
This, however, misses the point according to the performance artist, who wrote on Weibo (China's equivalent to Twitter) that she wanted to highlight the class gap in China by showing how the rich have access to ‘excessive goods’ that were free.