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UK teacher becomes a celebrity after shooting to fame in China
Author: EnglishTeacher    2021-08-02


It's probably fair to say that self-described "appalling singer" Iain Inglis would never have expected to become a household name in China after appearing on China's Got Talent.

But that's exactly what happened after the English teacher decided to enter the huge talent show on a whim and ended up doing far better than he ever expected.

His run on the show meant he became a celebrity in the country of 1.4 billion people and he's now a TV presenter watched by millions.


From being mobbed in the supermarket by fans to learning Welsh while living in China, Iain has revealed how he ended up as a celeb on the other side of the world.

Born in Southampton and raised in Cardiff, the now 43-year-old is currently a bilingual presenter on a prime time Chinese television show.


But he made his name years earlier on China's Got Talent with his renditions of 'red songs' - revolutionary songs which celebrate socialism. He says the genre is quite difficult to define and not strictly political.

When he'd first arrived in China in 2003, he made a "beeline" to a CD shop for some copies of revolutionary songs and thought himself the lyrics.

Iain's journey was borne out of his love of linguistics. After graduating from studying German and Russian, he moved to Japan before meeting his future wife following a visit to China in 2003.

After starting out working as an English teacher, he later moved to Sanya, a city in Hainan, an island province where he worked in hotels. It was here that he saw an advert inviting people to apply to a singing competition.

He put his name down "just to see whether I could get through one of the rounds" but ended up coming fourth and was encouraged to apply for an annual national Red Song Gala in 2010.

His streak continued and he managed to reach the top 10 in Hainan, which has a population of almost 10 million and was then invited to a nationally televised regional heat in Jiangxi province, with more than 150 entrants.

"I ended up coming fifth in China," he said. "The judges and everyone told me that I went really far in the competition because I would tend to sing revolutionary classics. I think they found that kind of an anomaly. There's this bloke who's obviously foreign, but he's singing these songs which most people have sort of forgotten about."


But his growing celebrity status meant that something had to give, and he had to quit his hotel job in late 2010 to become a freelance entertainer before entering China's Got Talent in the autumn of 2011.

"I remember on the day of the first audition for China's Got Talent I didn't have anything to do. I was just kicking around, I had nothing else on, and I thought well, it's only down the road. So I got on a bus and I went down and I thought I might as well give it a go. Why not?"

He eventually made it to the semi-finals in Shanghai, which included a performance in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

"I think they quite liked the fact that someone who was an obvious foreigner was trying to learn more about China's culture and in a sense was trying to promote it. That's perhaps how they saw it. I think the fact that I got that far was probably because I was popular with the audiences."

During his time on the show, his family were interviewed via Skype, and there were even Chinese documentaries made about his life.

An appearance at the nationally recognised Red Song Gala put him in the public eye.

"I went to the supermarket one afternoon with my wife and we were mobbed by people. We couldn't move - people were asking for my autograph, photos. It was bonkers. I'm not saying it happened all the time, but it happened enough for me to know that I didn't really like that."


When the couple found out they were expecting a child, Iain returned to teaching English in 2018, which he did right up until the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic but then in March 2020 that Iain got a big break as a bilingual television presenter on Hainan satellite television, which is broadcast nationally.

And despite his current adventures, his love of languages hasn't quite died out yet and he's currently teaching himself Welsh.


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