Three years ago, she became one of China’s most famous lottery winners, beating out hundreds of millions of social media users to take home a prize worth 100 million yuan ($15.5 million). Now she’s publicly questioning whether it was worth it.
“Many people might be curious how my life is after winning the 100 million yuan lottery,” Weibo user “Xin Xiaodai” said in a series of videos posted online last week. “To be honest, it’s not going that well. I turn 30 next year, and I don’t have a job. Recently, I was diagnosed with depressive tendencies.”
The prize — which was disbursed not as cash, but in the form of free gifts, meals, flight tickets, and hotels — was awarded as part of a contest run by Alipay, China’s largest mobile payments platform. It came with the title of “China’s Lucky Koi,” a reference to a then-trending buzzword associated with good fortune.
Roughly 3 million users took part before the platform picked the Xin Xiaodai account. “Does this mean that I don’t have to work for the rest of my life?” she wrote on her microblog Weibo after hearing the news.
In her recent videos, she admitted the post had been unintentionally prophetic.
“I used to work in the IT industry, but after all these years, I’ve fallen behind, and I can’t pass an interview,” she said. She complained that instead of cash, the prizes were more like “coupons” that could only be spent in designated venues. After quitting her job to travel around the world, she found herself hundreds of thousands of yuan in debt.
Online, few seemed sympathetic to her plight. After Xin Xiaodai was announced as the lottery’s winner, she rocketed to fame as a symbol of good fortune. Her Weibo account jumped to 800,000 followers almost overnight, many of the accounts hoping her luck would rub off on them.
Her newfound status as an influencer and meme proved lucrative: A sponsored post on her Weibo could cost as much as 100,000 yuan, according to media reports.
Her fans turned on her, however, after she tried to cash in on her fame with her own lucky draw event last year. The event, which was marketed as a passing of the torch to a new “Lucky Koi,” was canceled after her sponsor was accused of fraud, and her account was banned from posting on Weibo for three months.
After her new videos went online, she found herself right back in the public eye. A hashtag related to the story had been viewed 790 million times on Weibo as of publication.
Many of the comments were hostile. “To be honest, we have clearly noticed your repeated attempts to be an internet celebrity, but it’s not clear what else you have to offer besides the title of ‘Lucky Koi,’” read one upvoted comment.
Editor: Kilian O’Donnell.
(Header image: “Xin Xiaodai” is interviewed in Beijing, Oct. 9, 2018. People Visual)