“Excuse me miss, who are you? Security!” a Hong Kong tabloid teased in its video coverage featuring Chinese actress Shi Yanfei on Thursday (May 17).
The 32-year-old, who played a palace maid in Story of Yanxi Palace, has been accused of stubbornly lingering on the red carpet at Cannes film festival on Tuesday, despite shouts for her to move along.
Earning 15 billion views in less than two months, search giant Google said Yanxi Palace was the world’s most-searched show of 2018 – and Google isn’t even available in China.
But while Shi – whose name is pronounced Shi Yufei in Mandarin – acted in the online blockbuster, her name is still relatively unknown, especially when compared to the show’s other actors Charmaine Sheh, Wu Jinyan and Qin Lan.
Photos of Shi posing on the red carpet were splashed across entertainment news sites internationally and in China a day after event, with tabloids reporting that she was reluctant to move along even after being asked by an usher to vacate her spot.
Unsurprisingly, China’s netizens were not pleased.
Many took to social media to lambast the actress, calling her an “embarrassment” to the country.
In response, Shi took to her own Weibo account to give her side of the story, writing that she could not hear what the festival staff was saying to her because of the chaotic shouting at the scene.
“Every actor who walks the red carpet at Cannes will be excited and nervous, I am not immune to this,” she wrote on Weibo.
“Till now, I myself am not sure if I was being shooed off,” she added.
But the post did not seem to satisfy Chinese netizens. The top comment with close to 6,000 likes reads: “The problem is – why do you have the right to walk the red carpet? Do you have any (representative) works?”
Other commenters added that despite her clarification, they still felt she had been an embarrassment to China by making the headlines for the wrong reason.
In a interview published by entertainment site Ifeng Ent, the actress said she felt “bullied” by the media and online vitriol.
She also said that she was not ushered off the red carpet because she was hogging the limelight. The truth was that it was normal for the ushers to lead guests to their next spot on the carpet, she said.
“When you enter (the red carpet area), the atmosphere is very passionate and foreign media are all shouting. I don’t know what they are yelling, but they’re basically telling you to (pose for) photos,” she said.
As to why she was at Cannes despite not being an A-list actress, Shi clarified that she was in Paris on invitation by magazine Paris Fantastic. She also said she was part of a movie, but declined to name the film, saying that it would be announced in the coming days.
“If I really caused a delay for others who were walking the red carpet, I’d like to express my apologies. But that’s really not what I intended. If that’s what I wanted, I would’ve worn a huge gown and walked slowly down the carpet,” she said.
“People should not (assume) just by looking at one photo,” she said in the video interview, adding that she felt the media had taken things out of context.