In early 2010, a high school aged netizen posted a picture on Mop.com of a female classmate holding a cup of milk tea with a heading that read, “Isn’t this girl from my middle school hot?” The picture went viral instantly and the girl – who is popularly referred to as “Milk Tea Cutie” or “Milk Tea Sister” (奶茶mm, naicha meiemei) – became an overnight cult celebrity.
Nearly a week after involuntarily finding herself under the Internet spotlight, creepy and stocker-esque netizens uncovered “Milk Tea Cutie’s” true identity to be that of a second year high school student named Zhang Zetian, enrolled at the Nanjing Foreign Language School. Within roughly a week, everyone and their mother not only recognized Zhang’s signature milk tea pose, but also knew that she was a Scorpio, 16-years old and a nationally ranked gymnast. Last week, when Zhang was admitted early into Tsinghua University’s humanities program, “milk tea cutie” once again made headlines, pushing her onto various Baidu search rankings — on the hot topics list, popular individuals, you name it.
Shortly after making her Internet celebrity breakthrough, Zhang was reportedly contacted by famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou to star in his new movie Love under the Hawthorne Tree. According to “Milk Tea Cutie,” the director twice sent representatives to her high school to talk with her about potential movie roles.
“Yeah, he contacted me about maybe acting in Love under the Hawthorne Tree, but I talked with my parents and together we decided I shouldn’t do it,” Zhang retells. “I agree with my parents that high school should be a time to focus on studies.”
Milk Tea Cutie’s acceptance to Tsinghua, arguably China’s number one ranked university, has only solidified her place in the hearts and minds of her web followers. The fact that she was willing to turn down a path to immediate commercial success in order to continue challenging herself scholastically strikes a very strong chord within a country that has historically placed utmost importance on the value of education.
Considering her shining status on the Chinese web, some netizens have voiced concern about her ability to adapt to a new school environment where all of her classmates – or the boys at least – already have extensive, and perhaps somewhat perverted, virtual relationships with her. One small word of advice to Tsinghua’s incoming male freshman: don’t get your hopes up, she’s probably already taken.