Many people eagerly allow themselves to be subjected to unpleasant situations in the name of reality television. For Vladislav Ivanov, that wasn't quite the case. Thanks to his Mandarin skills, the 27-year-old from Russia had originally been recruited to serve as a teacher and translator for Produce Camp 2021, a Chinese program where contestants are sent to live in dorms on an island in Hainan province and compete for the chance to be part of an 11-member boy band, per AFP. Producers who caught sight of Ivanov when he showed up for his teaching gig thought his good looks would appeal to the viewing audience, and so they asked him if he wanted to become a contestant instead. "They asked if I'd like to try a new life," Ivanov explained on the show. Without fully knowing what he was getting into, Ivanov agreed, but he soon wanted out—except he couldn't do so without violating his contract and incurring a hefty fine.
And so for three months, Ivanov, who says he can't sing or dance and has no interest in being in a boy band—which the 11 winners would contractually be obligated to form—remained on the island, mailing in performances as "Lelush" and begging viewers to vote him off. His pleas had the opposite effect: Viewers were entranced by "the laid-back charm of a reluctant, bored, sometimes angry Ivanov," per the South China Morning Post, and kept voting him through to the next round and all the way to the finals, which aired Saturday. That's when, finally, the Russian got his wish: He didn't earn enough votes to make it into the band. "I'm finally getting off work," he posted on Chinese social media on Sunday. (Read more strange stuff stories.)