hung on

William Hung

William James Hung Hing Cheong (Traditional Chinese: 孔慶翔, Simplified Chinese: 孔庆翔, Cantonese Yale: Hung2 Hing3 Cheung4, Pinyin: Kǒng Qìngxiáng) (born January 13, 1983) is a musician who gained fame in early 2004 as a result of his off-key audition performance of Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs" on the third season of the television series American Idol.

Originally from Sha Tin, Hong Kong, Hung moved to Camden, NJ, United States, in 1993 and graduated from the John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles. He was a student at University of California, Berkeley, and later dropped out to pursue his music career. He later attended Pasadena City College and now attends California State University, Northridge.

Initial fame

While studying civil engineering at University of California, Berkeley, Hung was inspired to audition for the third season of American Idol in San Francisco during September 2003 after winning a talent contest at his dormitory.

Hung was not aware that his American Idol audition would be broadcast until it aired four months later. He was the final auditioner on the January 15, 2004, installment, the coup de grâce of an hour-long episode that showcased other would-be pop stars, mostly lacking in talent.

"I want to make music my living," said Hung, before he started singing and dancing to Ricky Martin's "She Bangs", showing a lack of vocal talent. As judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul tried to restrain their laughter, judge Simon Cowell dismissed Hung's performance, remarking "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?", to which Hung replied, "Um, I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all." Jackson and Abdul applauded his positive attitude, with Abdul remarking, "That's the best attitude yet." Hung's response to Cowell's criticism starkly contrasts with the often confrontational rejoinders of other contestants. Hung added, " know, I have no professional training of singing and dancing," eliciting mock surprise from Cowell, who replied, "No? Well this is the surprise of the century." Hung was not admitted to the next round.

Cult following

Hung rapidly gained a cult following. A William Hung fan site, set up by realtor Don Chin and his wife Laura, recorded over four million hits within its first week. Hung subsequently appeared on several television programs including Jimmy Kimmel, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Entertainment Tonight, The Late Show With David Letterman, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Howard Stern Radio Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dateline NBC, Arrested Development and CBS's The Early Show. Hung was featured in several national magazines and newspapers; he was parodied on Saturday Night Live and appeared on Celebrity Deathmatch. He was reportedly invited to perform at MTV's Asia Awards held in mid-February. Remixes of Hung's audition performance topped song request lists at a number of radio stations. An online petition to get Hung back to American Idol included more than 100,000 signatures by late February. Hung was brought back to American Idol as part of a mid-season special titled Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented, airing March 1, 2004. The special documented what it was like to experience the audition process and, in Hung's case, emerge as an inadvertent celebrity.

Record deal

William Hung was offered a $25,000 advance on a record deal from Koch Entertainment in 2004, and released three albums on that label in 2004 and 2005. The albums mainly consisted of covers of pop and rock songs, including "She Bangs".

Television, commercials and movies

Hung has appeared in commercials for the search engine, as well as the mobile phone service provider Cingular Wireless.

His first movie, a low-budget Hong Kong period comedy called Where is Mama's Boy (2004), was released in January 2005. Hung played a good-natured village kid who sells Chinese pancakes to pay his mother's medical bills. His character gets discovered as a singer, and helps a woman protect her business from her jealous, conniving elder sister. In the film, Hung played opposite veteran Hong Kong actress Nancy Sit and parodied his own American Idol performance with the song Siu Beng (Cantonese) (Chinese Pancake), an allusion to his American Idol audition song, She Bangs. Despite solid financial backing and the involvement of Nancy Sit, the film was a box office flop.

Hung was the subject of a documentary called William Hung: Hangin' with Hung, a ninety minute film recounting his sudden rise to fame. In February 2006, Hung played himself in an episode of the television series Arrested Development, as part of the fictional band "William Hung and his Hung Jury", the house band of the show "Mock Trial with J. Reinhold".

Hung has appeared in an episode of the MTV Show, Celebrity Deathmatch, where he battles Ricky Martin (who performed the original "She Bangs").

In the episode Sexual Harassment of the American version of The Office the letters "WL HUNG" on the licence plate of a sales representative's car is (mis)taken to be a reference to Hung.

He has also appeared in Airline in which he missed his flight, then sang his infamous song once again for the cameras.

Hung has also been portrayed as a Chinese fairy in the Fairly OddParents movie, Fairy Idol. The fairy also sang horribly, but sang the Fairly OddParents theme song instead.

Perpetuating racial stereotypes

Commentator Emil Guillermo claimed that Hung may have not gained much attention had he been of another race, and his popularity may be derived from his being a walking representation of the Asian stereotype, characterized by nerdiness, studiousness, speaking with a strong fresh off the boat accent, and lacking singing talent or rhythm. Documentary filmmaker James Hou commented that "(a)s Asian Americans, we look through this racial lens, and we see this guy who embodies all the stereotypes we're trying to escape from. Many have argued that Hung's career arose out of mockery, and that the media exploited him as a joke rather than as a talented or inspirational figure. Ron Lin, former editor in chief of the UC Berkeley's Daily Californian notes that "(i)t's really difficult for Asian American males to break through and (Hung) may not be the most appealing example.



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