FROM online video sensation to reality star to panda ambassador – it’s been a whirlwind few months for Rob Hemsley.
The 28-year-old broadcaster, the host of a Beijing-based online show about Chinese entertainment news, has been hitting the headlines after his spoof music video The Panda went viral. In just 24 hours it was watched by half-a-million people.
Enjoying a break from the spotlight Rob, who has worked abroad for around seven years, has been visiting his parents in Bognor Regis.
“To be honest it is quite a relief to walk through Bognor and not have someone jump out at me from the shadows dancing and singing,” said Rob.
“It is strange to have people recognise me in another country it is something that is hard to explain,” he added.
Alongside his friend Stuart Wiggin, Rob gained his fame after they donned panda suits, danced around a bamboo forest and sang Rob’s humorous lyrics based on the Norwegian hit The Fox by Ylvis.
Rob said: “The video was shown on the online show I host, Reel China. We thought we might get a few views, but it quickly took on a life of its own and went viral in China.”
There was not much time to prepare for the music video. They had just 48 hours to get everything in place. The panda suits were ordered and Rob quickly reworked the lyrics.
“The Chinese people really embraced what we were trying to do. I think they appreciated that we wanted to embrace their culture and we were not worried about looking silly doing it.
“It was very quirky and very silly,” said Rob.
The pair’s antics didn’t go unnoticed and they received a call from the producers of the Shanghai-based China’s Got Talent in December.
They wanted the duo to perform on the show which pulls in audiences of half a billion people each week – and they were more than happy to oblige.
As in Britain, the talent show features four judges, one of whom is Rob’s favourite Chinese film star Liu Ye.
He said: “After we performed on stage we were asked questions by the judges, and had to answer in Chinese which is when I said I would like to meet and hug a real panda.
“We then invited Liu Ye on stage to perform The Panda with us for a second time and he agreed.
“It was an experience I will never forget.”
But Rob’s brush with all things fluffy didn’t end there as he was asked to serve as a panda ambassador and invited to Dujiangyan Giant Panda Rescue and Disease Control Centre to meet the bears he will represent face-to-face.
Rob said: “The centre is in Chengdu and I was invited for a day to meet the pandas.
“I also got to plant a bamboo tree, look around the panda hospital, and prepare food for the bears.
“It was an amazing experience.
“The bears look as cuddly as you would imagine, but they also have really sharp claws.
“This whole experience has been fantastic but for me being a panda ambassador is something I hope will make a difference. It is a great honour for a foreigner to be given. Usually celebrities are chosen but I think it is such a novelty that a westerner is willing to embrace their culture and make a fool of themselves they asked me.”
For Rob the highlight of his trip to the centre was meeting a young panda called Hanhan.
He said: “I was lucky enough to get the chance to play with Hanhan and it was fantastic. I was also allowed to do some filming with him.
“To keep him occupied I had to feed him carrots, but I was only allowed to give him six carrots and as he could eat them within about 20 seconds each we had to work quickly to get the footage we needed as it was quite difficult to hold his attention.”
Rob is keen to use his notoriety to help the endangered species.
“I would like to use my five-minute fame for good. It is important that people are made aware of the plight of the panda and I hope I can do a little to help this.
“I would also like to go back and visit Hanhan.”
To watch the video visit tinyurl.com/ps622zr