Brother Sharp (犀利哥)
An excerpt from the China Daily:
A homeless man who spends his days and nights wandering the streets of Ningbo, Zhejiang province, has almost gained star status, thanks to his “good looks and sharp dress sense”. A growing number of Internet users are tracking the whereabouts of the still unidentified man, whose “fans” have nicknamed him Brother Sharp (犀利哥). He is one of the most talked about personalities in Chinese cyberspace today. Several netizens have dubbed Brother Sharp as the “most handsome underdog of this century”.
On the morning of January 30, 2010, a photographer took his new SONY camera to Tian Yi Square and decided to try out his new lens, by shooting street scenes for the photography community forum, www.fengniao.com. The photographer, Mr. Tu, captured a few shots of a homeless man, who he said was “bearing dignification” as he walked down the busy streets.
“He has a very special temperament,” stated Mr. Tu, “so I couldn’t help but pick up the camera and take a few shots.”
Later that day, Mr. Tu went home and sent his photos to the website, but had not expected to receive the upcoming attention.
On February 21, a Tianya Club forum user posted a thread, titled 《秒杀宇内究极华丽第一极品路人帅哥！帅到刺瞎你的狗眼！求亲们人肉详细资料》, roughly translated as “Behold the number one ultimate, gorgeous, handsome passer-by! Blind your dog eyes! Seeking detailed information on his flesh.”
-“…a starkly handsome Chinese man walking with a model’s measured gait, and wearing a rag-tag but well coordinated overcoat on top of a leather jacket. His eyes peer into the middle distance, in what one fan described as ‘a deep and penetrating way’, and he strides confidently forward.”
Photos of the man’s handsome features, from the eyes, clothing, hairstyles, uninhibited decadence, and even smoking facial expressions, were all revealed. Netizens dubbed the homeless man “Brother Sharp” because of his “sharp/penetrating eyes and style”. Brother Sharp had become a fashion icon, catching many attention not only in China, but even in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.
Forum users had immediately started posting their own take on Brother Sharp
Just five days after, on February 26, at 20:00 (CST), the Tianya post hits millions of views and Google searching “犀利哥 (Brother Sharp)” presented 463,000 search results. An update on March 5, Google searching “犀利哥” will give more than 15 million search results.
Ever since his picture was discovered, people had been trying to locate this mysterious man. Many netizens find it hard to believe that such a handsome man could be homeless. Could he be just a model? The Tianya Club vigilante group, Human Flesh Search expanded their efforts into finding Brother Sharp and knowing more about him.
Curious netizens from other areas have poured in to Ningbo just to catch sight of him. They were able to confirm that Brother Sharp is a genuine beggar; not an actor or posing model. He is often found at an infested area near the East entrance of the Xinhua Bookstore. Apparently, he is mentally unstable.
The Ningpo government was soon alerted about the situation, and their concerns grew. “It’s the local government’s responsibility for everyone to experience the kindness of the people in this city,” its spokesperson said. “We will continue to care for the homeless guys. This is an essential part of the development of a civilized city.”
Brother Sharp in female attire
Locals had suggested to send him to a homeless shelter due to his unwanted presence on the streets. However, netizens opposed to this idea, and started to resent promoting Brother Sharp’s popularity. The mass-media were constantly harassing him with questions and urges to go receive help. Officials were able to find and contact a close friend of Brother Sharp, who was later known as “Cat”.
Because of Brother Sharp’s unrecognizable accent, Cat was able to translate to the locals. According to Cat, he is a netizen who started taking care of Brother Sharp in 2008 which helped him win his trust.
Brother Sharp first talked in public on March 2. He persisted to refuse help from the Ningbo shelter. He was afraid of so many people being around him and he did not understand why they kept “visiting” and taking his picture, said Cat. Because of his bad psychological condition, Cat insisted not to take him to a shelter. Brother Sharp had proceeded to cry and yell again, then Cat took him away.
“The first time I met him, he was able to say things, even if it was unclear.”
As a fellow netizen, Cat had shared on the internet of how Brother Sharp lived. Cat said he had first asked Brother Sharp if he was hungry. Replying only with “hungry”, Cat wanted to test his extent of self-care and gave him 10 yuan to let him buy food from a nearby store. Unexpectedly, he took the money and bought a pack of cigarettes. Cat asked him why he didn’t buy food. Brother Sharp pointed to a trash can, and after a while, Cat finally understood what he meant: you can pick up and eat from the trash.
He was conscious most of the time. Brother Sharp once said, “Find a girl to love me.”
Cat said “He wanted to have a wife and a home. So, he puts on woman’s clothing and imagine himself as a woman. That way, combined, he would have both happiness and a home. Some people may laugh him, some people would make fun of him. But who will go to help him? to understand him?”
As netizens watched tears from the beloved vagabond, they expressed sorrow about his situation. They hope officers do not “cage this free bird” and others demanded “please don’t mess with his peaceful life!”
In the morning of March 5, a reporter received news that the relatives of the Ningbo street beggar have been found, and have already arrived in Ningbo while Brother Sharp has since already entered the Ningbo City mental hospital. His younger brother met him in the hospital and recognized him as his long lost brother. Brother Sharp’s real name is Chen Guorong, born October 10, 1975, and is from the Boyang County, Jangxi province. He left home to work 11 years earlier and his family lost contact with him. Just last year, his wife and father suffered a car accident and both have passed away. The younger brother, Cheng Guosheng said Guorong came to Ningbo in 2000 with others from his hometown to find work. But beginning in 2003, his family had lost all contact with him. Family members had been searching for him multiple times, the most recent being in 2008.
On March 8, 2010 Brother Sharp has been reported to have returned to his home in Poyang with his family. Locals and authorities supported his homecoming by sending the family food and supplies. One local logistics company offered to donate 2000 yuan, and the local government helped the family apply for subsistence allowances.
Brother Sharp is now much cleaner and trusts that he should now be more handsome than before although he probably is no longer “Brother Sharp” because he no longer has the “sharp/penetrating” eyes or look.
What Brother Sharp looks like now
A movie about Brother Sharp is now in the works starring Hong Kong actor and model Carl Ng. (Wikipedia)
I would definitely check it out. Very interesting, these web phenomena can get old, but this one is incredibly intriguing. He has these looks and style that gain him incredible attention and following, but at the same time I am sure he must have an incredible story behind it all. It is like Ted Williams in a way, but it seems Brother Sharp had problems far beyond Alcohol and Drugs. Mental health is something not many films delve into with incredible depth, a Beautiful Mind did it quite well, but what about a person who is maybe not blessed with brilliant ideas, but with appearance that gathers attention? Very interesting.
The Ted Williams thing tripped me out a bit. It was obvious the guy was talented, but offering him jobs and houses without really checking into his full back story seemed incredibly crazy. How could somebody with gifts, whether it be in appearance as in people taking to Brother Sharp or a talent in the case of Ted Williams get to this point where they appear to have nothing? Homeless culture is fascinating to me, because you wonder who these people leave behind and what has happened to drive them to the life they lead. Many have incredibly sad stories. A great movie about a very talented homeless man was "Cats of Mirikitani". It is a documentary about "Jimmy" Mirikitani, a man who is a great painter, yet has chosen to live on the streets almost as an afront to what the US did to him as an immigrant from Japan.
Brother Sharp seems like it will be a very interesting story, as I am sure that man has been through a lot in his life. But Ted Williams was just weird to me, I was happy for him and amazed by it, like most people, but to me they never got to the core issues. How does this father of 9 and radio announcer become homeless and seemingly astranged from his family? The timeline he gives seem awfully skewed, and how does he make it to Columbus and not see his mother for 10 years? I understand the power alcohol and drug addictions possess, but he was supposedly sober for a couple years, had a girl friend, something does not add up. I am very glad Brother Sharp has seemingly accepted help, as I am glad Ted Williams has agreed to go to rehab, because as I said, something did not add up with the whole thing. Still, pretty amazing stories and parallels that show the power of the internet in changing peoples lives.