An Junxi’s father really wanted a son. “But I was born a girl, so my dad just thought, ‘Well, she’s young, so we’ll just dress her up like a boy,’” Ms. An said, straddling a lounge chair — full manspread — during a break in rehearsal outside the studio. “I’ve dressed like this ever since I was young,” she explained. Wearing dresses “just felt weird.” Like many Chinese of her generation, Ms. An, 22, became enamored with K-pop music imported from South Korea, especially that of the rapper G-Dragon. After she graduated from college, she moved from her small hometown in the northeast near Shenyang across the country to the city of Chengdu, where she was discovered rapping in a friend’s bar by her agent, Zhou Xiaobai. “I thought she was a total scammer,” Ms. An said of her agent, who manages Acrush. “I wasn’t a trained singer, I was singing other people’s songs and I had studied classical Chinese dancing — how could I be a celebrity?”
From Amy Qin, The 5 ‘Handsome Girls’ Trying to Be China’s Biggest Boy Band.