Around 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, Mirror superstars Lokman Yeung and Anson Kong made their first public appearance at Aberdeen Centre to thunderous cheers.
As the two descended from an escalator outside the studio of event organizer, Fairchild Radio studio, they were greeted by enthusiastic fans whose screams reverberated across all three floors of the shopping mall.
Hundreds of fans had gathered at the Richmond mall to catch a glimpse of the two superstars, who were there to promote the popular “American Idol”-esque reality show, “King Maker.”
Yeung and Kong are members of Mirror, the first Hong Kong breakout boy band in a generation, formed by previous “King Maker” contestants in its first season. The show is set to expand its reach to North America and Malaysia in its next season, with contestants competing to become the next superstars to come out of Hong Kong.
@richmond_news Hong Kong boy group Mirror’s Lokman Yeung and Anson Kong arrived in Richmond to judge the North American auditions of King Maker. #richmondbc #richmondnews #mirrorweare #aberdeencentre ♬ original sound - Richmond News
Relatable idols and a show that brings hope
Long time “King Maker” and Mirror fan Aimee Yeung said the duo's presence in Vancouver made them feel real.
"Usually they're really far from us unless we fly over," she said. "But now that they're here, it's like, 'They're finally here! They actually see us!'"
Aimee Yeung became a fan of "King Maker" after the first season and watches every episode as they come on air, despite the 16-hour time difference.
For her, “King Maker” was a bright spot of hope and positivity during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two interests — King Maker and Mirror — help her stay connected to the cultural talent from her hometown.
"(Hong Kong is) such a small city, so you can really relate to that if you're from there," she said.
"After the first (“King Maker” season), it kind of created hope for everybody in that 'Oh, you know, if you've got talent, you'll be recognized. People can see you,'" she said.
Meeting Canadian fans was like finally seeing an online girlfriend in person: Anson Kong
It’s the first time that Mirror boy band members have visited Richmond. While the two were spotted busking in Vancouver last week, this is their first public appearance, and fans travelled from all over the region to see them.
"Before we came, we wondered what our fans here were like," said Yeung.
So far, the passion and numbers have exceeded expectations, he said.
More than 100 fans camped out to catch a glimpse of the two superstars when the pair landed at Vancouver International Airport on Nov. 30.
Kong likened Mirror's relationship with Canadian fans to an "internet romance," since they hadn't been able to meet in person prior to this visit, and said the "passionate reception" was "very heartwarming."
The duo has also been exploring Richmond. Keen-eyed fans spotted them having dinner and exploring T&T Supermarket — a diaspora staple — at Lansdowne Centre shortly after arriving.
The city felt familiar, despite it being a 10-hour plane ride from Hong Kong, Yeung told The Richmond News.
"Even though we did leave Hong Kong, it felt like we weren't far," he said.
Spot the local talents
“King Maker’s” North American auditions were held in Vancouver over the past week. The city was chosen for its easy international access and “large Chinese diaspora population,” Yeung and Kong told the News.
Many Metro Vancouver talents made the list, such as Ernest Yung, 26, who busked with Yeung and Kong.
A Richmond regular, Alex Regis, was also among the finalists. Regis, 22, is a dancer who often practices K-Pop cover dances in Richmond's BGM Studios when he is not dancing at Trek of Arts on Main St.
Regis is the only contestant who doesn't speak Cantonese — he’s Filipino-Canadian. But Regis says that his friends are helping him cross that language barrier.
He has already mastered a critical Cantonese phrase: "Have you eaten yet?”
Regis' journey to pursue his dreams began soon after he started dancing two years ago. He even went to Korea to take part in K-pop auditions. But a string of rejections left him discouraged, and he almost gave up.
“King Maker” represents another chance for stardom.
Regis said the experience has been "surreal."
"I'm looking forward to what's to come and the friends I'll meet. And I'm sure that many times it will be hard, but it'll be a fun process," said Regis. The energy from fans has been amazing, he added.
More singers than dancers among North American hopefuls
“King Maker” hopefuls from this side of the Pacific skew heavily towards singers. Yeung said only one out of 10 applicants was a trained dancer, calling it a “huge disparity.”
"But within the nine applicants who don't know how to dance, they felt shy about not knowing how to dance, but they weren't shy about dancing," he said.
"As soon as the music plays, they’re giving it their all."
Compared to contestants in Hong Kong, Kong thinks those from North America are more "down-to-earth."
It can be lonely to chase dreams of stardom in North America, Kong said, where the desire for stardom is not as commonplace as it is in Hong Kong. The two superstars also offered some tips to the potential contestants.
"Regardless of your age, as long as you put your heart into (the competition) and you have the talent and passion, you will be transported back to (those simpler times of being passionate about your craft). Savour those times," Yeung said.
Kong, on the other hand, recalled his excitement of being able to dive into deep discussions about singing, dancing and performing with like-minded contestants.
"A competition will inevitably have wins and losses. Some people will win, some might leave in the middle and others might lose," he said.
"But it's okay. Enjoy the process and don't forget every teammate who competed alongside you."