Student, 23, sleeps & eats at Beijing hotels & VIP lounges for free by posing as wealthy socialite for 3 weeks

She did not spend a single cent for three weeks.

Ashley Tan | December 07, 2021, 10:48 AM

As part of her university project, an art student challenged herself to live in Beijing for three weeks, without spending a single cent.

One might think that with such a catch, she likely spent her days and nights on the streets, not in the plush halls of luxurious hotels and VIP lounges.

But that was exactly what 23-year-old Zou Yaqi did, through a combination of convincing props and street smarts.

Convincing disguise

The student from the Central Academy of Fine Arts of Beijing told Sixth Tone that her ambitious endeavour was a performance art project, aimed at being a criticism of capitalism and consumerism.

Zou herself shared that she is "poor", and wanted to "break the rules".

"It’s very interesting how such free 'excessive goods' are distributed — they’re often given to people who seem to already have plenty," Zou said on her Weibo.

But in order to blend in with the wealthy crowd at the swanky locations on her 21-day "itinerary", she had to look the part.

Her disguise as a mingyuan (which means "socialite" in Mandarin), included a fake luxury handbag, a fake diamond ring, a designer tracksuit, and bright red lipstick.

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Used forged entry passes and fake names

Her experiment started on May 1, and the first place she visited was an airport VIP lounge. She managed to gain access with a forged entry pass, and even though it was only valid for three hours, she stayed there for three days.

Photo from Sohu

Her meals came from the lounge's three daily buffets.

She later managed to convince a Gucci staff to give her a free paper bag with the brand's logo.

Not only did it contribute to her disguise, she used it to stash away free food from samples and buffets.

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By giving staff fake names and persuading them with various made-up reasons, Zou even gained access to a Louis Vuitton exhibition, five-star hotels, and an auction using an invitation a friend gave her, the latter of which allowed her to try on expensive jewellery which apparently cost millions of yuan, Sixth Tone reported.

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Throughout this period, Zou spent her nights on the lounge's sofas and cleaned herself in public bathrooms in hotels.

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She even took a nap at IKEA.

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At the end of the three weeks, she presented her project with videos she had recorded of her experiences.

Her project went viral on Chinese social media, and also sparked some controversy from users who accused of her playing a prank to get free food and drinks, South China Morning Post reported.

Others added that she had used a "policy loophole" to become a "fake socialite", and "took advantage of a highly extravagant lifestyle".

According to Sixth Tone and SCMP, Zou responded that she is neither a part of the elite, nor a wannabe online celebrity, and is instead a member of the "proletariat", citing her humble origins.

She added that her intention was not to examine wealth inequality or define what a socialite is.

Top photo from Sohu and