William Hung (born 1982) is a Chinese American college student who gained fame and notoriety in early 2004 as a result of his audition performance of Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs" on the television series ''American Idol'', Season 3.
Born in Hong Kong and originally from the Sha Tin area, Hung moved to Southern California in 1993. He entered the University of California, Berkeley, in 2001.
While a civil engineering student at Berkeley, Hung was inspired to audition for the third season of the reality talent search program in San Francisco during September 2003 after winning a talent contest at his dormitory. The President of the Hall Association and the Publicity Director at the Clark Kerr dormitory invited Hung to sing during meetings and events, including an end-of-semester auction.
Producers never told him that his audition would be broadcast, and he only found out about it when it aired four months later. His audition was the final one on the January 27, 2004 installation, the ''coup de grace'' of an hour-long episode that showcased other would-be pop stars, mostly lacking in talent.
As judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul tried to hold back their laughter, judge Simon Cowell dismissed Hung's performance outright: "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?"
Hung defended himself, stating "I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all." Jackson and Abdul applauded his positive response, and Abdul said, "That's the best attitude yet." Hung's response to Cowell's criticism was in stark contrast to earlier contestants' often angry, confrontational rejoinders. Hung also remarked, "I have no professional training," eliciting a response of mock surprise from Simon Cowell, saying that it was "the surprise of the century". Hung was not admitted to the next round, but his heartfelt performance was already indelibly stamped into the minds of all who watched it.
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Hung rapidly gained a cult following around the world. A William Hung fan site (http://www.williamhung.net), set up by realtor Don Chin and his wife Laura, recorded over 4 million hits within its first week. Hung soon appeared on a number of TV programs including "The Today Show",'On Air with Ryan Seacrest'', ''Entertainment Tonight'', ''Countdown with Keith Olbermann'', ''The Ellen DeGeneres Show'', ''Dateline NBC'',"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno", and "The Jimmy Kimmel Show.". He was also featured in numerous publications and parodied by actor Jimmy Fallon on ''Saturday Night Live''.
Remixes of his performance topped song request lists at a few radio stations. An online petition to get Hung back on the show claimed more than 100,000 signatures by late February.Hung was brought back to ''American Idol'' as part of a mid-season special titled ''Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented'', which aired March 1, 2004.
The special documented what it was like to go through the audition process and, in Hung's case, emerge as an inadvertent celebrity. There is a degree of irony in the situation, as Hung has become more prominent in the public eye and modern culture than most other previous ''American Idol'' contestants. What appeals to fans is his unusual looks, good attitude, naiveness and eagerness. His image has not been manufactured or carefully crafted, thus he brings a fresh face and personality to the celebrity culture.
At a February 18 volleyball game at University of California, Berkeley, Hung again performed his rendition of "She Bangs", and was offered a surprise $25,000 check from the Fuse music channel and a record deal from Koch Entertainment.
On March 8, Koch Entertainment announced that Hung had decided to sign the record deal he was offered in February. Hung's first single, a cover of The Village People's "YMCA," debuted on March 19. Hung's debut album, ''Inspiration'', recorded over the weekend of March 6, was released on April 6 and includes covers of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" and "Shake Your Bon Bon" and Elton John's "Rocket Man," as well as a 40-minute DVD documenting the making of the album called ''A Day In The Life of William Hung''.
To promote his album, Hung performed before nearly 20,000 fans during half-time at a Golden State Warriors game on April 6. Several of his songs reached the top 10 on Apple's iTunes charts, and his album reached #3 on Amazon.com's sales rankings. With the release of his album, Fuse also aired a half-hour special called ''Idol Worship: The William Hung Story'', featuring Hung in his first music video, another rendition of "She Bangs".Hung released a Christmas album, ''Hung For The Holidays'', on October 19 2004. Hung's third album, ''Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung'', was released July 12 2005 and features his rendition of the Billy Ray Cyrus country hit "Achy Breaky Heart".
TV commercials and movies
Hung appeared in commercials for the search engine Ask Jeeves, Jack In the Box restaurants, and mobile phone service provider Cingular Wireless. He also did an exclusive promotional music video for The Game Show network singing Queen's "We Are The Champions."
His prime-time television appearances include "The George Lopez Show" playing himself, as well as on the series finale episode of Fox's "Arrested Development" as the leader of a mock rock band, "William Hung' & His Hung Jury."
His first movie, a HK$10 million (US$2 million) Hong Kong period comedy called ''Where is Mama's Boy?'', was released in January 2005. Hung played a good-natured village kid who sells Chinese pancakes to pay his mother's medical bills and gets discovered as a singer and helps a woman protect her business from a jealous and scheming older sister. In this film Hung played opposite to veteran Hong Kong actress Nancy Sit and parodied his own American Idol performance with the song Shao Bing (Chinese Pancake), obviously a deliberate allusion to the title of his American Idol audition song, ''She Bangs''.
Hung was also the subject of a documentary called ''Hangin' With Hung'', an hour and a half long film documenting Hung's sudden rise in fame.