Pulinario was pissed off. Before the accident, she’d worked her first post-incarceration job at a culinary company that ran a cafeteria in New York City's financial district. Afterward, she had to accept that her life wouldn’t be the same — that the back and shoulder injuries she’d suffered meant she could no longer be the same "beast in the kitchen," on her feet all day without the time or flexibility to sit down and rest every so often. She couldn't lift a heavy pot or pan with one hand anymore, let alone multitask at the breakneck pace of a commercial cook.
Adjusting to her body’s new reality was frustrating, but she was enraged by what she said came next. Because prison had left a two-decade crater in Pulinario’s professional experience, she was turned down for disability benefits based on her limited work history. Pulinario had spent nearly every day of her sentence working: as a cook, a prison day care staff member, a porter, a builder in the industry program. When she looked around the public assistance office where she applied for disability, she saw things she might have assembled with her own still-calloused hands: metal cabinets, cubicle walls, the panels concealing the wiring for computers and phones. New York inmates get paid around 30 cents an hour to construct office materials for state buildings. Pulinario was surrounded by evidence of her work history. But that wasn’t enough for the state that had put her away at age 21, when she shot and killed the man she said raped her.
Internet celebrities themselves—the name wang hong means “Internet red”—are newly ubiquitous in China. The most famous of them rival the country’s biggest pop singers, and outrank most TV and movie stars, in recognition and earnings. Meitu takes a cut of what Meipai users make with their videos—as much as thirty per cent in some instances, although no executives and few stars will discuss the exact figures. The biggest names, like HoneyCC, become brand ambassadors. When she and I met, she was about to go to a rehearsal for a conference being held in a few days’ time to mark Meipai’s third anniversary—a round of parties, networking sessions, and workshops for wang hong and wang hong wannabes. HoneyCC and her peers would be sharing secrets of their success, while others took notes on how to join their ranks, or perhaps even supplant them. “The market is competitive and growing more so,” she said; fans constantly demand more variety, more polish, more beauty. “You must feed them and encourage them and figure out what they like, even before they do,” she went on. “It’s a mad rush when the eyes are on you, but there’s no guarantee they’ll stay there.”
Over the entrance to Meitu’s headquarters, the company’s name is written in slanted pink letters. The path toward it is flanked by human-size figures, resembling Teletubbies, coated in bright, glossy paint. An employee explained that they represented aspects of the company’s operations, such as marketing, product management, and programming.
First, you’ll need two pounds of sirloin or chuck roast, diced into cubes; a half-pound of slab bacon, cut into lardons; one yellow onion, three carrots, six cloves of garlic, ten fingerling potatoes, and a half-pound of cremini mushrooms. You’ll need some brandy, a bottle of full-bodied red wine, a third-cup of crème de cassis, three cups of beef or veal stock, and two tablespoons of tomato paste. Of course a little flour, a healthy lump of butter, a few tablespoons of chopped parsley. For the aromatics, a sachet (cheesecloth, tied with butcher’s twine) stuffed with thyme (six sprigs), parsley (eight), a bay leaf, three cloves, and five crushed juniper berries.
Naturally, you’ll also need some time.