One was propelled to star status by a TV talent show, while another crossed the Channel without a word of French, but became a household name on daytime television.
A third uploaded a spiritual song in Urdu, but it went viral two years later and brought it fame – in Pakistan.
Here they tell what it feels like to be famous in a foreign country and anonymous at home:
“My mother finds it funny when she visits”
When Darren Tulett, 55, first moved to Paris with a friend as a 23-year-old political and social science student looking for adventure, he felt excited just to drop out a job to teach English.
Growing up in a council house in Lancing, West Sussex, his move to Manchester Metropolitan University at the age of 20 had seemed adventurous.
While he remains equally low-key in Blighty, nicknamed “Darren of England,” in France, he is a famous TV personality, beloved for his fun and quirky approach to sports presentation.
He said: “When I arrived in Paris I had no idea how long I would stay and no plan. I’ve always wanted to get into journalism, but that wasn’t my intention when I arrived without a word of French.
Ironically, his pitiful language skills proved to be an asset.
He says: “I was strictly instructed not to speak French in class, which suited me because I didn’t know any!
“I started dating a French girl and we were sitting in a jazz club one night when she said something to me that I didn’t understand. All I could make out was “finished.”
He added, “I remember saying, ‘No finished. The club is open until 2. ‘ It took me 10 minutes to realize she was ditching me!
“But soon after, I met a French woman who was to become my wife and teach me the language. “
After that, Darren refreshed his French and, after briefly returning to the UK to join Bloomberg News, returned to Paris in 1998 to cover the World Cup – and stayed.
He said: “I joined Canal + in 2002, which is essentially the French version of Sky, and 10 years later, I switched to BeIN Sports. “
At BeIN Sports, which has 55 million subscribers, Darren hosts a national TV show, Champions Arena – their Match of the Day equivalent – which airs every Saturday.
“It’s still a bit weird when people recognize me on the street,” he says. “I will notice that someone is looking at me funny, then they will come and ask me for a photo. “
He added, “My mom finds it funny when she visits.
“I didn’t move to Paris in search of a career in TV, but I think part of what helped me was that, rather than being held back by English , I looked into it – even though my French is much better these days.
“It’s really crazy that 30 years later I’m still in France – and so is Nick, the mate I came with. “
He adds: “Considering that I did not know French, I now have two bilingual daughters!
“My intention was never to become famous”
When she visits her family in Wandsworth, southwest London, no one flinches, but 3,785 miles in Pakistan, 33-year-old Tanya Wells is a singing sensation that turns heads.
Performing spiritual music with her Brazilian husband, Paulo Vinicius, 36, in their group Seven Eyes, formed in 2015, both great representatives of diversity who like to mix cultural influences, they also like to sing in different languages.
They still remain unknown in Britain, Brazil and Geneva in Switzerland where they live – inspired by Tanya’s Swiss mother, who sent her daughter to school in India for a time to broaden her experience.
But suddenly, two years after uploading one of their songs in Urdu – the official language of Pakistan – it unexpectedly went viral, making them stars overnight in this South Asian country. South.
Tanya, whose Urdu music has racked up 7.5 million views on YouTube, said, “I didn’t think about it after I downloaded it. I went to school in India when I was a kid and Paulo is from Brazil, so we often play in different languages.
She added: “The intention was never to become famous. The song was on the internet for two years before, one day, in 2017, it went viral. I have no idea how it happened, but people in Pakistan have started to notice it.
“It was an older song – a famous ‘Ghazal’, written by a seminal Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz – that I had covered in Urdu.
“Suddenly we had this huge fan base there. “
Traveling to Pakistan in 2017 for a concert, Tanya was stunned when 1,000 people showed up just to watch her sound test.
She said: “It was our first taste of real glory. It’s weird, but the country just connected with our performances. I think they appreciate the fact that we are Westerners who respect their heritage and their music.
“My education means that our band was inspired by Indian music, but we have evolved it to include other cultures as well. “
Tanya admits her accidental fame leaves those close to her in London bewildered.
She said: “My family thinks it’s really hit and miss and probably weird. They are not wrong! I was recognized in Pakistan by festival-goers but during my visit, I did not have the chance to go out on the streets.
“Strangely, when I’m at home in London, I get stopped by British Pakistanis who recognize me.
She added, “There were several occasions when my sister was in a cab and the music conversation started and they found out that I am her sister. The drivers are so happy that they offer him a free trip!
“I’ve always loved music and want to use it to connect with people, so I like the Pakistani people to accept us.
“I can’t wait to go back after the pandemic and play in front of our fans again. “
“I entered China’s Got Talent for a bit of a laugh”
Five thousand miles from his homeland of Cardiff, Welshman Iain Inglis, 43, was propelled to glory overnight after reaching the semi-finals of the 2012 China’s Got Talent competition.
He only auditioned for the reality show as a joke, but quickly found himself mobbed by enthusiastic fans as he shopped his weekly shop.
Moving to Japan in 2002 to become an English teacher, Iain met his wife, Yu Yanling, now 36, and moved with her to her home country of China in 2004.
He said, “During the first 18 months here, my Chinese has not improved at all.
“I wanted to see the real China and it wasn’t until I left the modern conveniences of Shanghai in 2007 and moved to Sanya, Hainan Province, and started working in a customer relationship role in a hotel, that my fluency in Chinese took off.
“I walked into the show to laugh a bit, but I couldn’t believe the reaction I got. I think people liked that I was a foreigner singing traditional Chinese songs.
Passionately performing Chinese Communist revolutionary hymns, while wearing a Red Army uniform, overseas audiences lapped him up, voting to participate in the live performances.
“The older generation especially liked the act,” he said. “I think it was nostalgic for them. “
His novelty performances made Iain a wild card favorite and he reached the semi-finals before being knocked out.
He said: “It was a little crazy after the show. I started touring, singing my songs across the country and every time I traveled to a big city I was constantly recognized.
“Even in the supermarket, the fans harassed me. It was a strange experience. Fortunately, life is much quieter now.
But far from fading into oblivion, his fame on reality TV has given him great exposure and Iain now hosts a weekly prime-time travel and sightseeing show that airs nationally across China. .
A household name in China, when in 2019 Iain, his wife and their six-month-old daughter traveled to Cardiff to visit their family, he walked down the streets without anyone noticing.
He said, “My family and friends found my appearance in China’s Got Talent hilarious. I don’t know how to sing, but I tried.
“I still give performances occasionally when asked, but I’m happy in my new role now as a presenter. “
He added: “I kind of fell into this career and I’m not sure what I would do now if I was still in the UK. I certainly don’t think I would have become famous.
The challenge of pursuing a career in another language
Taylor Hermerding, editor-in-chief of Didactics at Babbel, the world’s most profitable language learning app, says finding fame in a foreign language is far from easy.
He said: “Forging a successful career in the public eye is hard enough in the security of your own country, but doing it in an unfamiliar language and culture is a whole other challenge.
“If you saw these people standing in a bar in London you might not think about it, but in France or Pakistan or China they would be overwhelmed by adoring fans. “
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