Who is Li Ziqi?
Li Ziqi is a vlogger and internet celebrity from Sichuan, China. How big of a star, you may ask? Well, she has more than 20 million followers on Weibo alone. On YouTube, she gained 7.6 million subscribers in just over two years. Some estimate that across all social network platforms, she has 60 million fans around the world.
In her cinematic-quality videos, she quietly paints a picture of her rural life that appears to be coming straight from a fairy-tale.
Despite her popularity, she remains mysterious to most of her fans. She rarely does interviews, makes very few public appearances, and she doesn’t respond to rumors and accusations.
|July 6, 1990
|Mianyang, Sichuan, China
Ziqi had a tough childhood, to put it mildly.
Her family lived in a remote, mountainous village in Sichuan, China. Although the village looks like a fairy land in Ziqi’s videos, it was quite poor.
Her parents divorced shortly after Ziqi was born, and she ended up living with her dad and stepmom. When she was around 4 years old, her dad passed away. According to her recollection, she was mistreated by her step mother.
Ziqi has never talked about her biological mother. Nobody knows where she is or whether she’s still alive.
At the age of six, Ziqi moved back to Sichuan to live with her grandparents. This may have been the happiest time of her childhood. Poor, but happy.
Her grandpa was a farmer but also worked as a chef. Whenever there was a wedding or a funeral in the village, Ziqi’s grandpa was in charge of cooking for the guests. Ziqi had to help out, and it was during this time she learned most of her cooking skills.
However, happy days didn’t last long.
Her grandpa also died, when she was in fifth grade.
Surviving in the City
Inevitably, she dropped out of school at 14.
She left her grandma behind, and, just like millions of migrants from rural China, headed out to the city in search of a better future.
With no experience, she bounced around before landing a job as a waitress. She was making 300 RMB a month (about $40). This was barely enough to get by, and if she broke a plate or anything of the sort, it came out of her paycheck. On top of that, she had to send money back to support her grandma.
In a recent article, she talked about when she first started making videos, that she bought a set of lights, but skipped on the voltage adjustment tool, just to save 100 RMB. The tool was something she could’ve really used, but considering how much she earned as a waitress, it’s understandable why she was frugal.
She did a few other low-level jobs while in Shenzhen, the fastest growing city in China. Later on, Ziqi learned to be a DJ. She said frankly that her sole interest in the job was its higher pay. However, that experience taught her some basic skills of video editing, which would later help her become one of China’s biggest stars.
Home, Sweet Home
In 2012, Ziqi’s grandma had a medical emergency. She rushed home to be with her, without even collecting her last paycheck.
When grandma eventually recovered, Ziqi decided to stay.
After eight years of pursuing a dream in the city, she wanted to spend more time with grandma before it was too late.
Q: Is Li Ziqi Married?
A: No (“So you’re telling me there’s a chance!”)
For a few years, she worked on the farm and cooked meals, just like any other village girl.
As a side job, Ziqi started an online store on Taobao (similar to eBay), selling fresh produce and miscellaneous local items. The store was doing well, but among thousands of similar sellers, it didn’t stand out in any way.
In 2016, Ziqi started to make videos, originally as a way to promote her shop. Although her early videos aren’t as refined as her videos today, they were still very high quality and the content was just as beautiful.
With a cheap DSLR camera and a tripod, she marched on with her one-man show. Cooking, farming. . . shooting hundreds of hours of video footage, and finally, editing on a smartphone that kept on crashing.
She overcame the challenges and posted quite a few videos on a platform called Meipai (美拍). But sadly, nobody noticed, and she had very little success. Her videos gained very few likes and shares.
She was ready to give up.
Then one day, out of the blue, she got a much-needed and well-deserved break:
Meipai recommended one of her videos on the front page!!
The rest is history.
I keep thinking, whoever at Meipai that decided to recommend Ziqi’s video on that day deserves an award. Without him or her, it’s quite possible that the world would have never learned about Li Ziqi.
With that, her videos went viral. Fans started to share them on every network in China, which brought even more followers – thousands a day. Li Ziqi quickly became a household name.
As the saying goes, the tallest trees catch the most wind. Rumors about her also started to spread like a wildfire. She was deeply hurt. When her grandma accidentally injured herself after overhearing Ziqi’s pain, she finally had enough. For the first time, she wrote a long piece to counter attack. And in the end, she announced that she would stop publishing.
Shocked by the news, her fans rushed in to defend her, and her friends also encouraged her to continue.
After a short rest, she picked up where she left off, and also hired a photographer and a personal assistant. The three-person team has produced all her videos in the past couple of years.
Since then, Li Ziqi has not responded to any accusations publicly.
As is normal with this type of business, Li Ziqi signed with a talent agency in China to help distribute her videos. She retains control over content and production.
She also owns an official store on China’s biggest eBiz platform. She has been working with several famous brands in China to sell Li Ziqi branded merchandise, such as hot sauce, chopsticks, and traditional Chinese clothing (Han Fu).
Among Chinese Internet Stars, she is one of the earliest to step onto the world stage, and arguably the most successful on YouTube.
Q: How much is Li Ziqi worth?
A: Liziqi has two main sources of income: Merchandise sales and ads in her videos, including YouTube. Some estimate that she’s worth hundreds of millions, but the exact figure is unknown.
Believe it or not, Li Ziqi’s criticism almost exclusively comes from within China.
Some claim her videos are fake, some accuse her of merely acting while others are doing all the work, some say her childhood story is made up to gain sympathy, and some blame her for painting an unrealistic picture of rural life, which is still difficult and bitter.
But the worst of the worst, is that some started digging into her past, hoping to find dirt from her life in the city. This is no longer sour grapes, it’s pure evil.
In late 2019, China’s top newspaper, People’s Daily, published an article praising Ziqi’s effort and hard work. This is important because it sets the tone for other mainstream media, and may help quell some of the unfounded accusations. Being recognized by the government offers an extra layer of protection, if nothing else.
If I go on, I’ll be writing a book, so I’ll stop here.
Everything on this page came from her own postings, or reputable media outlets in China. I merely put them together and re-wrote in English. If you’re a fan of Li Ziqi but don’t understand Chinese, hopefully this article can help.
Thanks for reading.
December 18, 2019, in California