They are the crème de la crème of China’s giant pop entertainment scene. These are the top celebrities and influencers on Weibo in early 2021.
This is the “WE…WEI…WHAT?” column by Manya Koetse, original publication in German by Goethe Institut China, see Goethe.de: WE…WEI…WHAT? Manya Koetse erklärt das chinesische Internet.
While celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, and Katy Perry are the leaders of Twitter in terms of followers, there are Chinese celebrities with an equally large fanbase on the country’s biggest social media platform Weibo, yet these are names that are generally less well-known outside of China.
Although China’s social media landscape has seen the rising popularity of new social apps and sites, Weibo is still the number one platform for the entertainment industry. This is a list of Weibo celebrities with the most followers as of early 2021.
There are some things worth noting about this list. First, it does not contain any ‘internet celebrities’ (网红 wanghong), meaning people who have become self-made online influencers through the internet. The biggest Weibo stars are still the ‘traditional celebrities’ in the sense that they have made their big breakthrough through TV drama, cinema, or the mainstream pop music scene.
Second, although the top list of Chinese celebrities with the most followers on Weibo has changed somewhat throughout the years, many of these celebrities have been at the top for a long time already. Some of them simply have become so big on Weibo because they were among the first celebrities to join the platform since its beginning in 2009. Celebrities such as Yao Chen or Chen Kun already had over 50 million followers on Weibo in 2013. This indicates that while China’s social media landscape is becoming more diverse, it is also more difficult for new social media superstars to emerge and become bigger than the long-time Weibo champions.
Third, the most-followed celebrities on Chinese social media are often true ‘superstars’ in the sense that they are all incredibly versatile. They often do acting, singing, presenting, but also have their own (restaurant) business or engage in other activities as ‘celebrity entrepreneurs.’ Virtually all celebrities in this list are also active contributors to charity or represent a good cause, as well as being brand ambassadors – they often have lucrative deals to do advertisements for world-renowned brands, from fashion brands to cosmetics or high-end spirits. This multidimensionality makes these celebrities all the more appealing to fans: they are talented, beautiful, wealthy, fashionable, virtuous and successful in business.
This article first introduces the ten Weibo accounts with the highest number of followers, and then also includes some newer accounts with the highest “influence rate” (博主影响力) according to Weibo Charts, meaning they have high network interaction and follower growth.
1. Xie Na 谢娜 – The Queen of Weibo
Fans on Weibo: 129.4 million followers, @谢娜
Main occupation: TV host
Date of birth: 6 May 1981
Birthplace: Deyang, Sichuan
Xie Na (1981), also nicknamed ‘Nana,’ is an extremely popular Chinese presenter, singer, actress and designer who is also known as ‘the Queen of Weibo.’
One of the reasons she has become so famous in mainland China is that she is the co-host of Hunan Satellite TV’s Happy Camp (快乐大本管), one of China’s most popular variety shows that has been running since 1997. She presents the show together with, amongst others, colleague He Jiong, who also appears in this list.
But ‘Nana’ is also very popular because she is such a versatile celebrity. Besides hosting various variety TV shows and starring in many popular Chinese films and television series, she has also released several albums, founded a personal clothing line, and published two books. Xie Na made headlines in March 2017 when she announced she would go to Italy as an overseas student to study design.
The TV host also stars in various commercials. She is, for example, the Chinese brand ambassador for American skin care brand Olay.
Xie Na holds the official Guinness World Record as the First Person to Accumulate 100 Million Followers on Weibo and for having the Most followers on Weibo.
In January of 2021, the 39-year-old Xie Na announced her second pregnancy together with her husband Zhang Jie, with whom she has been together for ten years. If you’re not on Weibo, you can also find Xie Na on Instagram here, where she has 485.000 followers.
2. He Jiong 何炅 – Key Figure in China’s Entertainment Industry
Fans on Weibo: 120.6 million followers, @何炅
Main occupation: TV host
Date of birth: 28 April 1974
Birthplace: Changsha, Hunan
He Jiong has been the host of China’s popular Happy Camp TV show for over two decades. He is also a singer, actor, writer, and used to be an Arabic teacher at Beijing’s Foreign Studies University, which is why he is often nicknamed ‘Professor He’ (何老师). Chinese media have called He Jiong “a key figure in China’s entertainment industry.”
Like Xie Na, He Jiong made it to the Guinness Book of Records for being the male celebrity with the most Weibo followers.
He Jiong recently was criticized for ‘exploiting his fame’ when it became known that he was accepting lavish gifts from fans, together with other hosts at Hunan Satellite TV. The broadcaster later stated that they would no longer allow any of their staff to receive gifts from fans, and He Jiong also wrote on Weibo that he would decline all presents in the future.
3. Yang Mi 杨幂 – One of the Most Bankable Female Stars
Fans on Weibo: 109.8 million fans on Weibo @杨幂
Main occupation: Actress
Date of birth: 12 September 1986
The beautiful actress and singer Yang Mi (1986) gained fame and popularity through her various roles in Chinese hit TV dramas. Born in Beijing, Yang started her acting career at the age of 4. Yang starred in many successful films and tv dramas, including hit shows such as Eternal Love (三生三世十里桃花) and The Interpreters (亲爱的翻译官), which happen to be produced by Yang’s own media company Jay Walk Studio.
Yang is now seen as one of Chinas biggest actresses, and also as one with the most commercial value; she was listed in the Top 10 Forbes Chinese Celebrities of 2020. Yang was previously named as one of China’s “New Four Dan Actresses” (the ‘top 4’ actresses).
Besides her acting career, entrepreneurship, and charity efforts, Yang Mi is also active as a brand ambassador for various renowned fashion and skincare brands, including Estee Lauder, Michael Kors and Victoria’s Secret.
This year, the actress will star in the live action movie A Writer’s Odyssey by director Lu Yang.
Yang has a daughter and was previously married to Hong Kong actor and singer Hawick Lau How-wai, with whom she co-starred in various productions. They announced their divorce in 2018. Fun fact: Yang Mi’s dad is also active on Weibo (@休闲小林哥), where he rebutted ongoing rumors about Yang undergoing plastic surgery by sharing her childhood photos. Though not as impressive as his daughter’s, his fanbase of 364,000 followers is still relatively big. Yang Mi is also active on Instagram here.
4. Angelababy 杨颖 – A Household Name
Fans on Weibo: 103.3 million followers @angelababy
Main occupation: Actress
Date of birth: 28 February 1989
‘Angelababy’ (nickname for Yang Ying aka Angela Yeung Wing) has practically become a household name in China over the past years. The award-winning actress, model, and singer started her acting career in 2007 and has taken on many roles in different movies and TV dramas since.
The famous actress married actor Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) in 2015, with whom she has a son. Their lavish $31 million wedding is the most-discussed Chinese weddings of the past decade, and their marriage and relationship status is a popular gossip topic on social media. There are ongoing rumors that the two might already have separated.
Angelababy is the brand ambassador for Dior. She recently opened her own hotpot restaurant named ‘Douliu Hotpot’ (斗鎏火锅) in Chengdu. She is also involved in charity and has previously donated to hospital relief efforts related to the COVID19 crisis in Hubei.
You can also find Angelababy on Instagram, where she has 8.1 million followers.
5. Chen Kun 陈坤 – With Love from Chongqing
Fans on Weibo: 93.3 million fans @陈坤
Main occupation: Actor and singer
Date of birth: 4 February 1976
Chinese top actor, singer and writer Chen Kun, sometimes also credited as Aloys Chen, is known for his roles in many television dramas and movies. The award-winning actor starred in popular TV dramas such as Love Story in Shanghai (像雾像雨又像风) and The Story of a Noble Family (金粉世家), as well as many movies including the 2016 comedy Chongqing Hotpot (火锅英雄) that is set in his hometown. Internationally, he mainly gained recognition for his role in Painted Skin (2008).
Chen belongs to the same generation of Beijing Film Academy graduates as his former classmate Vicki Zhao, who also appears in this list, and Huang Xiaoming, Angelababy’s husband.
Chen Kun is not only popular because of his acting work, but also for his looks – he is known to have a large gay fanbase. He is not shy about his looks, and likes to post a lot of photos of himself on his Weibo page.
Chen is a brand ambassador for Braun, Italian fashion house Prada, and was recently also featured in the campaign for French Cognac brand Martell Noblige. He is also active in charity and is a global ambassador for WildAid. He also founded ‘Power to Go,’ an initiative that aims to encourage people to improve their health and spirit by leading a more energetic lifestyle.
6. Zhao Liying 赵丽颖 – An Audience Favorite
Fans on Weibo: 88.4 million followers on Weibo @赵丽颖
Main occupation: Actress
Date of birth: 16 October 1987
Birthplace: Langfang, Hebei
The award-winning actress and singer Zhao Liying, also known as Zanilia Zhao, is an audience favorite in China. Her acting career started some fifteen years ago but Zhao mainly gained recognition when she starred in 2010 Chinese television series The Dream of Red Mansions (红楼梦) and then played the main role in the 2013 popular series Legend of Lu Zhen (陆贞传奇). In 2017, she starred in the film Duckweed (乘风破浪), directed by Han Han.
Zhao is a tourism ambassador for her home province of Hebei, and she is the brand ambassador for fashion house Dior. Like others in this list, the actress was included in the top 10 of Forbes China Top Celebrity List for 2020.
7. Jackson Yee 易烊千玺 – Teen Idol with Power Star Status
Fans on Weibo: 86.9 million followers on Weibo @TFBOYS-易烊千玺
Main occupation: Singer/dancer with boyband TF Boys
Date of birth: 28 November 2000
Birthplace: Huaihua, Hunan
Although he is a ‘newcomer’ compared to other celebrities in this list, Jackson Yee (Yi Yangqianxi) is one of the most popular Chinese celebrities of the moment. Debuting as a child star, he is a member of China’s hugely popular band TFBoys and was recently included in the Forbes list of “Asia’s 100 Digital Stars” and ranked first in the 2020 Forbes Chinese Celebrity list. The 19-year-old singer-actor also is the number one blogger with the most influence on Weibo at the time of writing, according to Chinese social media data platform Xiguaji.
Besides a band member and solo singer, he is also an actor ad starred in the movie Better Days (2019), for which he won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer. He also stars in the box office hit A Little Red Flower (2020).
Yee is the global brand ambassador for Armani, and also works for brands such as Bulgari, Tiffany & Co, and Adidas.
8. Vicki Zhao 赵薇 – China’s Billionaire Actress
Fans on Weibo: 85.8 million followers on Weibo @赵薇
Main occupation: Actress
Date of birth: 12 March 1976
Birthplace: Wuhui, Anhui
Vicki Zhao is a Chinese film star, singer, entrepreneur, and director. She is also known for her work as the face for various brands (Samsung, Burberry, Fendi), which has added to her wealth: she was previously named as China’s richest actress and even as one of the world’s wealthiest working actresses.
But above all, Zhao is one of China’s most famous actresses. She starred in the highly successful Chinese costume television show My Fair Princess (還珠格格) which first aired in 1998, after which she went on to star in many TV series and big films, including Painted Skin (2008) and Lost in Hong Kong (2015). Together with actresses Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun and Xu Jinglei, Zhao was named as one of China’s ‘Four Dan Actresses’ (四大花旦, the four greatest actresses of mainland China) in the early 2000s.
Zhao is known for her work in charity and her efforts for good causes. She is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations. Zhao is married to Chinese businessman Huang You Long (黄有龙) with whom she has a daughter.
9. Yao Chen 姚晨 – “China’s Answer to Angelina Jolie”
Fans on Weibo: 84.6 million followers @姚晨
Main occupation: Actress
Date of birth: 5 October 1979
Birthplace: Quanzhou, Fujian
Fujian-born Yao Chen is a Chinese actress and Weibo celebrity, who was previously mentioned as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine. Speaking out about social issues and being the first-ever Chinese UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she has also been called ‘China’s answer to Angelina Jolie.’
Yao Chen is not necessarily China’s number one actress, but she was one of the first celebrities to share her personal life on Weibo since 2009, and interact with her fans. On Weibo, she talks about her everyday life, family, news-related issues, work, and fashion. She posts personal pictures every day. Yao Chen’s popularity as an actress and philanthropist combined with her frequent Weibo updates and closeness to her fans have made her a huge Weibo celebrity.
Yao has acted as an ambassador for various brands, including Miu Miu, Fendi, and Lululemon.
10. Deng Chao 邓超 – Box Office Hit
Fans on Weibo: 81,6 million followers on Weibo @邓超
Main occupation: Actor
Date of birth: 8 February 1979
Birthplace: Nanchang, Jiangxi
Deng Chao is an award-winning Chinese actor, director, and singer. He is, amongst others, known for his role in the popular variety program Keep Running (奔跑吧). Many films in which Deng played, such as The Breakup Guru (2014), The Mermaid (2016), Duckweed (2017), and The Sacrifice (2020) have been box-office hits. Deng is one of China’s most favorite actors.
Deng is married to Chinese actress Sun Li (孙俪), also known as Susan Sun, with whom he has two children. Like many other celebrities, the two donated money to contribute to China’s fight against COVID19 in 2020, but received some online criticism when some thought their donation was ‘stingy’ compared to those of others.
Top Influencer: Wang Yibo 王一博
37.3 million followers @UNIQ-王一博
Wang Yibo (1997) is a Chinese actor, singer, dancer, and rapper who debuted as a member of the South Korean-Chinese boyband UNIQ in 2014 and starred in the 2019 Chinese TV series The Untamed (陈情令). On Sina Weibo, the celebrity was the champion of Weibo’s ‘Most Influential Celebrity’ charts in December of 2020 – he has a huge fanbase. Like many other Chinese celebrities, Wang often features in various commercials and represents various brands, including Audi and Swarovski. He also has an Instagram account with 1.9 million followers.
Top Influencer: Wang Junkai 王俊凯
79.4 million followers @TFBOYS-王俊凯
Wang Junkai (1999), also called Karry Wang, is a singer and actor who debuted as the lead member of the super popular group TFBoys in 2013. The boy band consists of three members; besides Wang, there’s Jackson Yee, who is also in this list, and Wang Yuan (王源also known as Roy Wang). The band recently won a Guinness World Record for most-viewed paid concert, which was their live NetEase cloud music concert for which 786,000 fans bought a virtual ticket. Wang Junkai, who also has a thriving career as a solo singer and represent brands like Swatch and Dior, is one of China’s wealthiest people born after 1990.
Top Influencer: Xiao Zhan 肖战
28.2 million followers @X玖少年团肖战DAYTOY
Xiao Zhan (1991), also known as Sean Xiao, is one of the hottest Weibo bloggers at this time who consistently ranks first lately in daily ranking concerning most influential and most interaction. Xiao is an actor and singer who co-stars in The Untamed (陈情令) together with Wang Yibo. Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo are super popular within fan fiction communities, where boys’ love fans imagine a romantic relationship between the two – which is not always appreciated by fans of Xiao Zhan.
By Manya Koetse
This text was written for Goethe-Institut China under a CC-BY-NC-ND-4.0-DE license (Creative Commons) as part of a monthly column in collaboration with What’s On Weibo.
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Weibo Celebrities in Early 2021
The article "WE…WEI…WHAT?" by Manya Koetse discusses the top celebrities and influencers on Weibo in early 2021. It highlights the most-followed celebrities on Weibo, their backgrounds, and their influence on the platform. The article also emphasizes the multidimensionality of these celebrities, their versatility, and their impact on various aspects of Chinese society.
Xie Na (谢娜)
- Xie Na, also known as 'Nana,' is a popular Chinese presenter, singer, actress, and designer. She is the co-host of Hunan Satellite TV’s Happy Camp, one of China’s most popular variety shows.
- Xie Na holds the official Guinness World Record as the First Person to Accumulate 100 Million Followers on Weibo and for having the Most followers on Weibo.
He Jiong (何炅)
- He Jiong is a key figure in China’s entertainment industry and the host of China’s popular Happy Camp TV show for over two decades.
- He Jiong made it to the Guinness Book of Records for being the male celebrity with the most Weibo followers.
Yang Mi (杨幂)
- Yang Mi is a popular actress and singer known for her roles in Chinese hit TV dramas and her commercial value. She was listed in the Top 10 Forbes Chinese Celebrities of 2020.
- Angelababy is an award-winning actress, model, and singer who gained popularity in China. She is also involved in charity and has a significant influence on social media.
Chen Kun (陈坤)
- Chen Kun is a top actor, singer, and writer known for his roles in television dramas and movies. He is also active in charity and is a global ambassador for WildAid.
Zhao Liying (赵丽颖)
- Zhao Liying is an award-winning actress and singer, known for her roles in popular Chinese television series and films. She is also a tourism ambassador for her home province of Hebei.
Jackson Yee (易烊千玺)
- Jackson Yee is a popular singer, dancer, and actor, known for his role in the movie "Better Days" and his influence on Weibo.
Vicki Zhao (赵薇)
- Vicki Zhao is a Chinese film star, singer, entrepreneur, and director, known for her work as the face for various brands and her influence in the entertainment industry.
Yao Chen (姚晨)
- Yao Chen is a Chinese actress and Weibo celebrity, known for her philanthropy and her close interaction with fans on Weibo.
Deng Chao (邓超)
- Deng Chao is an award-winning Chinese actor, director, and singer, known for his roles in box office hit films and his influence on Weibo.
Wang Yibo (王一博), Wang Junkai (王俊凯), and Xiao Zhan (肖战)
- These individuals are top influencers on Weibo, known for their significant impact and large fanbases.
In conclusion, the article provides insights into the top celebrities and influencers on Weibo in early 2021, highlighting their influence, versatility, and impact on Chinese society.
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