Culture

Who is Li Jiaqi? A Chinese celebrity with 6-hour sales of 600M USD

Li Jiaqi is not a Chinese Internet celebrity who randomly becomes a billionaire. His story seems to come from an old fable. You must have talent, courage, diligence and friendship at the same time to become Li Jiaqi.

A name that is strange to readers outside China has been listed on TIME100 Next 2021. His name is Li Jiaqi.

TIME introduced Li Jiaqi as follows:

Dubbed China’s Lipstick King, Li Jiaqi is a live streaming sales powerhouse who has melted hearts with his charismatic-and candid-beauty-product reviews.

In 2019, for example, Li helped drive $145 million in sales on the e-retailer Taobao during China’s Singles’ Day shopping extravaganza; the year before, he sold 15000 lipsticks in just five minutes.

Charlie Campbell

In fact, these figures are a little out of date for the online sales mogul. In the Singles Day promotion in 2020, Li Jiaqi’s latest achievement is 600 million US dollars. As of February 2021, he had 4500 followers on China’s version of TikTok. So far, his most widely influenced live broadcast has been watched by 160 million people.

You know, the 29-year-old Chinese man earned only 3000 yuan (about $500) a month five years ago.

But the purpose of this article is not to enhance the dazzling halo of this Chinese online celebrity, but to tell you how he achieved these successes.

Li Jiaqi before becoming famous

Internet celebrity is not Li Jiaqi’s first career. He used to be an offline salesman for Maybelline (China).

Li Jiaqi was born in 1992. Before graduating from college, Li Jiaqi lived like most modern Chinese-studying endlessly and then taking exams.

In 2011, he was admitted to Nanchang University as a dance major. He doesn’t like dancing and chose this major only because his admission score is low. But in the process of learning dance, he learned about the profession of “makeup artist”. So, to some extent, learning to dance really changed his life.

In 2015, Li Jiaqi, as a university graduate, entered the Maybelline counter of the local Tianhong mall and became a beauty assistant. In the eyes of others, this is a shameful thing. Because there is still a certain gender stereotype in China’s third-tier cities, men should not work as salespeople at cosmetics counters.

But Li Jiaqi doesn’t care what other people think. He seems to have a natural fondness for cosmetics. He not only knows the Maybelline brand products he sells but also often goes to other cosmetics stores to communicate with the staff of other brands and try those brand products when there are no guests.

“Estée Lauder has released a new product, OMG! It’s so comfortable. You must try it. ” Every time he returned to the Maybelline counter from another cosmetics store, he always said to his female colleagues in this tone.

Later, this style of speaking became his personality in live sales.

Because he loves cosmetics, his selling style is completely different from other beauty assistants. He knows almost every cosmetics brand sold in China and knows a lot about the characteristics of different products. He not only recommends Maybelline products but also answers other requests for help about cosmetics. This makes him more and more famous in the local area.

With a slight glance at the face of the customer in front of him, he can accurately take out a lipstick from the counter: “Don’t try, this is the best color for you.” According to rumors, he has never made a mistake. This is why he is called the “king of lipstick”.

Li Jiaqi’s handsome appearance is also popular with female consumers. He is a typical Chinese handsome guy. Although he has not yet reached the level of some movie stars, he is enough to attract women’s attention. When selling cosmetics, he sets himself as the “male BFF” of consumers, which makes his customers prefer to listen to him.

Shortly after his work, he has gathered a large number of female fans who come to buy cosmetics specifically when he is at work. His fans will send him flowers, milk tea, and Starbucks coffee.

At this time, he has not yet conducted any live broadcast or even has his own social media account. Nanchang is a third-tier city in China, so Li Jiaqi’s monthly salary is only 3000 yuan (about $450). He may never dream that his annual income will exceed 15 million yuan (about $3.21 million) in a few years’ time.

In 2016, China’s largest e-commerce App Taobao, launched a live broadcast service, hoping that merchants can use online celebrities to boost their sales, which will also lead to a huge growth in Taobao’s overall sales.

Li Jiaqi got a chance.

In the autumn of that year, Li Jiaqi was dragged into a WeChat group with 200 members, who were gold medal cosmetics salesmen from all over the country. The group leader told all that L’Oreal is going to work with an online celebrity agent company to enter the live sales market. All the group members got an audition and all they had to do was upload videos in the group.

Li Jiaqi is very confused about this because he was a “computer illiterate” and does not know how to edit the video or how to use the beauty effect. It took him a long time to finish the video, but he finally passed the audition.

The road to becoming a king

It is not easy to become an online celebrity, whether overseas or in China.

After starting selling cosmetics via live streaming, Li Jiaqi’s monthly income had increased from less than 5000 yuan ($772) to 10000 yuan ($1550). He was very satisfied with this because the number was already relatively high in Nanchang.

Soon after, he became so famous on Taobao’s live streaming platform that he was no longer a beauty assistant for Maybelline or L’Oreal, but a signed online celebrity owned by a multi-channel network company called “Beauty ONE“(美ONE). The company is based in Shanghai, but it has signed up a lot of people from all over China in the past few years, trying to turn them into online celebrities.

At that time, Li Jiaqi’s data was still growing rapidly, and sometimes he could earn 1700 yuan (about $263) per live broadcast. Although this cannot be compared with his later achievements, it means that his monthly income has exceeded that of most Beijingers and Shanghainese.

Li Jiaqi is a social king.

Li Jiaqi is a social king. He likes to make friends, go to parties, go to KTV, and have barbecues and drink with friends. After he became famous on Taobao Live, an executive from SK-II’s southern China region invited him to join SK-II’s Chinese company at a very high salary, but Li Jiaqi refused. Because he doesn’t want to abandon his friends in Nanchang.

The boss of Beauty ONE showed him some data from other Internet celebrities and told Li Jiaqi that he would make more money if he came to Shanghai. He would soon be able to use the money he earns to buy a car, a house, and a house for his parents. After a mental struggle, Li Jiaqi left Nanchang in 2017 and moved to Shanghai.

You think that’s the whole reason for his success? No, no.

Streaming shopping in China is similar to television-based home shopping in the last century. The only difference is that most home shopping videos are recorded in advance, and then broadcast in a loop on TV channels. Streaming shopping in China, as its name implies, is a live broadcast.

This means that as an online celebrity in live shopping, you need to work long hours.

Generally speaking, the duration of a streaming shopping is 6 hours and 40 kinds of goods are sold.

You still need a few hours of preparation time before this live broadcast, and you need to remember the name, features, price, and introduction of each item. The teleprompter does not always work in the live broadcast, because you have to answer the audience’s questions about the product immediately.

Although Li Jiaqi is considered a genius in this field, it was mentioned in some media reports that during his busiest days, he had only four hours of sleep a day.

Under normal circumstances, Li Jiaqi has to broadcast live six times a week to maintain his followers and interaction.

This earned him an astronomical income and made him appear on the TIME100 Next 2021 list, but it also brought him endless fatigue.

In an interview, he said he was used to the bitterness of atomization therapy. Because it’s a daily thing for him.

Three hours before the start of a live broadcast in 2018, he was suddenly unable to speak, so he had to go to a nearby hospital for aerosol therapy as quickly as possible to restore his voice. The doctor knew what he needed without an examination because it was not his first emergency visit.

He didn’t lose the live event in the end.

You may have heard of the infamous 996 working system in some Chinese companies, which works six days a week from 9 am to 9 pm. But for Li Jiaqi, he spent far more time at work than that, which the company did not force him to do, so he got the wealth he deserved.

Many of the people who joined the Beauty ONE at the same time as Li Jiaqi did not become online celebrities.

Some of those losers work as hard as Li Jiaqi, but they have no talent as Li Jiaqi. Other talented people cannot bear the pressure of work like Li Jiaqi. Although you may have heard a lot about the miracles of live streaming in China over the past three years, what you don’t know is that 90% of people in this industry, like many other industries, will be eliminated.

On Singles Day in 2019, Li Jiaqi’s sales of a live broadcast reached 1 billion yuan ($154 million), ranking second among all Internet influencers in China. On Singles Day in 2020, his sales of a live broadcast reached 3.9 billion yuan (about US $600 million), surpassing viyaaa, another online influencer in the field, to become the best live salesperson in China.

He finally became a king.

People outside the Li Jiaqi camera

Li Jiaqi did not succeed in solitude.

Like most entrepreneurial stories, Li Jiaqi has a backup who has been supporting him on his way to success.

The man’s name is Fu Peng, and he often appears on Li Jiaqi’s live broadcast.

But among most of Li Jiaqi’s fans and the Chinese media, he doesn’t even deserve his own name. Fans of Li Jiaqi call him a “little assistant”. In Li Jiaqi’s world, he is like Andy in The Devil Wears Prada.

But in fact, Fu Peng is very important to Li Jiaqi’s success. His job is to know the information of the goods in advance, to help Li Jiaqi write the copywriting and line of the live broadcast, to try all kinds of goods as a supporting role during the live broadcast, and to publish the links to the goods in the studio at the right time.

Although Li Jiaqi is known as the “king of lipstick”, in fact, he has long started selling goods other than cosmetics. Such as clothing, snacks, toys, drinks, kitchen supplies. Many goods need two people to show the characteristics of the goods.

On the left is Fu Peng and on the right is Li Jiaqi, but in this picture produced by the Chinese media, Fu Peng is labeled as a “little assistant”.

To some extent, he is indeed Li Jiaqi’s “little assistant”, but not everyone is qualified for the position.

Many fans of Li Jiaqi think that his live show is not a sale, but a six-hour light comedy. The effect of such a program is inseparable from Fu Peng acting opposite Li Jiaqi in the live broadcast.

As a matter of fact, Fu Peng is not a supporting role or assistant randomly hired by Li Jiaqi from the labor market. He has been a good friend and colleague of Li Jiaqi for many years.

Before Li Jiaqi decided to become a live salesman, they worked together as cosmetics salespeople at Tian Hong Mall in Nanchang. When Li Jiaqi was still an ordinary beauty assistant of Maybelline, Fu Peng had been selling cosmetics locally for many years and became the store manager of Estée Lauder. During that time, Li Jiaqi and he became best friends.

Fu Peng let Li Jiaqi’s live broadcast is no longer a pure sale, but an impromptu comedy.

In 2017, despite some achievements, Li Jiaqi never made up his mind to go to Shanghai to become a full-time online celebrity. As mentioned earlier, Li Jiaqi is reluctant to leave his friends in Nanchang. At this time, Fu Peng encouraged him, Fu Peng said to Li Jiaqi: “if you go to Shanghai, then I will resign and go to Shanghai with you.”

When Li Jiaqi first arrived in Shanghai, Fu Peng was his only friend. The reason why Li Jiaqi could withstand so much work pressure and did not give up as quickly as his competitors were that Fu Peng was supporting him.

In the process of Li Jiaqi’s fame, Fu Peng also developed his own performance style, setting himself as Li Jiaqi’s “apprentice” and “assistant”. But in fact, he is older than Li Jiaqi, and he is Li Jiaqi’s teacher in the field of cosmetics.

The cooperation between Li Jiaqi and Fu Peng in the live broadcast was so tacit that some fans suspected that they were a gay couple. But in fact, there is no real evidence to prove it.

Li Jiaqi once said that he made a total of 389 live broadcasts in 2019, and although Fu Peng did not always appear on camera, he was involved in every preparation.

This cooperation has contributed a lot to Li Jiaqi’s success, but it has also brought a lot of trouble to Fu Peng. Some fans of Li Jiaqi think that Fu Peng is really just Li Jiaqi’s assistant and blame Fu Peng for many mistakes.

The accusation peaked in 2020 when some people scolded him as a “fat pig” because he was not as slim as Li Jiaqi, accusing him of interrupting Li Jiaqi in the live broadcast, saying that his workability was not worthy of Li Jiaqi. Some fans of Li Jiaqi said they “don’t want to see him in Li Jiaqi’s live broadcast.”

In a live broadcast in February 2020, Li Jiaqi rarely used dirty words to swear at one of his loyal fans. Because the fan insults Fu Peng by commenting on the live broadcast every day.

But this counterattack brought only a more fierce conflict, and although the friendship between Li Jiaqi and Fu Peng has not changed, Li Jiaqi’s fans can no longer accept that Fu Peng has equal social status with their idol. These fans cannot tolerate such a deep friendship between an “assistant” and Li Jiaqi. They think that an “assistant” should be an unimportant person who can be replaced at any time.

In May of that year, Fu Peng announced that he would no longer appear in Li Jiaqi’s studio. In September, he announced that he would leave Li Jiaqi’s team to start his own business. Li Jiaqi sent his best wishes to this friend for many years, and said in an interview with the media, “Thank him very much for his support over the years. I hope Fu Peng can be more popular than me and make more money.”

Fu Peng later opened his own channel, although far less than Li Jiaqi, he also won a lot of followers and sales.


To sum up, Li Jiaqi is not, as some media have claimed, a genius who achieved easy success by inventing a way to sell goods through the live webcast.

His story is actually very old-fashioned: a very talented young man who works very hard and seizes the opportunity of an era, and he has a very good friend who has always supported him.

It is these elements that make Li Jiaqi a success that cannot be replicated.

Li Jiaqi is 29 years old, this is the third year after his success. The story of the young Chinese continues.

I wrote this story with reference to these Chinese articles. If you are more interested in Li Jiaqi or China’s online celebrity economy, you can communicate with me on Twitter:

[1] 李佳琦:我的事业从上海起步,是上海成就了我
[2] 李佳琦:成为顶流的第二年
[3] 李佳琦和他的小助理,为何分道扬镳?
[4] 天选者李佳琦
[5] 淘宝直播“成长史”

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