Admaster, a Chinese data solution provider focused on domestic advertising, just put out a data-driven list of the most commercially valuable Chinese celebrities of 2018. Their assessment model, the fancy-sounding Celebrity Selection Index (CSI), aggregates data collected on a celebrity’s social influence, buzzworthy-ness and brand help — while also taking a “risk factor” into account (more on that below) — to produce an overall score. We don’t necessarily agree with the ranking, but it’s certainly interesting.
Some fresh faces are featured at the very top of the list while some of China’s most well-known stars sit at the 5-15 range, making the list somewhat atypical. RADII-favorite pop star Kris Wu sits at No. 11, for example, despite being very commercially active. Beloved TFBoys member Roy Wang (Wang Yuan) sits at No. 12, presumably because he signed a contract last year with the studio behind Fan Bingbing — who was recently engulfed in a tax evasion scandal (guess that’s the risk factor at play). Luhan, another hugely popular star and “the new KFC colonel“, only comes in at No. 6.
Anyway, here are the top 10 — see how many you recognize.
The youngest of the youthful TFBoys trio (he’s still just 18, eek), Jackson Yee was first discovered when performing a hip hop dance routine at a children’s talent competition. Sticking to his roots, and growing up a little at the same time, in 2018 Jackson took part in the hip hop dance reality show Street Dance of China, a move that prompted us to broach the pressing question, is Jackson Yee sexy now?
Sexy or not, Jackson is successfully shifting from “child star” to “teen idol”, something all three TFBoys are working towards (so much pressure on these kids).
While not a TFBoy, ‘98 born Cai Xukun’s path to becoming a Chinese celebrity began in elementary school, when he was selected as one of the TFBoys candidate trainees. His big break didn’t come until last year when he participated in the new Chinese reality show Idol Producer where he placed first, setting him up to become the leading member of boy group Nine Percent, the latest beneficiaries of China’s “fan economy”.
Cai was recently selected as the NBA’s first “Chinese New Year Celebration Brand Ambassador” (yes, that’s now a thing), sending a certain boring male corner of the internet into hysterics due to his “feminine” appearance.
Chinese actress of Uyghur descent Dilraba Dilmurat had a particularly restless and impressive year in 2018. She starred in romantic comedy 21 Karat, romance drama series The Flame’s Daughter, as well as the science fiction romance comedy series Sweet Dreams. She capped things off by ultimately winning the crown of “Golden Eagle Goddess” at the 12th China Golden Eagle TV Art Festival.
Her rapid ascent in recent years has been remarkable, and she’s also started to edge into the international spotlight, albeit often due to the contrast between her mainstream acceptance and the treatment of other Uyghurs from Xinjiang at the moment.
Yang Mi’s career as a thespian began at age four, launching her toward eventual critical acclaim. In 2017, Yang ranked No. 3 on Forbes China’s Celebrity Top 100 list and won best actress at the Worldfest-Houston International Film Festival. In 2018 she starred in the drama Negotiator and the fantasy drama Legend of Fuyao.
As an established Chinese celebrity for over a decade but only enjoying mainstream popularity in the past few years, Zanilia acted in 2017’s commercially and critically successful Han Han-directed movie Duckweed, and last year in both Monkey King 3 and the historical drama The Story of Minglan. She was also responsible for one of 2018’s words of the year in China and starred in a PUBG + takeout food mash-up. Eclectic.
This is the second list she’s trailed Yang Mi on — the 2017 Forbes China Celebrity top 100 ranked her at No. 4.
Kris Wu, number 11? And now Luhan… number 6?! Is this an indication of seismic shifts in China’s pop culture environment? Not really, Luhan took home No. 1 on a different list of Chinese celebrities recently and is still incredibly active. Last year he played a part in another new China street dance reality show, iQIYI’s Hot-Blood Dance Crew, and also put out his new album XXVII.
Check Out this Insane Chizza Ad in Which K-pop Star Luhan Claims to be the New Colonel Sanders
Like No. 1 Jackson Yee, fellow TFBoy Karry is beginning to shed his boyhood skin. In 2017 the TFBoys leader was admitted into Beijing Film Academy, and last year released his own autobiography 19 Year Old Time Difference. An autobiography at 19?! Man. Anyway, in 2018 he starred in the youth adventure drama Eagles and Youngster and otherwise was fairly quiet, but don’t expect him to shy away from the limelight completely just yet.
Another fresh face on this list, Deng Lun surged to popularity in 2018 courtesy of the wuxia romance drama Ashes In Time and also co-starring alongside another our number 3 hit Chinese celebrity, Dilraba Dilmurat, in Sweet Dreams. His rise to fame began earlier than last year though — in 2017 he made it onto Forbes China’s 30 under 30 for Chinese entertainment.
An online hit, Beijing Film Academy graduate Zhu Yilong starred in the web series drama Guardian last year and went on to win the Popular Actor Award at the 2018 Weibo Movie Awards Ceremony — he also won the 2019 Weibo God Award. Like Deng Lun, in 2017 Forbes China placed him on their 30 under 30 list for Chinese entertainment.
An Exo member hailing from Changsha, in 2018 Lay made a point of breaking out of China and onto the international stage. He made his first US appearance last year at the music festival Lollapalooza with Alan Walker (watch below), and was the only Chinese celebrity invited to the red carpet event at this year’s Grammys. Fancy.
And in case you’re interested, here’s Admaster’s top 76:
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