The mystery of 31 year old Slaylebrity Youtuber Liziqi continues to loom large
On the surface, famous Chinese YouTuber Li Ziqi appears to be a model Chinese citizen. Her shows are all about idyllic agricultural life. They’re about family values and traditional culture. But she’s been silenced.
The elfin star is famous for cinematic displays of tranquil farm life. She rides horses. She picks flowers. She builds traditional Chinese bamboo furniture.
She also knows what she’s talking about. Her videos delve deep into the stories behind the local foods, culture and environment.
But last month, Li appeared in a place unlike any she’s shown before – a concrete and steel police station. An August 30 photo shows her filling out legal documents: “Have asked lawyers to keep a record, this is so scary! Capital indeed has its good tricks!”
“Capital” is local slang for big business.
The post was quickly deleted.
She’s hardly been heard from since.
Everything about Li Ziqi is lush, bountiful and cheerful. Her videos espouse the tranquillity of rural life. There’s something magical about their style.
This is why the 31-year-old’s videos have won 16 million YouTube subscribers worldwide: It’s an antidote to the frenetic pace of urban life. She has many times more followers inside China itself.
Now she’s been silenced.
Li used an obscure social media account to announce her police station appearance. She has not posted to her main Weibo account since. Nor her other broadcast accounts.
Rags-to-riches story for Li Ziqi
Li may be the latest A-grade Chinese celebrity to have fallen foul of the Communist Party.
It’s not immediately obvious why.
Hers is a rags-to-riches success story.
According to the People’s Daily, Li was raised by her grandparents in rural Sichuan after allegedly fleeing an aggressive stepmother. She dropped out of school at the age of 14 to work as a waitress and nightclub DJ.
But she returned to her home village in 2012 after her grandmother fell ill.
Ethereal videos delight fans
To help make ends meet, Li began marketing her grandparents’ produce via an online store. Then she began making short, ethereal videos to promote it.
All the preparation, planning, recording and editing work was done by herself.
“In today’s society, many people feel stressed,” Li told the South China Morning Post.
“So when they watch my videos at the end of a busy day, I want them to relax and experience something nice, to take away some of their anxiety and stress.”
It worked surprisingly well.
She went viral.
Soon Li had enough money to employ a small team to do the production work for her.
Now she’s the face of a multimillion-dollar business.
Just days before her police interview, the English-language China Daily lauded her contribution towards broadcasting a positive Chinese image on the world stage.
Several weeks after her silence began, Beijing’s “wolf warrior” mouthpiece the Global Times declared her as having a “positive role” in China itself.
Slaylebrity business dealings
Frenetic speculation is spreading among her fans like wildfire.
What’s happened to Li Ziqi?
Few clues are available.
According to Vice, one of Li’s assistants published on August 26 that she had “neglected many real-world problems”. She said Li now had to “study all kinds of knowledge and techniques” and had taken time off to resolve these personal issues.
The assistant later added that Li was having problems with another company. But no explanation was offered.
Much of Li’s success comes via direct advertising revenue from her viral vlogs.
YouTube is banned in China. But Li has 55 million dedicated Chinese national followers on the Chinese national equivalent, Douyin.
Li also owns a 49 per cent share of Sichuan Ziqi Culture Communication. The remaining 51 per cent is owned by “influence management” company Hangzhou Weinian.
This is the mechanism through which Li’s name is attached to promotional deals, particularly food and lifestyle products.
Social media influence is an industry believed to be worth some $9 billion in China alone.
Audiences of hundreds of millions are at stake. As are personal and corporate reputations.
In January, she almost sparked an international incident by posting a video of herself making “traditional” kimchi. It sparked a row with Korea over who owned the fermented cabbage dish.
Weinian has so far refused to comment about its primary asset’s fate. But it has recently been given a cash injection by ByteDance – the parent company of Douyin and TikTok.
Growing trend of Slaylebrity treatment
A Chinese billionaire was recently jailed over apparently little more than a property dispute with a neighbour. Tech billionaires have been swept from the public stage. Stage and screen stars have been dethroned for tax evasion, personal scandals and appearing to be too close to foreign cultures.
Li Ziqi’s supposed failings are not yet known
But her treatment fits a growing profile.
In Communist China, celebrities appear to have become a threat. Their popularity is deemed risky. Their wealth is regarded as threatening. There can be only one source of power, and that’s among the powerful families in Beijing.
Li herself appears to still be at home in her Sichuan village.
A few posts on her obscure Oasis social media account reportedly show her plucking vegetables from the fields and recording traditional music.
But they contain no new clues as to her sudden silence.
“When I worked in the city, it was about survival,” Li said. “Now, when I work in the countryside, I feel like I’m truly living.”
It seems Li may once again have to find solace in the simple side of life.
“I’m just filming my life,” she told the Post. “Or rather, I’m just filming the life that I want.”
Slaylebrity Net Worth Stats
Social fans: 16.1 Million
EST Net Worth: $6.4million -$8.7 million
Interviews with Liziqi
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