From pop idols to wanghong — a phrase used to refer to internet celebrities — China's most popular influencers share one thing in common: They're raking in a lot of money.
The online celebrity economy was projected to be worth around 58 billion yuan ($8.4 billion) in 2016, according to data company CBNData. That made the sector more valuable than the domestic film industry, which brought in 45.7 billion yuan in revenues in the same year.
Among the most popular of those celebrities is actor-singer Lu Han, a former member of South Korean-Chinese pop group EXO, who has appeared in commercials endorsing everything from luxury Cartier accessories to flavored milk from local dairy brand Yili.
Actress Yang Mi, with more than 77 million fans on social media platform Weibo, is another bankable name who works with brands like Estee Lauder and Michael Kors. Regarded as a fashion icon, Yang is also often referred to as a "daihuo nüwang" — queen of driving sales — for her ability to spark fashion trends based on designer goods she wears.
Those endorsements contributed to Lu and Yang ranking within the top three on the 2017 edition of Forbes China's list of celebrities in the country based on earnings and popularity. Lu reportedly made 210 million yuan ($33.2 million) in the 12 months ending June 30, 2017. Yang earned 200 million yuan ($31.6 million) in the same period.