China’s influencer realm recently witnessed the anticipated return of one of its brightest stars – Li Ziqi. Her comeback, marked by a video on September 15, not only went viral but also ignited a flurry of conversations regarding her visibly altered appearance. The influencer, known for her serene portrayal of Chinese rural life, left her fans waiting for her next move as no new content was immediately released.
In the video shared widely across various platforms, a poised Li Ziqi, with her flowing black hair, stands amid an orchard in a simple white tee. The serene backdrop was familiar to her fans, evoking memories of her prior content. Addressing her millions of followers, Li expressed her dedication to continue sharing Chinese farming culture and captivating rural tales. “I will persist in producing quality content that narrates Chinese farming culture and the stories of the countryside,” she committed.
Hailing from the southwestern province of Sichuan and born in 1990, Li Ziqi’s ascent to fame began in 2015. Her videos, which perfectly blended rustic charm with refined aesthetics, displayed her engaging in traditional activities. Cooking, crafting, and living harmoniously with nature, her content not only mesmerized domestic viewers but also captivated international audiences. By April 2022, her personal Douyin account had amassed nearly 49 million followers, and her dedication was recognized in 2020 with a Guinness World Record for the “most subscribers for a Chinese-language channel on YouTube,” boasting 14 million followers then and later climbing to a staggering 17.7 million.
However, Li’s portrayal wasn’t just about aesthetics; it was a journey. Fans were treated to the entire life cycle of a dish, from the planting of crops to the final delicious preparation. This immersive experience, paired with her flawless depiction of Chinese traditions – be it preparing a heartfelt meal for her grandmother or crafting silk clothing – added layers to her appeal.
But like many tales of fame, Li’s journey wasn’t without its challenges. In July 2021, her thriving online presence came to an abrupt halt due to conflicts with her agency, Hangzhou Weinian Brand Management Co. Ltd. What ensued was a series of legal battles, with both parties resorting to lawsuits and countersuits. By December, with the intervention of the Intermediate People’s Court in Mianyang, Sichuan, where Li resides, a settlement was reached. The precise reasons for the contention remain undisclosed, leading to numerous speculations. One prevailing theory among fans is Li’s potential resistance to excessively commercialize her online persona, possibly leading to the disputes.
Her recent reappearance, however, shifted part of the conversation from her hiatus to her changed visage. With over 29,000 comments on Douyin discussing her return, many users couldn’t help but notice the alterations. “Her facial features, especially her eyes and chin, seem different. It’s possible she opted for hyaluronic acid injections, joining the ranks of many internet celebrities,” observed one user. While another commented on the enlargement of her eyes, others lamented the perceived need for such changes, noting her prior beauty. However, a segment of her fan base seemed unfazed, emphasizing content over appearance. “Li Ziqi’s essence isn’t about being a beauty icon. If she delivers amazing content as before, that’s all that matters,” a loyal fan stated.
This episode serves as a reflection on modern-day internet culture, where appearance often becomes a focal point, overshadowing talent and content. Yet, with a figure as influential as Li Ziqi, it’s her narrative on rural Chinese culture that many hope will remain at the forefront.