Male beauty blogger finds road to wealth on Taobao

Chinese male beauty blogger Li Jiaqi, a post-1990 generation online celebrity who livestreams reviews of lipstick on Alibaba's e-commerce platform Taobao, earned more than 10 million yuan ($1.53 million) over the past year.

Dubbed "Taobao's king of lipstick", Li needs to test more than 300 types of lipstick on his lips every day during a seven-hour live broadcast, taking no breaks except to drink water or go to the bathroom.

"Many people question me, believing men do not have enough expertise to recommend female beauty products," Li said.

But he believes he has advantages in this field. While many women may find their lips hurt after testing three lipsticks in a row, he can test as many as 380 lipsticks a day. "Testing lipstick can damage the lips, but I do not treat my lips as lips," Li said. Therefore, his fans have given him the nickname "iron-lipped brother".

In Li's eyes, helping his fans to buy the most suitable products at the lowest cost is the best part of his job. In addition, sometimes he would ask companies to give coupons to his fans.

Arranging a live broadcast of beauty product reviews on Taobao cannot be done by Li alone. He has a team of several assistants working for him. Some are in charge of communicating with Taobao shops, while others assist him on livestreaming.

At the end of last year, Li was hired as the new media practices instructor at Jiangsu Normal University to open a course called Taobao Writing and Communications.

For Li Jiaqi, 27, it took less than a year to increase his bank balance to over 10 million yuan ($1.49 million). And he didn't have to do it by robbing a bank. Rather he made the money by selling lipsticks through livestreaming on video-sharing platforms such as Douyin. He sold 15,000 lipsticks within 15 minutes of livestreaming, beating billionaire Jack Ma who wanted to compete with Li in a two-hour livestreaming session selling lipsticks.


The social media influencer wasn't satisfied with the achievement. Li is now the keeper of Guinness World Record for applying lipstick most models in 30 seconds. The video of Li's Guinness World Records challenge is on top of Li's Douyin page, with over 782,000 thumb-ups from the users.

Social media influencers like Li are certainly a top choice for makeup brands in making their marketing strategies to endorse their products. A report from marketing data technology company AdMaster, released this Thursday, said cooperation with key opinion leaders, or KOL, has become the most popular marketing way of advertisers in China.

Data from AdMaster show that the number of makeup companies that have paid for KOLs in promoting their products surged by 81 percent. The number is even higher for food companies at 92 percent.

About 40 percent of Chinese consumers have been influenced by KOLs in making purchasing decisions, according to AdMaster's report. Data from PARKLU also show that about 1.5 percent of consumers would make a purchase immediately after KOLs post about products on weibo, one of China's most popular social media platforms. "Every time Li endorsed certain lipsticks that were new to the market, I wanted to buy them," said 29-year-old Beijing-based Huang Xinyi. "He appeared more trustworthy to me, like a friend or classmate, which make his videos really different to other celebrity endorsements," she said.

The report from AdMaster also show that advertisers now value KOLs who can offer real reviews instead of giving fake praise. Take Xiaohongshu as an example. The app is quite similar to yelp, but instead of people commenting on stores and shops, they share reviews on brands and products.

Xiaohongshu has grown to be one of the most-quoted Chinese apps. The number of times it was mentioned in reviews or articles surged 719 percent from the beginning of 2018 to the year end, according to AdMaster report.