Top Chinese KOLs in 2023
Fang Qi Kiki
Douyin: 23.1 million
RED: 3 million
Kiki, a former CCTV host, has remained the most popular travel vlogger on Douyin for the last few years. Making her television debut in 2015 as the host of CCTV’s travel series 美丽中华行 (Měilì zhōnghuá xíng, Beautiful China Tour), Kiki has gone on to become a fixture on Chinese television, with roles ranging from show host to variety show contestant to singing show contestant to actress.
With her fame as a TV travel show host, it should come as no surprise that she has built a massive following on Douyin for her travel related vlogs. However, her popularity on Douyin and RED isn’t just a result of her celebrity status. Kiki’s Douyin and RED feeds are beautifully curated, with high production value short videos exploring Fang’s travels through a single destination in each post. When working with brands, her videos integrated product placements seamlessly with the rest of her videos. She has worked with a range of major brands, from domestic ones like automotive manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation to international ones like Snickers.
What makes her special: Kiki has always been well known for her way with words, even early on in her television career. Her careful scriptwriting and poetic delivery have helped her win over viewers not just as a television personality but also as a content producer of the highest calibre.
Douyin: 18 million
A professional tour guide by trade, Putuoshan Xiaoshuai began his travel vlogging career during the pandemic. Obtaining a tour guide certificate in 2012, Xiaoshuai became a full-time professional tour guide for Mount Putuo in China’s Zhejiang Province. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and tourism plummeted, Xiaoshuai decided to try his hand at Douyin, livestreaming tours of Mount Putuo and creating short videos to allow audiences experience the sights online.
His professionalism and comprehensive historical knowledge of the mountain quickly helped him grow to from an average tour guide account to one of the top Douyin travel KOLs. Today, Xiaoshuai’s content has expanded outside of Mount Putuo; his content now consists of him traveling to various historical landmarks around China and providing an in-depth guide of the cultural significance and history behind each location.
Xiaoshuai has worked with various travel agencies and tourism boards of various cities, a natural fit for his content. In addition, his video and livestream content include advertisements for local specialty products.
What makes him special: Xiaoshuai not only creates short video content of exceptional quality, but he also interacts with his followers via his frequent livestreams, often offering advice on dealing with emotional problems. As one of the few top KOLs from a non-celebrity background, Xiaoshuai’s humble tour guide beginnings make him a more approachable and relatable figure for many audiences.
Douyin: 13.5 million
Doudou originally worked at a local TV station as a talk show host. In 2018, she began uploading to Douyin and soon exploded in popularity thanks to her viral Thai makeup tutorial. In 2023, Doudou is one of the most popular beauty content creators on the platform, having been invited to speak at Douyin’s 2022 D-Beauty awards show.
Doudou’s content primarily consists of product reviews of various beauty products, from skincare to perfumes. She has also worked with a variety of major beauty brands, including YSL, NARS, and more. Aside from product reviews, her feed also includes makeup and skincare routines as well as vlogs of her daily life.
What makes her special: Doudou is one of the most popular content creators working in beauty product reviews. With the popularity of the format on both Douyin and RED, competition is fierce in this arena, but Doudou is one of the top contenders thanks to her makeup skills and witty videos.
Douyin: 2.8 million
Zola, now 35, has had a long career as a KOL. Her KOL story began over a decade ago and spans multiple platforms.
In 2012, a set of her photos went viral on Douban, a Chinese movie review site popular amongst artsy youth. Immediately, she became an internet celebrity. In 2015, she started a company with her friends called Youhuaguo as a content creator management company and she started her personal official account on WeChat. Within a few weeks, an article of hers titled “We Haven’t Traveled the World Yet” went viral, ballooning her follower count on WeChat and Weibo.
While much of her early content focused on fashion, she would often share her thoughts on relationships and other life ideas. This type of content resonated with many millennials growing into adulthood in first tier cities and helped her build a loyal base despite being a fashion influencer. Having first experimented with short video content as early as 2017, Zola’s expansion to Douyin was also successful.
She has collaborated with major fashion and beauty brands such as Ports, Valentino, LV, and Guerlain.
What makes her special: While Zola is not the most popular fashion/beauty KOL on Douyin or RED today, her story allows us to trace the evolution of China social media platforms, from text and photos to video, and how one KOL was able to stay relevant across each new generation of platforms for over a decade.
Douyin: 12.9 million
RED: 6.7 million
For millennials and older in the Sinosphere, Will Liu is best known as a A-list singer and actor. However, in present day mainland China, it can be argued that Liu is best known by the younger generations as a fitness influencer. During the citywide lockdowns in Shanghai in 2022, Liu began livestreaming home fitness routines with his wife. Being stuck at home like everyone else in Shanghai, Liu’s livestreams provided both inspiration, positivity, and solace to the tens of millions under lockdown in Shanghai and across China. These livestreams became a massive online hit, catapulting Liu into the world of fitness influencing.
Today, he has two accounts on Douyin, his main account 刘畊宏 (60m followers) and his fitness influencer account 刘畊宏肥油咔咔掉 (13m followers). Having got his start in fitness influencing via livestreams on Douyin, it serves as Liu’s main platform. So far, in his role as a fitness KOL, Liu has worked with both FILA and Joyoung Soymilk.
What makes him special: While Liu was already a bonafide star and major influencer before his foray into fitness, he was able to leverage both his existing stardom and his ability to connect with audiences via exercise amidst the lockdown to become the biggest fitness influencer in China today. While his creative output as a singer and actor began to slow in the early 2010s, Liu, now 50, is once again in the spotlight.
Douyin: 4.5 million
RED: 1.2 million
Rising star on Douyin, Soserious got his start on Bilibili, where he documented his weight loss journey from 103KG to 83KG. He is known for his science and fact-based videos, where he details tips and tricks on weight loss and muscle building as well as explores the how and why of weight gain. Today, his videos consist of exercise and diet tips as well as content on him personally going on junk food binges to document the ill effects on his mental state and health.
He has worked with major brands tech brands like Vivo and sportswear brands like Bananain.
What makes him special: For many viewers on a weight loss journey, it is much more relatable to watch someone who once experienced being overweight. Most fitness influencers have long maintained their physique, starting from long before they entered the fitness industry. For Soserious, as a student athlete who became overweight and then lost the weight, he not only has fitness credentials, but also has the lived experience of being overweight. His journey offers viewers who are overweight a much more relatable inspiration for their own weight loss plans.
Mother and Child
Douyin: 10.6 million
Nicomama is a mother of two with a doctorate from Zhejiang University. Her content consists of mostly parenting advice, helping parents navigate various difficult situations with their toddlers. Nicomama first started in 2014, beginning with an official account on WeChat.
Since then, Nicomama has published six childhood education books and established a company with a 150-strong team. In 2022, Nicomama set the record on Douyin for mother-and-child products, selling 7,000,000 in GMV in a single broadcast.
What makes her special: In China, it is difficult for KOLs to sell infant products as most parents care more for brand safety than for deals. With a doctorate degree and six published books, Nicomama’s elite credentials and insightful parenting advice have helped her gain the trust of wary new parents.
Father and Child
Gan Gan Re
As the major father-and-child KOL that emerged from 2022’s trend of “奶爸” or “stay-at-home dad” content, Gan Gan Re first gained viral fame from a post comparing a photo of him and his wife in 2020 to a photo of him, his wife, and their baby in 2022. The contrast was stark, with commentors jokingly implying there were five different people in the photo.
As mothers are traditionally the standard childcare provider in China, KOLs like Gan Gan Re provide followers with an example where gender norms are flipped, showing fathers being the primary caregiver for children.
While Gan Gan Re has worked with various infant care brands, he has also worked with fashion/beauty brands like Givenchy in content where he, as a loving husband, pampers his wife with luxury items.
What makes him special: Father-and-child KOLs like Gan Gan Re provide followers an example of a family bucking traditional patriarchal views. Father and child KOLs can appeal to both fathers and mothers; he appeals to male audiences as a father giving parenting tips to other fathers and appeals to female audiences as an example of fathers doing the heavy lifting for childcare.