Chinese social media star dreams of movie roles as she struts at Cannes

Reuters News
Posted: May 24, 2017 12:43 PM

By Yiming Woo

CANNES, France (Reuters) - With every step down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, Chinese social media star Lili Xu reckons she is getting ever closer to her dream of a career in the movies.

In a red dress with gold stars like the flag of China, she poses for the ranks of photographers that are here to catch established Hollywood talent such as Susan Sarandon and Julianne Moore attending the same premier.

Xu, 29, who used to be a make-up artist for pets in a country where tinting and preening dogs and cats is remarkably popular, hopes her large social media following will help her secure a movie role, and is in Cannes to make vital contacts.

"Cannes is a huge event in my head," Xu told Reuters while live-streaming to her fans as she did her hair and makeup ahead of the red carpet.

Xu, who also goes by her screen name Dabao (Big Toddler), stumbled into the world of live-streaming when she turned the camera onto herself to promote her pet makeup business. By allowing others to peek into her life, she made a name for herself on an app accessible to millions. 

Live-streaming barely existed in China three years ago but last year it produced revenues of more than 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion), according to an estimate by investment bank China Renaissance Securities. That is set to more than triple by 2020, putting it on track to overtake cinema box office receipts within a few years.

Xu has acted in about 10 Chinese films made for the internet, but hopes for wider recognition.

"By making sure that she will walk the red carpet in Cannes today, we hope to not only expose her to those in Chinese film circles, but also those in international film circles," said Wu Yun Song, Xu's manager and the CEO of Dreamapp which hosts her live-streaming.

Marco Orsini, head of the Monaco-based International Emerging Film Talent Association, said the jump from social media to the movies was not an obvious career path. 

"The cinema is an art ... and social media is something that changes very quickly and all the time. I don't really see the link between the two," he said.

(Writing by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Hugh Lawson)