Zhao Wei is a bit like the Chinese Jennifer Lopez. Actually, she’s more like Jennifer Lopez PLUS Reese Witherspoon from China. Also known as Vicki Zhao, she is an actress, singer, director, producer, and entrepreneur. And like Jennifer and Reese, Vicki is rich. Extremely rich. Much richer than their American celebrity mogul counterparts.
Not only has Vicki been one of the highest-paid celebrities in China for the past two decades, she’s also an accomplished entrepreneur.
In America, Zhao’s success would get her on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. In China, such a success has left Vicki and her government in extremely hot water. To the point where she was recently deleted from Chinese internet and streaming platforms and then had to get on a private jet, flee the country, and at that moment may be on the run.
Zhao Wei was born on March 12, 1976 in Wuhu, Anhui, China. A film called “A Soul Haunted by Painting” was made in Wuhu in high school, and Zhao was given a non-speaking cameo role as a prostitute in a brothel. It was her first acting experience and she loved it.
When she was 18, she moved to Shanghai and enrolled in drama school. In 1996 she received a coveted admission to the Beijing Film Academy’s School of Performing Arts. It had the highest entrance test scores of any applicant in the country that year.
Four years later, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in performing arts. She got near-perfect grades in school and got 90 out of 100 for her thesis.
In 1998, while studying at the Beijing Film Academy, Zhao began appearing in a television series called “My Fair Princess”. The show became an unexpected sensation, garnering massive ratings across Southeast Asia and making Zhao a household name overnight. The role eventually earned her the Chinese version of Emmy for Best Actress.
In 2001 she shifted her focus to films and started a film called Shaolin Soccer. Over the next two decades, Zhao appeared in dozens of films, many of which were box office hits. She could easily ask for a salary of $ 10-20 million per film.
Zhao Wei also started a singing career. Between 1999 and 2009 she released seven studio albums and 45 music videos. Her first three albums went platinum.
Directed by Stardom
In 2012, when she was one of the most famous celebrities in the country, Zhao decided to go back to school. She re-enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy and earned an MFA from the school’s Directing Institute.
Her directorial debut “So Young” was released a year later. On the opening weekend, the film grossed 141 million yuan, making Zhao Wei the first female director whose debut film grossed over 100 million yuan. The film had grossed 350 million yuan in a week. It eventually made 700 million yuan. That’s about $ 109 million. At the time, it was the fifth highest-earning film in Chinese box office history.
Over the years, Zhao has signed advertising deals with well over 100 major brands. The most important brands in their advertising portfolio include Versace, Motorola, Samsung, DeBeers, Dior and Mercedes Benz. She is currently the main Chinese ambassador for the Italian brand Fendi.
Alibaba pictures and other investments
This is where it gets interesting AND where Zhao Wei inadvertently prepares for future problems.
In June 2014, Zhao’s good friend Jack Ma bought a controlling stake in a bankrupt film production company called ChinaVision. He soon renamed the company Alibaba Pictures.
A few months later, in December 2014, Jack reached out to Zhao Wei and her husband Huang. On his encouragement, they decided to invest in Alibaba Pictures.
Zhao and Huang paid the equivalent of $ 400 million (She was so rich already) for a 9% stake in the production company. So at that point, the company was worth around $ 4 billion
Alibaba Picture’s share price skyrocketed. Just six months later, the company was worth $ 10 billion. After taxes and some dilution, Zhao’s stake in Alibaba was now worth more than $ 1 billion.
With their now extremely wealthy, Zhao and Huang made further venture capital investments. They bought an animation studio and a mobile gaming company through their investment company Longwei Culture & Media. Both ended up being listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
They also paid $ 8 million for a winery in France called Chateau Monlot.
In 2018, Zhao and Huang received a five-year ban from the Chinese securities markets. According to reports at the time, the couple used their celebrity to announce a proposed acquisition of a company they may not want to buy or could not afford to buy. But life went on.
Fast forward to the present.
On Thursday last week, Zhao was essentially removed from the Chinese Internet. Many of their shows and films were simply deleted. Those that were left removed their names from the credits. Your fan pages on Chinese social media sites have been deleted. All discussion of Zhao on social media is prohibited. People who use hashtags that refer to their name will find that the text is automatically deleted.
Why is this happening?
The Chinese authorities recently launched a campaign to crack down on celebrity “fan” culture. Perhaps because she is one of the most famous and probably richest Chinese celebrities, Zhao Wei is a prime target for the authorities. Her connection with Jack Ma didn’t help either. Jack has been under attack by Chinese regulators for months. The regulators even went so far as to thwart the planned IPO of his payment company, which cost the Mughal billions.
On the run
The weekend after she was effectively removed from the world, Zhao and her husband were reportedly seen boarding their private jet and escaping from a Chinese airport. Hours later, the same jet was reportedly landing in Bordeaux, France, not far from their vineyard.
Zhao denied these rumors in an Instagram post, claiming she lives with her parents in Beijing. This post was soon deleted.
Imagine how strange it would be if Jennifer Lopez or Reese Witherspoon were suddenly on the run from the US government … flying around in a private jet trying to find a safe haven. Imagine if the US government ordered that all Jennifer and Reese films be deleted from all streaming platforms. Actually, I could support this decision.
Zhao Wei’s situation is a great mystery that unfolds during our conversation. We will keep you informed when we have more news about your whereabouts.