In a viral upset with 1 billion views, China’s top beauty anchor Li Jiaqi enrages consumers

What Happened: China’s top livestream anchor Li Jiaqi, also known as ‘Lipstick King’ and Austin Li, today apologized on Weibo for inappropriate remarks he made to a consumer during one of his broadcasts on Taobao Live, Alibaba’s livestreaming platform. 

A viewer complained to Li during his September 10th livestreaming session that the cost of an eyebrow pencil from Chinese beauty brand Florasis, priced at $10.80 (79 RMB), had gone up.

The celebrity anchor was seemingly upset about the comment, saying that the price hadn’t increased for years.

“Is the product expensive? Sometimes, people need to find out why they haven’t received a pay rise after working so many years. Have they worked enough?” he replied. The answer enraged consumers who saw it as mocking low income people, triggering heated discussion online. The following night, Li apologized. 

He responded: “I made inappropriate remarks. I’ve been reflecting on my conduct today … How disappointed I would be if I were the girl commenting. I was a makeup counter salesman, and I know everyone’s job is hard. I’m sorry that what I said didn’t meet your expectations.”

The hashtag ‘Li Jiaqi apologizes for his livestreaming session remarks’ has attracted over 1.03 billion views on Weibo thus far. 

The Jing Take: Boasting over 75 million followers on Taobao Live, Li is China’s most popular and influential anchor and beauty KOL. 

In light of the backlash, a well-respected senior Chinese journalist, Hu Xijin, commented on Weibo: “No matter what, respecting workers on low incomes and truly empathizing with them is a value that individuals with relatively successful careers must always sincerely abide by.” 

“Let this kind of friction be an opportunity to enhance understanding within society, and don’t act like something [big] happened,” he wrote.

However, many netizens rejected Li’s apology. He lost 66,000 Weibo followers after the incident, though he still has a 29 million-strong following on the platform. 

His statement prompted over 207,000 comments, with the most-liked ones taking a dim view of his actions. “Double 11 [shopping festival] is coming, so you must issue a hypocritical apology because you still want to earn money from poor people,” Weibo user @isske wrote in a comment under Li’s apology.

With China’s largest annual shopping extravaganza approaching, many global and domestic beauty brands, like Guerlain, Sisley, and Florasis, were hoping to rely on the top anchor’s influence to promote their products and achieve their sales targets. 

Florasis hasn’t responded to the viral brouhaha, and Li’s brand partners are sticking with him, for now. Most brands will likely watch how the situation evolves and start contacting other anchors as backup options – this scandal goes to show that relying on one mega KOL or anchor is still a risky choice. 

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.

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