Yang Mi, the 31-year-old actress and global ambassador for Michael Kors, is an unusual presence on social media. Her Sino Weibo microblogging account, with an astounding 77.5 million followers, is updated sporadically with cat pictures, brand partner posts and selfies in which the actress famously shows only half her face.
Her demeanor is serious and she rarely smiles, which makes Mi an unusual female celebrity presence in China — and also Asia more broadly — where cute and kitschy personas have traditionally been popular with young fan girls. But in giving very little away, Mi has managed to make the masses want ever more.
Mi’s style, and her penchant for mixing high and low, couture and street, is also a major draw for young followers in China who are seeking a fashion path more nuanced than the homogenous top-to-toe looks that were popular with previous generations of Chinese consumers, who focused purely on labels to convey style status. “[Yang Mi] very much puts her own imprint on what she wears, she could wear a boy’s suit and it would still feel feminine and elegant,” said Michael Kors, during a recent trip to Shanghai. “When we work with actresses and celebrities, I like when they have their own spin on what I do, because we have varied clientele, we have all ages, we run the gamut from classic to avant-garde.”
WWD: When did you first realize you were influential?
Yang Mi: From my point of view, I wasn’t very conscious about when this started or how it has developed, it’s not something I pay a lot of attention to. Everyone likes to see street-style looks these days and I guess people like my style. I was once at an amusement park and I saw a young woman wearing a total look that was exactly the same as something I had worn and been photographed in, so at that point I realized that people liked the way I dressed.
WWD: Why do you use Weibo as a platform?
Y.M.: It’s just about convenience. It’s convenient for me to look at and in China it’s what everybody uses.
WWD: How is the social media landscape in China changing?
Y.M.: China’s social media is becoming more and more influential; I think this is a very good thing. In China, social media gives people an outlet to post about themselves, to find out information from other people. Everyone is very focused on social media and this will be the same in the future.
WWD: When you post on Weibo, how do you imagine the audience viewing your posts?
Y.M.: I imagine they are people who like me. Also, probably some people who hate me, or some people who want to see me make a fool of myself. Also, people who know me.
I think most of them are young people. Because of this, when I post on Weibo, I try my best to post things that are aspirational and have a positive energy. I often think that maybe people who see [my posts] are still growing up and in a stage where they are choosing the kind of life they will have. If they see something good and that can influence them, this makes me think that Weibo can be a positive force for young people in China.
WWD: What kinds of social media posts do people like the most?
Y.M.: I have not paid attention to what people like the most, I just post. I don’t consider what type of posts people are demanding.
WWD: Is there someone who particularly inspires you, particularly inspires your style?
Y.M.: I like to look at American and European street style. Basically, I look at things I like and want to buy, just like everyone else. But [having said that], I think that it can be a bad idea to pay too close attention to someone else’s total look.
WWD: Is style something innate or something that is learned?
Y.M.: I think it’s both something that you have naturally and something you need to study. The most important thing is to find your personal style, your personal difference and choose things that suit you best and bring out your personal attributes.
WWD: You are notoriously guarded about sharing too much online. Do you think people in general share too much of themselves on social media?
Y.M.: Whether other people share too much about themselves or their personal life, I don’t know. I don’t share much about my personal life because there are sections of the media that constantly look at my personal life already. I feel as though if I share everything then I can’t depend on having an expectation of privacy. Plus, I often post about the professional things I am doing because that’s what I want people to see and respond to.