Zanilia Zhao: From Village Girl to Superstar

By on July 14, 2017 in NEWS

Zanilia Zhao: From Village Girl to Superstar

It was a safe success for tge Chinese historical fiction drama Princess Agents <楚乔传>, which recently exceeded 20 billion views on video streaming sites. Much to the success of the show owes to the uber-popular Zanilia Zhao Liying (赵丽颖), who stars as the drama’s titular character, a slave girl who defies all odds to become one of her kingdom’s most powerful military strategists.

In fact, Zanilia’s own background is quite similar to her character. The 29-year-old of humble beginnings first joined the industry in 2006, after winning in a star audition hosted by Yahoo. Following her signing with Huayi Brothers, which she remained with until 2010, Zanilia made her debut in 2007’s critically-acclaimed Golden Marriage <金婚>. Playing only minor characters at first, it wasn’t until 2010’s The Dream of Red Mansions <红楼梦> when she became noticed. 2013’s Legend of Lu Zhen <陆贞传奇>, in which she starred as the main lead, was her first breakthrough. 2015’s The Journey of Flower <花千骨> solidified her success.

It wasn’t an easy road to stardom, however. To this day, Zanilia still suffers through negative comments about family and background. Many anti-fans have harassed Zanilia about her poor background—the 29-year-old was raised in a small village in Langfang, Hebei, China, and only has a secondary school degree. It was to the point where Zanilia herself had to step out to make a comment, saying, “So what if I came from a village?”

Zanilia never tried to hide her poor background. She said on a show, “I grew up in a rural area. My ancestors were all farmers. My forefathers all loved art, but it never aligned with the film and television industry. However, it was because of my rural background that I was able to train my will and determination. It got me to become tough. These experiences got me to where I am today.”

The Princess Agents actress finally reaped the fruits of her success in 2014, when she established her own personal studio. Originally meant to be a personal agency, Zanilia went on to sign upcoming actors Kim Han (金瀚) and Wang Zijie (王子桀), ready to cultivate a new generation of artists.


This article is written by Addy for

6 comments to Zanilia Zhao: From Village Girl to Superstar

  1. nori says:

    I started watching because I love the story. Then gradually begin to like Yan Xun character portraying by Dou Xiao. I must say it is Dou Xiao that keeps me up with this series. Not Lin Gengxin, not Zhao Liying.

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  2. karina says:

    What is there to be ashamed of? heck, if I were her I’d be proud of having humble origins to where she is today. Rich, successful and pretty. I guess the Chinese entertainment industry is full of people from wealthy background without needing to work hard. Sad.

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  3. stargazer says:

    Yeah, what’s the problem with coming from a humble village background. Remember, the rural area is the bread basket of a nation. And it is the village and countryside that has the charm and beauty and clean air of a country. Ask anybody in China and I think they will happily want to live in village where everybody knows everybody and is friendly and helpful. I am glad Zanilia does not shy away from her background. It gives hope to others to stand proud of where they hail from. If you forget who you are, you might just be the monster you never expect to be.

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  4. happybi says:

    Didn’t watch this drama but I like her response. Why do some people feel she should be ashamed of her background? It got her where she is today through her hard work! I say good for her!!!

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  5. funnlim says:

    Why should she be ashamed of where she came from? The fact that she came from nothing to be somebody, that’s an achievement. Nobody ever ask footballers the same question. Anyway does it mean all actors are middle class to rich with high education? Of course not. Most are from very poor families, mostly secondary schooling. They’re not the most scholarly bunch, if they were, wouldn’t be acting. No shame at all. If she contributes back to her hometown, even better.

    As for the series, it is now anything but the leading lady’s story. It is going off tangent.

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  6. bubbletea says:

    Very well said comments above. You all said it really well.

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