Amy Lyons is a young Australian who turned her passion towards all things China into her career. Her flawless Mandarin skills coupled with her academic background in International Commerce and her love for exercise, have allowed her to become one of China’s budding new KOL’s. Alice Slevison from Asia Options had the pleasure of talking to Amy about her life as a Chinese social media star.
Where did your interest in China stem from? How did you go about pursuing your interest in China?
The first time I ever thought I wanted to learn Chinese was when I was about 12 and I was really into Gymnastics. My coaches would always speak in Chinese and I always got the feeling they were talking about me. So I vowed that day, I would one day learn Chinese and be able to understand what they were saying. So from the beginning, my desire to learn Chinese came from the desire to eavesdrop. I’m evil.
I took the next steps towards China quite a few years later. In 2011 during my HSC year of school, one of my subjects was Modern History and my teacher was particularly passionate about the Chinese history module. Her passion was infectious and led me to do a lot of my own reading on the subject of China. I became more and more interested in the culture, history and people.
When it came time to choosing majors at University, I took this interest one step further. I knew I wanted to learn a language and knew learning Chinese was never going to be a bad decision (especially alongside a business degree). And plus, I could always go back to Gymnastics and eavesdrop on my coaches – big motivator right there. I also have a lot of Chinese friends and really wanted to talk to them using their native language. So I chose to undertake a Bachelor of Commerce (International) at the University of New South Wales, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was after I spent an exchange year in Shanghai in 2014 that this interest became more of a passion and became more motivated than ever to become proficient in the language.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a KOL? How did it come about? What forms of social media do you use to interact with the Chinese community?
The first time I had any kind of exposure to Chinese social media was in 2015 when I represented Australia in a Chinese language competition and TV game show in China called ‘Chinese Bridge Competition’ (汉语桥). It was only after filming had already started that I learned that this show was watched by 300 million people. I was encouraged to make a Weibo (Facebook/Twitter Chinese equivalent) by many of the producers, so I did, and suddenly had 1,000 fans overnight!
However, it wasn’t until the beginning of this year, 2017, when I moved back to Beijing, that I actively decided to use that existing follower base, produce video content, and to begin to grow my social media presence. I used my passion for health and fitness to become the focus of these videos and begin to distribute funny and quirky takes of exercise videos. In these videos, I speak Mandarin, as well as Chinese cultural references as to target the Chinese population. My most popular video (which has now been watched over 3 million times) is entitled ‘chopstick legs’, in which I share some exercises to achieve slim, chopstick-like legs.
Since then I’ve been continuing to post fitness and Australia travel-related content and my follower base is growing. I primarily use three Chinese social media platforms: Weibo, Meipai and Bilibili (username on all three is @李慧琳Amy). In order to grow followers and presence, I think it always helps to do collaborations with other Wang Hong (online celebrities) or having a big account ‘like’ or forward your posts. I have done quite a few videos with a big Weibo account in China called 歪果仁研究协会 (foreigner research institute) who has millions of followers on its platforms. Appearing in these videos has been a great way to increase my presence, as well as make some great friends who share similar interests!
What is the most interesting part of being a KOL?
Every day is different. When I still lived in Sydney before I moved to China, I worked the 9-5 desk type job and every day was pretty much the same. I realised after a few years that I needed to adjust my lifestyle to fit my passions and interests. I already knew I loved travel, China, and performing, so I moved to China to see if I could make something out of that.
Now that things are taking off, I am really starting to live that dream lifestyle. Being a KOL, every day is a new adventure, a new location, a new filming topic, a new interesting person to meet, and generally just doing really fun things.
Tell us about an interesting or funny experience you have had as a KOL in China?
I actually went on a Chinese dating show 非常完美 earlier this year! It has got to be one of the wackiest experiences of my life. It was like ‘If you are the one’ but in reverse. Instead of one guy being judged by 20 or so women, it was me being judged by 20 or so men.
During my time on stage, many interesting things happened: Firstly, I invited all the male contestants on stage to play skipping rope with me which ended in some of them doing push-ups as punishment for having inferior skipping skills (I needed a way to break the ice, you know). Then, I had to choose my least favourite male contestant, the one I would least likely go out with. I chose the one guy because he was wearing a yellow t-shirt. Apparently I wasn’t so into the yellow t-shirts that day. Then, I had to ‘告白’ and bear my soul to choose my favourite contestant (which was, in fact, pre-chosen for me) and tell him how much I liked him. The actions that followed are some of the most entertaining minutes of TV history. I went offstage quickly, and came back wearing a big panda head. Why, you ask? Because he likes pandas of course. Then, I present him with some ‘烤冷面’ Beijing typical noodles which I feed him by hand. We then had a very awkward 2-minute chat which basically ended with him saying, ‘I’m just not that into you’. I left stage heartbroken (lol not at all), with an awesome story that I look forward telling to my grandchildren one day.
What have you learned about China since becoming a KOL? Has becoming a KOL changed the way you view China?
Since becoming a KOL, I’ve definitely learned a lot about modern Chinese culture and what the young Chinese find cool, interesting and hip. In this industry, I think you really need to be following the hot topics, the most popular TV shows, internet trends, so that you can do your own take on it and remain relevant to your followers. So I spend a bit of time every day looking over hot topics on my social media platforms. I watch all the hot tv shows and follow the Chinese celebrities in order to understand the modern, young Chinese consumer and to think of new ideas for my videos.
From this process, I’ve gained a huge understanding of how different this generation of Chinese is from previous generations. As the years go on, the disparity between the traditional Chinese society with this new, westernised and modern generation gets larger and larger.
From your own experience, how do young Chinese see Australia? What is the most commonly asked question that you get from your followers about Australia?
So I have the awesome opportunity to work with Tourism Australia and many of its state and territory partners so I am always travelling back and forth from China to Australia. A large part of what I want to achieve as a KOL is to become an ambassador for Australian destinations. I have already produced several videos that I release on my social media about touring Australia. My most recent video was about a tour I did to Perth and it had an amazing response.
By releasing these kinds of videos, I get a lot of questions from my Chinese followers about Australia. It is evident to me that Australia is such a dream destination and paradise for so many Chinese tourists. Most of them say that the clean air, amazing fresh food, beautiful scenery and the lovely people are the reasons they would like to come to Australia.
One of the most common questions young Chinese ask me about Australia is about the universities there. I think Australia is a huge destination for prospective students, and a lot of them want to know the best university for them.
Where can our Asia Options followers find you online?
I am active on three main Chinese social media platforms, Weibo, Meipai, and Bilibili. On each of these platforms, you can use my handle @李慧琳Amy to find me.
On western social media, you can find me on Instagram @amy_lyons and on Youtube @blondieinchina
Feel free to connect with me!
Latest posts by Alice Slevison (see all)
- Asia Options chats with Amy Lyons, the Australian Key Opinion Leader taking China by storm - December 19, 2017
- Ryan Cunningham on the New Colombo Plan in China - June 14, 2016
- Australia China Emerging Leaders Summit - March 28, 2016