Former flight attendant Xia Keke had to go against her parents' wishes to pursue her dream, but now they, too, watch her online
Sitting at a computer, turning on the camera and clicking on the microphone, 22-year-old Xia Keke smiles, chats, sings and sometimes stands up and dances inside a pink room filled with dolls.
Flowers, stickers and other virtual gifts constantly appear on her computer screen. Twice a day, about two to three hours at a time, she communicates with her fans this way.
Xia Keke, who has more than 6 million fans online, amassed earnings of more than 5 million yuan last year. Provided to China Daily
"The key to being a host is to innovate, otherwise fans will leave you. And the most difficult time is when you reach a bottleneck and you don't know how to improve yourself," says Xia, a leading personality on the live broadcasting platform YY.com.
Xia joined YY.com in June 2014. Her beautiful V-shaped face, sexy figure and funny, bold and straightforward personality helped attract followers, who now number more than 6 million, and helped her amass earnings last year of more than 5 million yuan ($767,000; 674,000 euros).
Born into a conventional, white-collar family in Jinan, Shandong province - her mother is a judge and her father an engineer - Xia says she has been learning singing and dancing since childhood.
"But when I told my parents I wanted to be a film star when I was in middle school, they refused and wanted me to do some ordinary job," she says.
After high school, she became a flight attendant, but her hobby of playing online games made her want to do live broadcasts of such games. Her funny personality enabled her to become an entertainment host instead.
She hit it just right. Online streaming has a very low entry threshold - as long you have a computer, you can register with a website and start broadcasting - and the online streaming industry is growing fast.
Yet those factors also have given Xia's chosen career field some growing pains. According to a report from Beijing-based iResearch Consulting Group, the public is likely to connect live broadcasting with eroticism, and online streaming scandals are frequent. The report says that about 77 percent of China's netizens think online live streaming platforms have vulgar content.
But Xia doesn't see it that way.
"Some people don't respect live broadcast hosts, thinking we don't have much talent. Some in the audience also say some ugly words to us. But for me, it is performing my talent for others, just realizing my dream to be a star. My parents also watch my live broadcasts and give me some advice," she says.
Xia says that she likes to project her own personality on live broadcasts, and she also makes fun of herself and cracks jokes, to get closer to her audience.
"My style of live streaming is very joyous, because I think the audience comes seeking happiness and to get rid of fatigue and the unhappy things in daily life," she says.
She says although many people think the career of a live online broadcast host must be very short, she disagrees and has just signed a four-year contract.
"There are many hosts on YY.com who are married, and some have even done broadcasts with their babies. So the length of this career depends only on your efforts to improve and your popularity with the audience."
She says the key is to understand what the fans like, and stick to that. So in her spare time, she trains in singing and dancing, and prepares new styles of cosplay - wearing costumes to represent characters - or checks out online games to play with her followers.
Xia recently had to have surgery to treat a vocal cord tumor, and had to stop broadcasting for more than a month. While unable to talk to fans much, she would still record short videos to say hello to her fans on her mobile phone.
"It seems that this year, the number of hosts has at least doubled. The competition will be fierce, and I will need to make more effort to improve myself," she says.
To better her career prospects, Xia signed with an agency late last year. For every 100 yuan she makes, the website takes 40 yuan and the agents get 20. But she thinks it important to have a support team to help keep her career going for the long term.
She says she wants to try acting in film and TV. This year, the agency she signed with plans to produce an online television program, and she expects to have a role in it.