China's emerging live-streaming industry barely existed three years ago, yet last year it generated more than 30 billion yuan (4.36 billion US dollars) in revenue, and is expected to triple in size by 2020.
The industry is drawing in tens of thousands of wannabe stars who hope to achieve overnight stardom. Jing Qi, a 27-year-old who works full-time in advertising and anchors part-time on the live streaming platform Huajiao, can redeem the virtual coins she receives from her fans for cash.
She hopes to use her popularity to open up her own e-commerce store, but believes that in order to reach the next level, she needs to improve her appearance. Therefore, Jing underwent cosmetic surgery in March to make serious alterations and improve her chances of becoming an internet celebrity.
"The surgery will make my live streaming performance better, and…greatly increase the amount of my fans. This is because today's society values personal appearance," said Jing.
After five hours of rhinoplasty and facial fat injections that left Jing with gauze covering her nose, eyes, forehead and cheeks, the girl said she felt worse than dead, but the suffering was worth it.
CGTN's Michael Butterworth reports data shows that nearly half of the 344 million Internet users in China engage in live streaming, and Soyoung, a website which provides plastic surgery information, estimates that up to 95 percent of streaming anchors have undergone cosmetic surgery to improve their looks and chances of success.
Three weeks after going under the knife, Jing is back live with her fans, and barely mentions her physical changes during her performances.
She will soon undergo a lower-eyelid extension surgery, an operation she says will make her eyes appear sparkly and bright, in the hope of attracting even more followers, virtual coins, and gifts.