Often seen as one of mainland China’s first national idol in the modern era (since the
economic reform of 1978 started), Zhao Wei (simplified Chinese: 赵薇; traditional Chinese: 趙
薇; pinyin: Zhào Wēi), also known as Vicky Zhao or Vicki Zhao, is a Chinese actress, director,
producer, and singer. She is one of the most popular and highest-paid actresses in China and the
surrounding regions and is one of the most influential figures in Chinese entertainment. One of
China’s original Four Dan Actresses, she has been named by Forbes as the world’s wealthiest
working actress, with the net worth of her and her husband estimated to be around US $1 billion.
Zhao was born in Wuhu, Anhui as the second child of her family. Part of the famed
Beijing Film Academy Class of 1996, notable for producing three Chinese entertainment
superstars: Zhao herself, Huang Xiaoming, and Chen Kun, Zhao Wei got her break in 1997 when
she was cast as the titular princess in the 1998 television series My Fair Princess. The drama
became a sensation in China, Taiwan, and the surrounding Southeast Asia regions, destroying
TV ratings everywhere and rocketing Zhao and her costars to stardom overnight. She won the
Golden Eagle Award for Best Actress for her efforts in the drama. Zhao followed this up with the
2001’s television series Romance in the Rain, another commercial success with the highest
ratings of the year.
Feeling that she has achieved all that she can in the television industry, Zhao started to
focus on her film career. In 2001, she landed her first lead role in a film in Shaolin Soccer, a film
led and directed by legendary Hong Kong actor/director Stephen Chow. Shaolin Soccer went on
to be come the highest grossing film in Hong Kong at that time. For her role, Zhao was
nominated at the Golden Horse Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her successful streak
continued over the next few years. Her performance in the 2004 film Warriors of Heaven and
Earth earned her a nomination for Best Actress at the Hundred Flowers Award. Her leading role
in A Time to Love (2005) earned her a win at the 2005 Huabiao Award for Outstanding Actress.
Her 2005 return to television in Moment in Peking scored her yet another highest rated drama of
the year. In 2006, she returned to her alma mater to study directing. In the same year, Zhao was
selected as the China’s “Most Beautiful Woman” by Sina and Sohu, and she also made an
appearance in that year People magazine’s “100 Most Beautiful People”.
Now one of the most sought-after Chinese actresses, Zhao became pickier with her roles.
In 2008, she starred in Painted Skin, which became the first Chinese film to gross 100 million
yuan in only 6 days. Her performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the 27 th Golden
Rooster Awards. In 2009, she starred in a remake of Mulan, playing the titular character. Her
turn as the titular heroine earned widespread praise, and earning her a Best Actress Award at the
30 th Hundred Flowers Award.
After taking a two-year break from acting in 2010 for her marriage and children, Zhao
returned in the film Painted Skin: The Resurrection, which became the highest grossing Chinese
film at the time. After graduating from her directing studies at the Beijing Film Academy ranked
number 1 in 2012, Zhao turned her attention towards directing. Her directorial debut, So Young
(2013) became the first debut film of a female director to break 100 million yuan, winning Zhao
Best Directorial Debut at that year’s Golden Rooster Award as well as Best Director at the
Hundred Flowers Award. Returning to acting in 2014 in Dearest, Zhao won international acclaim for her role as a foster mother of kidnapped children. The film was selected by the Venice International Film Festival to be screened in the Out-of-Competition category. In 2016, she was selected to be an executive member on the Executive Committee of China Film Directors. In 2017, she was named to the main competition jury of the Venice International Film Festival and to the main competition jury of the Tokyo International Film Festival. Outside of her entertainment career, Zhao married Chinese businessman Huang Youlong in 2008 and the couple had a daughter in April 2010. Zhao is also BFF with her fellow Beijing Film Academy Class of 1996 Huang Xiaoming. In fact, Huang is her daughter’s godfather, and the two families are extremely close.