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Hair, there & everywhere

Updated: 2020-11-28 09:47:27


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Fashion influencer Liu Qiang sells wigs via livestreaming in her hometown, a city that bills itself as the wig capital of China, if not the world, Xuchang, in Henan province, Central China. CHINA DAILY

At 6:30 in the morning Liu Qiang stepped into a room next to a brightly lit broadcasting studio and began putting on makeup. As she did so she continued to familiarize herself with hair products-mostly wigs-that she would soon be trying to sell, as well as the scripts she would be reading from to help her do so.

At 8 am sharp, Liu, dressed in hip-hop attire, faced the camera and greeted a worldwide internet audience in well measured and articulated English. Just as importantly, her smooth body movements and the confidence they exuded suggested that this 27-year-old must have had years of sales experience under her belt.

With the deftness of a magician pulling rabbits from under a hat, she changed wigs 15 times in one 60-second spell, leaving many viewers convinced that they could not do without one or two of these hair replacements, in their multitude of styles, colors and sizes.

Two hours later, with the live broadcast done, an exhausted Liu drank a cup of water. When a colleague told her that the broadcast had raked in $3,300, her tired look seemed to evaporate and she smiled broadly.

Most livestreaming events such as these can be beamed from anywhere, with viewers having no idea about exactly where the event is being beamed from. In this case though, the venue was as critical as the content, for it came from a city that bills itself as the wig capital of China, if not the world, Xuchang, in Henan province, Central China.

Last November Liu had been working as a beauty assistant at a hair products counter in a New York department store, and it is unlikely that she would have imagined that a year later she would have been reincarnated as a livestreaming influencer in her homeland.

In turn, the great influencer behind that life change was the COVID-19 pandemic. Liu, born in Xuchang, who used to sell Chinese wig products to Americans in New York, returned home for the Spring Festival in January, and eventually found herself blocked by the pandemic from returning to the United States.

Staying with her parents in Xuchang, she had to decide on her work options and realized that she could turn the challenge to her advantage, given that she was very familiar with the town's most well-known product, she had overseas work experience and she was highly proficient in English.

"When selling at a physical counter, I may deal with 10 customers a day, but on the webcast, two hours of livestreaming allows me to reach nearly a 1,000 customers all over the world," she says. "They may be in the United States, Brazil, Spain, France or elsewhere."

Since she began working for the AliExpress Xuchang hair products cross-border e-commerce live broadcast center in Xuchang several months ago, she has built up a following of 100,000, she says, and each live broadcast can bring in orders worth a total of between $3,000 and $5,000. She does the broadcasts once or twice a week.

Feeding Liu's ambitions to make a big name for herself in the world of livestreaming sales, her broadcast has been chosen to be part of AliExpress' Global Internet Celebrity Incubation Program.

The countries whose men have the greatest prevalence of baldness are, according to the website Quora, the Czech Republic, 42.8 percent, followed by Spain at 42.6 percent, Germany, 41.2 percent, France, 39.2 percent, the United Kingdom 39.2 percent, and the United States, 39.9 percent, and it is predominantly to China, with its wig-making prowess, that they look to as a savior.

Chinese wig-makers and distributors serving the general public grew into what they are today starting from scratch in the 1990s.

However, according to Xuchang county chronicles, local people got into the hair business during the Jiajing reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), when human hair was mostly used to make opera props.

At the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), it was common for both men and women to have long hair, and German merchants sensing business opportunities often went to the hinterland of China to buy discarded hair, shipping it to Germany and having it processed into various hair products, and then selling them in Europe and in the United States.

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