CHOPSTICK legs. That’s the term that made Amy Lyons a social media star.
She’s got more than 1100 followers on Instagram, but in China she’s amassed a following of close to 65,000 — and counting.
The 24-year-old Sydney-born blonde is one of a growing number of Westerners to capture the attention of Chinese internet users, and profit from the publicity this large audience generates.
She’s what’s known as a Wang Hong, a social media influencer who has achieved celebrity status in China, with fans hanging onto her every word.
Part of an industry estimate to be worth billions of dollars, Ms Lyons is making the most of her youthful looks, friendly smile and fluent Mandarin to earn a living on platforms like Weibo, a Chinese version of Facebook or Twitter.
Her online videos attract millions of views, with the most popular one — an exercise video in which she coins the term “chopstick legs” — got more than three million hits.
“Chinese people love the idea of having very skinny legs, so I took chopsticks and exercise and put it all together in this fun little package that was received very well because of its quirky content,” Ms Lyons told the ABC’s Lateline.
The video shows Ms Lyons and her friends demonstrating their aerobics moves in activewear while sharing her tips on achieving the sought-after look of “long legs and toned backside”.
“Today I want to share with you one of my all time favourite inner thigh workouts,” she tells viewers, inviting them to “try it for yourself!”
In another video, she gives her Chinese fans a tutorial on how to the health benefits of avocado — and how to make avo toast.
As her fan base grew, the former Manly Seabirds cheerleader and Pymble Ladies’ College alumnus began to attract lucrative collaboration opportunities with companies like Tencent, one of the biggest gaming, eCommerce and social media platforms in China.
The parent company of the WeChat messaging and payment app, Tencent is owned by Ma Huateng aka Pony Ma, who last month overtake Alibaba founder Jack Ma as the richest man in China.
For Ms Lyons, it’s all about combining her interests and talents in a way that gives her the sort of lifestyle her peers can only dream of.
“I love performing, I love public speaking, I love interacting with Chinese people, I love Chinese culture, I love exercise, I love travel,” she said.
“I thought if I could become a Wang Hong, I could use all my passions, skills and talents and make that my career.”
It all started when the then uni student entered a televised Chinese language competition in 2015, just three years after she began learning Mandarin at university.
“I made it a lot further than I thought,” she said on Triple J breakfast radio, explaining that being on a show broadcast to more than 300 million people gave her the exposure that kickstarted her social media career.
“I just thought ‘It’s a little show, [don’t] take it too seriously’ … I still have people recognising me from that show.”
Leveraging her new-found celebrity, Ms Lyons set up a Weibo account and started posting regular photos and videos.
On a trip home to Sydney, she was filmed catching the ferry to Manly beach, where she splashed in the shallows clad in black jeans, a striped top and white denim jacket.
Ms Lyons said she was first drawn towards China in high school, when she had a teacher who was passionate about the nation’s history.
A year spent living in Shanghai as an exchange student during university cemented her interest.
“It was there that it went from an interest to being a passion, and I realised ‘this is what I want my life to be like,” she said.
“This is still the beginning for me; I have high goals when it comes to my followings.”