V Magazine Presents: Jackson Yee
Introducing our April 2019 Digital Cover star, from China with love.
Effectively, there are more Chinese people in the world than those of any other nationality. As much as we Americans might hear about the country, the news rarely touches on their pop culture or art. It’s not surprising, then, that so few Americans know of Jackson Yee, even if he is deemed the brightest star in a country of nearly one and a half billion citizens. He’s not on Spotify; nor is he verified on Instagram. The actor, singer, and dancer does indeed live on the same planet as us—just in a very different world.
Yee, now 18-years-old, joined a boy band called TFBOYS as their youngest member in 2013, which first shot the then-thirteen-year-old to stardom. Yee then went on to launch his solo career, which reached a Justin Timberlake-level of widespread success. In terms of profitability, Admaster marks Yee as the most commercially valuable star in all of China, helping him snag gigs like being a face of Italian luxury heavyweight Bottega Veneta.
And while Yee may not yet be a household name in the US, the fan base is growing rapidly; a YouTube video depicts the star arriving at LAX and being mobbed by Kardashian-sized swaths of paparazzi. Multiple fake social media accounts, some of which are not even available in China, rack up hundreds of thousands of followers. His Weibo, China’s answer to Instagram, has over 72 million fans.
Because Yee got such an early start, he’s already achieved enough success to branch out beyond his artistry into humanitarian work. Most notably, he’s worked as an activist and a pioneer for China’s youth. Yee once attended a Geneva conference for the World Health Organization to provide insights into how prominent youth, such as himself, can improve education around HIV. Days before our shoot, Yee served as an advocate at the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council Youth Forum, urging government administers to let young people play a role in the 2030 Agenda. He has a convincing belief in the power of his generation.
“The social environment is different. Everything is pretty different,” he says about comparing his generation to that of his parents. “This, generation, we have more open minds because we’re more willing to accept each other’s differences.” Generally, he finds that younger people are more imaginative, although that doesn’t exclusively relate to numbers. “Youth is about the mentality; it’s not just an actual age,” he explains.
Despite time spent encouraging youth to pioneer a new future, Yee still finds time for music and his acting career, which includes the upcoming film Better Days, currently making the film festival circuits. He remains extremely hands-on during the creative process, which is refreshing in the age of highly manufactured pop stars. As far as success, he says, “It’s about doing things for myself. You know, getting involved from the beginning to the end. Putting things out that are a product of my heart. That’s my definition of success.”
While pondering the future, Jackson says, “It would be interesting if our generation, or the people after us, could create another planet in the universe.”