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Fan Bingbing made $21 million last year: Who is she?

Nicole Goodkind
Nicole Goodkind

Forbes’ has released its list of the top paid actresses in 2015 and for the most part its pretty standard. Jennifer Lawrence, aka America’s sweetheart, came in first, followed by Scarlett Johansson and Melissa McCarthy. The fourth highest paid actress, however, is a surprise. Fan Bingbing, a 33 year-old Chinese actress, producer and singer, has earned $21 million pre-tax over the past 12 months.

Americans might recognize Fan from her small role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, but for the most part her earnings come from China’s growing national film market. Fan is so successful in her home country that Barbie recently released a doll modeled after her in Shanghai.

So who is Fan Bingbing and how did she make more money than Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep last year?

The actress got her start in the hit Chinese TV series, My Fair Princess. In 2003 she made her big-screen debut in the Chinese film, Cellphone. The movie was the highest grossing film of the year there and won a Hundred Flower Award, the Chinese equivalent of a Golden Globe. She has gone on to act in more than a dozen films across Asia. In addition Fan has released a solo album and stared in multiple ad campaigns for top fashion brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

In 2007 she opened her own production company, Fan Bingbing Studio.

Fan’s rise as an actress coincides with the Chinese film industry’s meteoric ascent. About 15 new screens open each day in China. From January to March of 2015, China built 554 new movie theaters. In February of 2015, China’s monthly box office receipts surpassed America’s for the first time. China is currently on course to become the world’s largest movie market by 2018. Alibaba and other large Chinese firms have also become involved in film production and distribution.

Fan Bingbing is currently best known in China but that’s all about to change. The foreign superstar just inked a deal with 20th Century Fox to star in four more X-Men films.