Why We Love Yang Lan (AKA the Oprah of China)
You’ve probably never heard of Yang Lan—but on the other side of the world, this woman is RUNNING things. Lan is a 46-year-old Chinese journalist and talk show host as well as co-owner of the Sun Media Group, one of the largest and most influential media companies in China. She’s frequently called the ‘Oprah of China.’
Her resume is unquestionably impressive but it’s her passion and connection with her audience that makes her a rock star. She hosts two mega TV shows in China: a serious interview show called One-on-One and a The View-style panel show, Her Village, that includes an enormous web platform. The latter reaches 300 million people a month between TV and online content. Her social media platforms alone reach more than 50 million people a day. That’s right, 50 million people A DAY!
We love her because she uses her influence for the greater good. Her latest endeavor is a perfect example. Sun Media and MAKERS, an AOL-owned hub for women telling the history of feminism via personal stories, announced in April they were partnering so that Chinese women could share their stories as well. And this weekend TIME premiered 10 of those stories, featuring women as diverse as the first female sexologist in China and one of the country’s top short-track speed skating coaches. Other women Lan hand-picked to share their stories include Fu Ying, China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Guo Jianmei, the country’s first public interest lawyer.
Lan’s own back-story is marked with a variety of diverse accomplishments. Born in Beijing, to a mother who was an engineer, and a father who served as the official translator for the former Chinese premier, Lan went on to study international economics in college before launching a TV career with a popular variety show. She then quit the show to move to New York and ended up pursuing a graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She returned to China to work for a non-profit organization, before reviving her TV career with a historical documentary series and later, launching her own production company. For two consecutive years, Forbes named her company, Sun TV, one of the world’s best small businesses.
So what is it like being a journalist in China when the media is censored? Lan doesn’t shy away from discussing the somewhat delicate topic. In fact, she told TIME she’s happy when it’s brought up because it “provides an incentive to move China forward.” She also explained how it works. She says her company produces Her Village but the TV station is government-owned and can decide on its own not to show something. But, there are different “levels of censorship” and the Internet is more relaxed. “Nowadays for example when some part of my television show cannot be broadcast on television because of the censorship,” she tells TIME, “I can get the full version on the Internet.”
Consider us big fans of Lan and her determination to tell the powerful stories about Chinese women—we have no doubt she’ll continue to change the world.