It's not easy to stand out in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion. Just like Zhang Ziyi before her, Chinese actress Fan Bingbing is now Chinese cinema's toast of the town.
Forbes China reported last month that the 30-year-old from Qingdao, Shandong, is China's most valuable actress, thanks to her slew of endorsement deals and screen appearances.
The photogenic star - who made an estimated 100million yuan (S$20 million) last year - secured third place on Forbes' 2012 China Celebrity List, trailing Taiwan's Jay Chou and Hong Kong's Andy Lau.
She's also ranked way ahead of Zhang (14th) and other popular compatriots like Li Bingbing (20th) and Zhao Wei (38th).
Fan, whom Forbes said is "heading towards her throne", can be seen in the Korean World War II epic My Way, which opens here today.
Directed by Kang Je Kyu (Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood Of War), the movie has Fan playing a Chinese woman who becomes a sniper in the Japanese army to avenge her family's murder.
It says a lot about her star power when her name is high on the movie poster even though she has only a small part in the film.
The movie revolves around the friendship between leading men Jang Dong Gun and Joe Odagiri.
Another sign of Fan's burgeoning popularity is her inclusion into the cast of the China-Hollywood production of Iron Man 3.
The producers of the third installment of the superhero franchise wanted a female who would appeal to moviegoers in this part of the world.
Fan has also been cast in another Hollywood production, this time opposite Pierce Brosnan, in The Moon & The Sun, a fantasy flick where she'll play a mermaid.
Fan described herself to Forbes China as "an independent woman who dares to dream".
She first rose to fame with a supporting role as Jinsuo in the TV series My Fair Princess in 1997.
Although she didn't achieve overnight success as co-stars Zhao Wei and Ruby Lin did, the show did put Fan on the map.
She began getting parts on movies such as Cell Phone (2003), The Twins Effect II (2004) and A Chinese Tall Story (2005).
But her roles were mainly "vases", or babe roles, which didn't require much range.
She told Forbes China: "I didn't mind those parts. I just wanted to do my job well, whatever roles they are."
In 2007, she won the Golden Horse best supporting actress award her performance in The Matrimony.
That same year, Fan set up her own company Fan Bingbing Studio, so that she could be her own boss and take charge of her career.
The subsequent years were Fan's fruitful period.
While Zhang's love life and topless holiday photos with her then-fiance, Israel-American venture capitalist Aviv Nevo, were hogging the headlines and her star started dimming (her 2009 movies such as Horsemen and Sophie's Revenge flailed at the box office), Fan was busy working, filming six movies and TV series in 2009.
Fan's constant appearance on the big and small screens made her a household name, which meant companies were racing to secure the fair beauty as their ambassador.
According to Forbes, Fan is the spokesmodel to almost 50 local and international brands, including Cartier, Mercedes, Haagen Dazs, L'Oreal Paris and Nokia.
Not mincing words, Fan told Forbes: "I have become wealthy because I'm a favourite among brands."
A spokesman of L'Oreal Paris commented: "(Fan) is breathtakingly beautiful and has enviable skin.
"She was born with a unique temperament, a good interpretation of the modern female self-confidence, independence, self-individuality and characteristics of the times and, more importantly, enchanting."
She also prides herself on being a chameleon.
Fan constantly updates her looks, mixing up contemporary movies while lending her classic porcelain looks to period dramas.
Because of her partnership with L'Oreal Paris, She gets to attend fashion shows and grace prestigious red carpet events - and American and European fashion critics have fallen for her personal style.
Style.com hailed her as "one who consistently looks great in everything from dragon-emblazoned Chinese gowns to Parisian couture".
Even E! Fashion Police's harshest potty-mouthed fashion critic Joan Rivers has been won over.
Fashion blog Red Carpet Fashion Awards proclaimed her the must-watch celebrity at the Cannes Film Festival.
A champion of Chinese cinema, Fan told The Hollywood Reporter: "An international film festival like Cannes is important for Chinese people to learn more about the movie industry.
"Cannes can also help to promote the Chinese movie industry."
She added in jest: "And because I'm here, it's getting more famous now!"
Fan will next be seen in Yang Gui Fei, where she plays the eponymous Chinese historic beauty who becomes Tang Dynasty Emperor Xuanzong's favourite imperial consort.
The China-Korea-Japan collaboration, directed by Kwak Jae Yong of My Sassy Girl fame, marks Fan's first time shouldering a multi-million-dollar production as a lead.
Fan is certainly making sure she gets to that throne eventually.
The ambitious star already has plans to produce, direct and star in a TV series where she will don the imperial robes of Wu Zetian, the only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor.
This article was first published in The New Paper.
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