Photos: Elis Ching, Lee Lay Na
Video: Foong Mien Shi
Eleanor Lee is one of the hottest rising stars in China. She made a splash in China as the ‘Apple Girl’ in a 90-second commercial for the tech giant in 2015 and earned herself a six-figure paycheck for it.
Two years on, the 17 going on 18-year-old (her birthday falls in October) is still making waves and her acting resume grows longer every year. In 2015, she acted in a period fantasy drama series, Tribes and Empire and starred in a commercial opposite EXO’s Lay, then in 2016 she bagged her first lead role in A Restaurant With Many Problems (a Chinese remake of a Japanese series) and now she is currently busy playing a high school student—in yet another lead role—for a web series tentatively called Fantastic Baby.
With projects rolling in for this doe-eyed beauty, it’s safe to say that Eleanor is making bank.
But at a recent catch-up interview with Toggle at the Star Awards 2017 Awards Ceremony, where she made a special appearance for her mum’s “graduation” to All-Time Favourite Artistes ranks, Eleanor politely deflected questions about her earnings, attributing her lack of knowledge to her being “bad at maths” in general.
“My mum and godfather (Addy Lee) are the ones who are in talks with my agency, I really don’t know how much I’m earning,” she let on with a chuckle.
Eleanor's acting projects: Tribes and Empires, No Problem Restaurant, Fantastic Baby. (Photos: Summer Star/Weibo)
Despite cashing in five-figure worth paychecks for her acting and commercial projects in China, Eleanor tells us that she is still taking an “allowance” like most teenagers. The only difference, we learned, is this: “Previously, my allowance would come from my mum’s earnings, but now it comes from my earnings. Since I’m earning some income, I think I should be financially independent.
“I mostly spend on living expenses like food and transportation fees,” she added.
Eleanor is as emotionally independent as she is wise, when it comes to finances. She abides by a strict routine that begins at 4 in the morning every day and has zero complaints. “Now that I’m filming, I wake up at 4, do my makeup at 5 and film till 12 to 1am in the night. If filming doesn’t overrun on set, I may end by 8 or 9 at night, but I still have to study when I get home so it still feels like I’m working (chuckles).”
“In the beginning it was really, really tiring and tough. But I’ve learned to adapt to it after some time and now it feels like a routine,” the aspiring actress quipped.
(Continued on next page: Quan Yi Fong sets some ground rules for her daughter)
Quan Yi Fong and Eleanor on stage together during Star Awards 2017.
Even in her most trying times, Eleanor tells us she has never called home in tears. “My mum really loves me but she has never told me – not once, even in my most difficult periods – ‘my heart aches, I’ll come look for you [or] come home’. Instead, she’d teach me to ‘bear with it, learn from it so that you’ll know how to live in the future’,” she said.
Eleanor is slowly getting used to the ins-and-outs of showbiz, although it’s not something completely foreign to her having grown up under the limelight as Quan Yi Fong’s daughter. She’s ready to take on all personal challenges with gut and gumption, “I’m an inquisitive girl and I’m willing to learn [everything and anything],” explained the bright-eyed ingénue with her can-do spirit, during the interview.
But there are some things this lanky teenager can’t quite “learn” or do yet due to “rules” set by her mum, said Eleanor: “I cannot do any kissing scenes and overly-intimate scenes because I’m still young (laughs). But to be honest, I don’t think I’m suitable for such shows too.”
Eleanor participating in a photoshoot for Addy Li's hair products in 2013.
Neck-deep in work (she’s currently based in Xiamen, China, filming Fantastic Baby), things are going to get even busier for Eleanor when she officially begins school this year. The budding actress, who is nicknamed “the most beautiful art student” by the Chinese media when she was spotted applying for the entrance exams to two prestigious schools – the Beijing Film Academy and Central Academy of Drama, is taking it all in stride.
If anything, she will be starting off her academic year on a good note - it was belatedly announced in end April that Eleanor was accepted into both schools she applied for.
For those not in the know, both schools boast of famous alumni like Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Jiang Wen, Tang Wei, Chen Xiao and Deng Chao who hail from Central Academy of Drama, and Chen Kun, Huang Bo, Huang Xiaoming, Liu Yifei, Yang Mi who graduated from Beijing Film Academy, just to name a few.
This young starlet is set for a bright future and there’s no telling how far she’ll go.
WATCH: Is Eleanor earning more than her mum?