Lay (entertainer)

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Zhang Yixing (Lay)
Yixing in TFOAA press.jpg
Zhang Yixing at the TFOAA press in July 2017
Background information
Chinese name (traditional)
Chinese name (simplified)
Pinyin Zhāng Yìxīng (Mandarin)
Jyutping Zoeng1 Ngai6 Hing1 (Cantonese)
Born (1991-10-07) October 7, 1991 (age 26)
Changsha, Hunan, China
Ethnicity Han
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • dancer
  • actor
  • model
Years active 1998–2006; 2012–present
  • Vocals
Associated acts

Zhang Yixing (simplified Chinese: 张艺兴; traditional Chinese: 張藝興) (born (1991-10-07)October 7, 1991),[1] better known by his stage name Lay (Korean: 레이), is a Chinese singer, songwriter, dancer, and actor. He is a member of the South Korean-Chinese boy group Exo and its sub-unit Exo-M.[2] He was first known after participating in the Chinese TV talent show Star Academy in 2005.[3]

In January 2015, Lay was ranked fifth on Baidu's "2014 Top 10 Most Popular Celebrities" list.[4] In September 2015, he released his autobiography titled Standing Firm at 24, which broke several online book records.[5] In July 2016, Lay was appointed by the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) of Changsha as a publicity ambassador, the first celebrity to hold such title.[6] On October 28, 2016, Lay released his first mini album Lose Control in South Korea and China.[7] The EP was a commercial success peaking at number 1 on the Gaon Album Chart as well as number 4 on Billboard's US World Albums chart[8][9] and made him the first Chinese artist to enter the iTunes Top 60.[10] Kantar Millward Brown and China’s business magazine CBN Weekly recently launched the CelebrityZ Top 100 Most Valuable Celebrities where he came in at the 23rd spot.[11][12]

In September 2017, he came in at the 20th spot on the 2017 Forbes China Celebrity 100 List with estimated earnings of 120 million yuan.[13]

Early life[edit]

Lay was born in Changsha, Hunan, China[1] on October 7, 1991.[14] His first known acting role was at six years old, starring as Huan Huan in the 1998 Chinese television drama We The People.[15] In 2000, at nine years old, Lay participated in a Chinese TV show as a fan club member of the Taiwanese singer and actor Jimmy Lin, giving him his first contact with the entertainment industry.[1] Lay began his career as a local child star after winning third place in a competition organized by the Hunan-based TV show Star Academy in 2005.[3] He also appeared in an episode of Yue Ce Yue Xin Kai and Liu Na's variety show, Na Ke Bu Yi Yang between 2005 and 2006.[16] In April 2006, he auditioned for a leading part in Zhang Jizhong's The Duke of Mount Deer, but did not win the role despite being a finalist.[17]

In 2008, Lay auditioned for SM Entertainment at the company's global casting auditions in Changsha. At the time of the auditions, he was 16 years old and studying at the High School Attached to Hunan Normal University, where he was featured as an outstanding student for his achievements.[citation needed] After successfully passing the auditions, Lay moved to South Korea for his idol training. In 2011, prior to his debut with Exo, he briefly worked with Shinee during their Shinee World concert tour as Jonghyun's dance replacement.[14]


2012–2014: Debut with Exo[edit]

Following the release of the singles "What Is Love" and "History" in 2012, he and the other eleven members held their pre-debut showcase in Seoul's Olympic Stadium on March 31,[18] and a second showcase and press conference in Beijing at the Great Hall of the Beijing University of International Business and Economics. [19] The group officially debuted on April 8, 2012 with their title song "Mama", and Exo M's first performance in China was publicly televised at the 12th Yinyue Fengyun Bang Awards.

In December 2012, Lay was featured in SM Entertainment's project dance group S.M. The Performance featuring SM's best dancers, alongside fellow Exo member Kai and labelmates Yunho, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Minho and Taemin. On December 29, the group performed their single "Spectrum", which was released the following day, at the 2012 SBS Gayo Daejeon.[20] As his group gained commercial success, EXO's studio album XOXO (album) became the first album to sell more than a million copies in South Korea in 12 years.[21] Their 2014 album Overdose (EP) had even entered US Billboard's 200 chart.[22][23]

Early in 2014, Lay composed and performed the song "I'm Lay" for his solo performance during Exo's first headlining concert tour The Lost Planet.[24] Later in 2014, he performed another self-composed song titled "I'm Coming" on a special year-end television program on Hunan TV.[25]

2015: Solo activities and acting career beginnings[edit]

In April 2015, S.M. Entertainment announced that a personal studio had been established for Lay's activities in China.[26] In May 2015, he became a regular cast member of the Chinese reality television show Go Fighting!.[27] In June 2015, Lay composed the song "Promise" from the repackaged edition of Exo's second studio album, Love Me Right. He also wrote the lyrics for the Chinese version of the song, while the Korean version was co-written by Chen and Chanyeol.

On September 7, 2015, Lay held a fan meeting on his second birthday party at Shanghai Indoor Stadium where he officially disclosed "MYM" from Lose Control and OST for Ex Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back, "Alone" to the public.[28] On September 18, the limited edition of Lay's autobiography Standing Firm At 24 was published, while the standard edition became available on October 7.[29] The book documents important events throughout his life and broke several online sales records by selling 68,537 copies in the first 24 minutes of pre-sales.[30] With less than three month sale of 1.4 million in royalties, he took the fourth place on 'The 10th Chinese Celebrity Writers List', becoming the youngest celebrity author to enter the charts. He was also the champion of the 2015 installment of the 'Annual Celebrity Book Sales', and took the top spot of 'Asia's Best Books', twice during its monthly ranking and six times for the weekly chart.[31] He also locked in standings for Rakuten's listings, with 400,000 copies sold within six months.[32]

The same month, he was cast in the Indian-Chinese movie Kung Fu Yoga, starring Jackie Chan and directed by Stanley Tong,[33] and was later announced to be starring as the male lead alongside labelmate Krystal in the South Korean-Chinese movie Unexpected Love, which was postphoned for release in August 2017, the poster for which was revealed in the Cannes Film Festival.[34]

In November 2015, Lay made his big screen debut with a supporting role in the Chinese movie Ex Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back, which was a box office hit, garnering 2 billion in sales within 10 days of its release. He later won the Best Supporting Actor Award at the 2016 China Britain Film Festival for his performance.[35] He also wrote and recorded an original soundtrack for the movie titled "Alone (One Person)", which reached number one on the Baidu Music Chart,[36] and later won Best Movie Original Soundtrack awards at the 16th Top Chinese Music Awards[37] and 4th V-Chart Awards.[38] Lay also starred in the Chinese movie Oh My God and collaborated with his co-stars Coco Jiang Wen and Li Xiaolu on an original soundtrack for the movie titled "Happy Youth",[39][40] which debuted at number eight on the Billboard V Chart.[41]

2016: Rising popularity and solo debut[edit]

In January 2016, Lay and the other cast members of Go Fighting! appeared in the Chinese movie Royal Treasure. In April 2016, he received the Most Popular Newcomer award at the 16th Top Chinese Music Awards. In May 2016, Lay made his small screen debut in the Chinese television series To Be A Better Man,[42][43] and released a Chinese song titled "Monodrama (Chinese: 独角戏)" as part of S.M. Entertainment's Station music project.[44] Written by Lay and co-composed and arranged with Divine Channel,[45] "Monodrama" broke records by staying at number one on YinYueTai's VChart for five consecutive weeks.[46]

In May 2016, Lay starred in the Chinese television drama The Mystic Nine, a prequel to The Lost Tomb. The series achieved unprecedented success, placing first in television ratings and setting a record for the most online views garnered in a day, and has accumulated over 12 billion views in total.[47] The television series went on to have a side story named The Mystic Nine Side Story: Flowers Bloom in February, which focused solely on Lay's character Er Yue Hong.[48]

In October 2016, Lay's career as a solo singer began with the release of "What U Need?" (stylized as "what U need?") as a surprise gift for his fans on his birthday.[49] The song hit the number four spot on the China V Chart as well as on Billboard's World Digital Songs, and had made it to the top 60 on the US iTunes chart, historically making Lay the first Chinese artist to appear on the chart.[50] He performed the song for the first time on October 10 at the 2016 Asia Song Festival in Busan, South Korea.[51][52] On October 28, one day after holding a press conference at Shanghai Town & Country Community, Lay released his debut extended play Lose Control, containing six Mandarin tracks, and the music video for the title song.[53] Lay was involved in much of the production of album as the producer, and was personally in charge of the composition, arrangement and writing the lyrics of every song – as well as translating the lyrics himself into three other languages other than Chinese including English, Korean and Japanese.[54] The song "Lose Control" stayed as number one on Billboard's China V Chart for six weeks in a row.[55] seven Guinness World Records[56] were broke on the YinYueTai China Weekly Chart. Lose Control broke the record in South Korea for the most sales by a solo artist, with pre-orders surpassing 200,000 copies before the physical album was released, making the album number one in sales. Lay also became the first solo artist to sell more than 40,000 album copies within a day and 125,000 within a week from the album's release.[57] Over 1,000,000 copies of the digital album has been sold on Xiami.[58] He performed "Lose Control" for the first time on The Show on November 15.[59] Lose Control was a commercial success peaking at number one on the Gaon Album Chart.

Later in November, Lay was announced to be starring in a Chinese remake of the hit Japanese drama TV series Operation Love (Chinese TV series)[60] which started airing on Dragon TV from April 24, 2017 with 32 episodes.

2017: Mainstream popularity[edit]

On January 27, Lay made his maiden appearance on CCTV Spring Gala Festival and starred alongside Chinese actor Jing Boran.[61][62] On January 28, the screening premiere of Kung Fu Yoga directed by Stanley Tong showcased Lay acting alongside Jackie Chan, Aarif Lee and Indian actor Sonu Sood.[63][64] He reportedly suffered minor injuries as per the action scenes required from his character.[65] A post-release music video, "Goosebump" sung by Fazilpuria featured him and Jackie Chan together.[66]

In April, Lay starred in the Chinese historical film The Founding of an Army.[67] Later in April, his previously announced Chinese drama Operation Love (Chinese TV series) officially aired on Dragon TV. He sang the OST for the drama.[68][69]

In May, he attended the Huawei Nova 2 launching ceremony fan meeting at the Hunan International Conference & Exhibition Centre where he was expressed his gratitude for his continued appointment as the Huawei Nova series ambassador.[70][71]

In July, his variety show, Go Fighting! Season 3, where he is starred as a main cast, began to air on Dragon TV.[72] He was later revealed to be the voice actor of the Chinese dub for the main antagonist in Disney cartoon film Cars 3, alongside his castmate of Go Fighting!, Huang Lei.[73]

On September 17, he was confirmed to be starring as the main lead in the Chinese drama The Golden Eyes as announced in the pre-release conference.[74] On September 25, S.M. Entertainment released a music video for "I Need U", a pre-release track from his album Lay 02 Sheep, which was released on October 7, 2017.[75] The music video ranked number one on Billboard's China Weibo Live Chart.[76] In 12 hours, "I Need U" hit more than 26 million views online, consecutively being the major three music chart's winner.[76][77] On October 7, his first studio album Lay 02 Sheep was released together with the music video for lead track Sheep.[78] Lay performed a flash mob of "Sheep" on that day of release in Sanlitun, Beijing.[79] On its first day of digital sales, the album broke five records on QQ Music: Gold, Double Gold, Triple Gold, Platinum and Diamond Record (¥5 million in 9 hours 11 minutes).[80] The album premiere "2017 Zhang Yixing Showcase" was held at the Beijing National Aquatics Center on October 12.[81] During the showcase, he signed a contract on stage with the vice president of Tencent Music Entertainment Group where he will now be a member of "Music+ Plan" (Music+ 计划) alongside TFBoys, Wang Leehom and more.[82] Shanghai Pudong Development Bank announced in the premiere that the bank will provide fringe benefits for Lay's fans as he is endorsing the brand.[83] Lay also officially signed the contract on stage with the director and producers of The Golden Eyes.[84] On October 21, he kickstarted the first stop of his "Lay 02 Sheep Signing Promo" at Hongqiao Art Centre, Shanghai.[85] He performed at the Tmall Collection 2017 on the next day.[86] The second wing of his "Lay 02 Sheep Signing Promo" continued at Shenzhen on October 29.[87] On November 5, Lay was once again appointed as publicity ambassador in a press conference held by Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) which he attended in Hunan.[88] On that night, the "Lay 02 Sheep Signing Promo" was wrapped up at Changsha, Hunan.[89] On December 1, he was announced to be starring as a producer in talent show, Idol Producer on iQiYi which started airing on January 19, 2018.[90] On December 18, Lay was officially announced to be starring in the 2018 CCTV New Year's Gala on December 31.[91]

On December 22, Lay released his second extended play Winter Special Gift on QQ Music and KuGou app.[92] The music video of the lead song for the album, "Goodbye Christmas" was also released concurrently on the same day.[93] Within one day of digital sales, the album broke four records of Gold, Double Gold, Triple Gold and Platinum on QQ Music.[94] The album later broke Diamond record on QQ Music.[95] On December 28, Lay was announced to be starring as a supporting role in Empress of China which is scheduled to air on Jiangsu TV and Youku in 2019.[96]


On January 15, Lay was given credits to a special appearance for a public welfare movie, I'm Beside You which he sang the official soundtrack.[97] On January 16, the first episode of his previously announced talent show Idol Producer officially streamed on iQiYi.[98] On January 28, he was announced to be starring on CCTV New Year's Gala for the second consecutive year,[99] where he performed alongside Huang Bo and William Chan on February 16.[100] On April 19, Lay was announced to be starring in The Island alongside Shu Qi and Go Fighting! cast mates Wang Bo and Wang Xun.[101] On April 29, the fourth season of his variety show, Go Fighting! which he starred in, began to air on Dragon TV.[102] On May 4, Lay was announced to be participating in the national anthem and its music video for Youth Day in China.[103] As of June 30, it was announced that his 3 year endorsement contract as Huawei Nova series ambassador with Huawei has legally ended.[104] On July 17, he was casted for a special appearance in the web film, Sha Hai which will air on Tencent.[105] On August 3, Lay collaborated with Alan Walker and made his first US appearance during the latter's set at music festival, Lollapalooza.[106] It was announced before the performance that the duo will collaborate again in which a remix version will be composed by Alan Walker for Lay's Sheep.[107]

Songwriting and producing[edit]

Lay has composed and produced multiple songs including "Exo 2014" by Exo[108] and the whole of his solo albums, Lose Control (EP),[109] Lay 02 Sheep and Winter Special Gift.[110] He also wrote and composed his 2015 SM Station single "Monodrama". Lay composed "Alone", the original sound track for his 2015 romantic-comedy film Ex-Files 2, as well as "Prayer", for his 2017 Chinese web-drama Operation Love. He holds composition credits for the song "Not to be Continued" by Chinese female artist Karen Mok which was released in May 2018 for her 25th anniversary album[111] and later for MC Jin’s debut single on the same year. In April 2018, Lay won the "Best Producer" award at the Chinese Top Ten Music Awards.[112] He revealed in an interview that he lost over 99 unreleased tracks that he composed over the years. Apart from Karen Mok, he holds composition credits to songs released by Yu Quan, MC Jin and Show Luo.[113]


In February 2015, Lay participated in the "Return Home with Love for A Thousand Miles", a large-scale public welfare activities and volunteer project. The project included on-site delivery of relief supplies to labour workers which helps them return home faster and to help labour workers in a timely manner to reinforce physical safety.[114] On May 2, Lay established his own foundation entitled, "Zhang Yixing Arts Scholarship" on behalf of providing scholarship for his alma mater middle school, Hunan Masters College Middle School where he will donate 100 thousand yuan annually.[115][116][117] His intentions were encourage talented youth to pursue their dreams.[118] On September 7, Lay responded to a campus soccer public welfare project, "Summit of Hope" (“希望之颠”). He uploaded a video on his Weibo account in an attempt to publicise the project.[119]

On February 1, 2016, Lay donated an undisclosed amount to a joint Weibo public welfare funding project (#一起9加1#) which aids impoverished families for the upcoming Lunar New Year.[120] In March 2016, in the second season of Go Fighting!, Yixing and the other cast members visited a community-run migrant worker dependent school located in Chuansha Xin Town of Shanghai as part of the "Go Fighting Welfare Development Project" (“极限公益成长计划”). The initiative donated more than 1.2 million yuan worth of materials for over 12 schools nationwide.[121] On May 1, Lay participated in the Youku "Go Fighting Minute Challenge" public welfare project on Weibo where he sent greetings to as many friends and families as possible in one minute and urged the public to express positive energy and to donate to charity.[122] With previously having his own foundation established, he further donated another 1 million yuan and a piano to his alma mater.[123][124] Later that year, in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of his alma mater, Yixing once more donated another 1 million yuan of fund to his scholarship foundation.[125][126] On July 2, Lay was honourably appointed as the Publicity Ambassador of the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC),[127] expressed that he will dedicate himself to his appointment and appealed to the public to do charity through singing the national anthem.[127][128][129] On September 9, Lay attended the 2016 BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night which resulted in him donating 10 ambulances with worth amounting to 700 thousand yuan.[130] Due to his charitable contributions, Lay was ranked number 15th by the China Philanthropist Magazine in the '2016 China's Top Philanthropist Celebrity List'.[131]

On September 9, 2017, Yixing attended the 2017 BAZAAR Stars’ Charity Night and donated 15 ambulances, valued at 1.05 million yuan.[132] In January 2018, he starred in a public welfare movie (我在你身边) in which he sang and composed the theme song too.[133] On March 30, 2018, he starred as a guest recitalist in CCTV's Trust in China talk show.[134] Lay ranked number 18 by the China Philanthropist Magazine in the '2017 China's Top Philanthropist Celebrity List'.[135]




Title Year Role Notes
SMTOWN The Stage 2015 Himself Documentary of SM Town[136]
Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back Lee Xiang He Special appearance
Oh My God Le Yi Supporting lead
Go Fighting! The Movie: Royal Treasure 2016 Himself Special appearance; spin off film
The Mystic Nine Side Story: Flowers Bloom in February Er Yuehong Lead role; Web film; aired on IQiyi
Kung Fu Yoga 2017 Xiao Guang Lead role
The Founding of an Army Lu Deming Supporting role
Cars 3 Jackson Storm (voice) Chinese dub; main antagonist
Unexpected Love 2018 Han Bin Lead role
I'm Beside You Special appearance Public welfare movie
The Island Xiao Xing Supporting role

Television series[edit]

Title Year Role Network Notes
We The People 1998 Huan Huan BMN: Beijing Television Predebut
Exo Next Door 2015 Himself Naver TV Cast Special appearance
To Be A Better Man 2016 Xiao Cai JSBC: Jiangsu Television
ZRTG: Zhejiang Television
Supporting role
The Mystic Nine Er Yue Hong SMG: Dragon Television
Lead role
Operation Love 2017 Yan Xiaolai SMG: Dragon Television
Tencent QQ
Sha Hai 2018 Jie Yuchen Tencent Special appearance
The Golden Eyes Zhuang Rui HBS: Hunan Broadcasting System
Lead role
Empress of the Ming 2019 Zhu Qizhen JSBC: Jiangsu Television Supporting role

Variety shows[edit]

Title Year Network Role Notes
Go Fighting! 2015–present SMG: Dragon Television Main Cast Fixed cast (season 1–4)
Star Chef 2014 JSTV: Jiangsu Television Main Contestant Fixed cast (season 1)
Idol Producer 2018 IQiyi Nation's Producer Presenter

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2015 Asian Influence Awards Best Influential All-Rounded Artist Won [137]
Eastern Entertainment Influence Awards Music Pioneer of the Year Won [138]
BaiduMusic King Awards Best OST of the Year Alone (一个人) Won [139]
2016 Top Chinese Music Awards Best OST of the Year Alone (一个人) Won [37]
Best Newcomer Award Won [37]
The 4th Vchart Awards Best Film Song of the Year Alone (一个人) Won [38]
2017 The 5th Vchart Awards Top Male Artist (Mainland) Won [140]
Best Album of the Year Lose Control Won [140]
Tencent Video Star Award Album of the Year Sheep Won [141]
Billboard Radio China Top 10 Chinese Songs of the Year Won [142]
2018 The 9th Annual Power Fashion Award (中國時尚權力榜) Producer of the Year Won [143]
The 25th ERC Chinese Top Ten Awards Album of the Year Sheep Won [144]
Most Popular Male Artist Won
Producer of the Year Won
Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
2016 The 18th Tripod Awards Best New Actor Award Nominated [145]
China International Film Festival Best Supporting Role Award Ex-Files 2: The Backup Strikes Back Won [35]
The 3rd Actors of China Awards Best Actor of the Year Nominated [146]
2017 The 22nd Tripod Awards Best New Actor Award To Be A Better Man Nominated [147]
The 2nd China Drama Awards Best All-Rounded Artist Won [148]
9th Macau International Movie Festival Best Supporting Role Award The Founding of an Army Nominated [149]
2015 The 12th Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards Best Beauty of the Year Won [150]
2016 China Writer's Rich List Awards Celebrity Author Award (4th Prize) Standing Firm at 24 ( 而立·24 ) Won [31]
Entertainment Sharing Night Ceremony Most Influential Idol Award Won [151]
Asia Book Awards Terrific Author of the Year Standing Firm at 24 ( 而立·24 ) Won [152]
2016ENAwards Influential Artist List Won [153]
2017 CCTV Flowers in the May Gala Outstanding Youth Award Won [154]
Esteemed Comradely Youth Award Won [155]
2017 Weibo TV Online Video Awards Most Weibo Fans Award Won [156]
14th Esquire Man At His Best Awards Man of the Year Award Won [157]
2018 CCTV Flowers in the May Gala Outstanding Youth Actor Award Won [158]

Music programs awards[edit]

Global Chinese Music
Year Date Song Ref.
2017 May 14 "Pray" [159]


Year Title Notes ISBN
October 1, 2015 Standing Firm at 24 Autobiography ISBN 978-7550260917


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