Dilraba Dilmurat: Rise of China’s Biggest Uyghur Actress

Dilraba Dilmurat rocketed from obscurity into megastardom — here’s everything you need to know about China’s biggest Uyghur star

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Adan
3:39 PM HKT, Tue September 5, 2023 4 mins read

Dilraba Dilmurat is one of the most popular actresses in China today. After her breakout role in the 2017 television series Eternal Love, Dilraba became a household name across the country, and with over 63 million followers on Weibo, she’s one of the platform’s most-followed celebrities.


Dilraba, also known as Dilireba, was born on June 3, 1992 in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Of Uyghur ethnicity, Dilraba overcame discrimination early in her career to become a top actress and fashion icon. Today, she’s one of the most commercially successful ethnic minority celebrities in China — and her star is still rising.


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Life of Dilraba Dilmurat


Outside of her prolific entertainment career, Dilraba leads a relatively quiet personal life.


When she was just 9 years old in 2001, her father enrolled her in entrance exams for Xinjiang Art Middle School’s dance program. Dilraba was initially unaware she was even auditioning for the program, but earned admission and spent the next six years training intensively in dance.


After graduating in 2007, Dilraba joined the Xinjiang Song and Dance Troupe as a performer, before expanding her education with a year of study in 2009 at Northeast Normal University in Jilin province. During this time, she placed third in a local singing competition, as she began to expand her creative reach beyond dance.


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In 2010, Dilraba was admitted to the prestigious Shanghai Theatre Academy to study drama, film and television. That same year, she auditioned for acclaimed director Lu Chuan’s film The Last Supper, marking her first foray into acting.


Dilraba has maintained a low-key personal life outside of her career. She enjoys reading, sewing, and watching American television shows in her spare time, and makes efforts to stay connected to her Uyghur heritage through food, music and language.

Dilraba’s Rise to Fame

Dilraba’s meteoric rise to fame in China can be attributed largely to her glamorous image. Perhaps more than her acting chops, it was her elegant and unique looks that first captured the public’s attention.


Standing at 5’7” with porcelain skin and delicate features, Dilraba’s appearance stands out on screen. Her large, expressive eyes and signature long black hair are part of her celebrity persona, and also the source of endless brand endorsement deals.


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Her breakout role was in 2017’s Eternal Love, a xianxia, or “immortal heroes” fantasy drama based on the book of the same name. Despite only having a supporting role, Dilraba struck a chord with fans. In the years that followed, she became a mainstay in China’s entertainment industry.


Dilraba has often been criticized for a perceived lack of acting talent. Many viewers have expressed frustration with her lack of range, and Chinese netizens have called her “just a pretty face,” as well as a “director’s nightmare” — the latter assessment not referring to any diva-like behavior on set, but rather to the seemingly difficult task of encouraging chemistry with her co-stars.


China’s entertainment industry has historically relied heavily on glamorous, fresh-faced actors and actresses. Now though, audience tastes may be changing, and viewers are starting to lose interest in expressionless “emoji acting.” Nonetheless, Dilraba has become an onscreen staple.

TV and Dramas

Dilraba’s breakout success came largely from the world of romantic television dramas. Her first major TV role was in the 2014 romantic series Diamond Lover, where she played a prima ballerina. However, it was the 2017 fantasy drama Eternal Love that catapulted Dilraba to fame.

In Eternal Love, Dilraba portrayed the lovable demon princess Fengjiu opposite Vengo Gao. The drama became a cultural phenomenon, racking up over 20 billion views online, and cinching Dilraba a “Popular TV Actor of the Year” award.


Riding this wave of popularity, Dilraba went on to star in many other successful dramas. In 2018, she played a genius fashion designer in Pretty Li Hui Zhen, as well as the lead role in The Flame’s Daughter.


Dilraba is considered a leader of the new generation of Chinese stars, especially in the world of romantic dramas. As she continues captivating audiences, her television career remains integral to her success.

Dilraba Dilmurat Movies

In addition to her work on television, Dilraba’s roles in several high-profile films have also contributed to her fame.


In 2017, Dilraba co-starred in the romantic comedy Mr. Pride vs Miss Prejudice alongside Leon Zhang. Playing a quirky anthropologist, this was Dilraba’s first major film role and boosted her profile with movie audiences. That same year, she also acted in the fantasy epic Guardians of the Tomb.

Beyond that, Dilraba has also appeared in films like romantic comedy 21 Karat, and Fall in Love Like a Star.


As Dilraba matures in her career and performances, some audiences are calling for her to take on fewer innocent, girlish roles, and develop a greater presence at the box office.

Rumors and Controversies

Despite her popularity, Dilraba’s career has not been without some rumors and controversies.


In 2021, Dilraba showed support for Xinjiang cotton on social media as international brands stopped sourcing from the region amidst allegations of forced Uyghur labor. As an ethnic Uyghur herself, she stated that Xinjiang cotton farmers were being unfairly affected, causing many Chinese celebrities to follow suit.

Above: Dilraba’s short-lived work as a Dolce & Gabbana brand ambassador


Earlier in her career in 2018, Dilraba terminated her position as a brand spokesperson for Dolce & Gabbana after the luxury fashion house faced backlash for racist ads in China. She distanced herself from the controversy saying that she would always protect national interests.


And just recently, Dilraba was the subject of some heated critique on social media from conservative trans icon Jin Xing. Jin Xing criticized Dilraba’s cleavage-centric dress, and what she felt was a performative sense of modesty. While Dilraba didn’t respond to the criticism, the topic still shot to a top-trending position on Weibo.


Additionally, there has been ongoing gossip about a possible romance with co-star Yang Yang. Audiences are asking, is there a real-life Dilraba and Yang Yang relationship?


Fans may speculate about their close friendship and on-screen chemistry, but both Dilraba and Yang Yang have denied the dating rumors and maintained they are just friends.

In the few short years since her acting debut, Dilraba Dilmurat has rapidly become one of the most recognizable and influential celebrities in China today. With starring roles in some of the country’s highest-rated television dramas, films, and variety shows, her captivating charm has captured the hearts of millions nationwide.


As Dilraba expands her acting pursuits and business ventures, her star power shows no signs of fading. With popularity that’s hard to match, Dilraba has cemented herself as one of the country’s brightest young talents.


Cover image by RADII, other images via Weibo, Wikimedia Commons

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