Even before she took home her first gold medal at the Winter Olympics, freestyle skier Eileen Gu racked up a fortune. The 18-year-old’s 2021 earnings are estimated to be over $31.4 million, according to market research firm CBNData (link in Chinese), putting her among the world’s top earning female athletes.
Most of her income is from endorsements. Gu represents 23 brands, up from 16 last year. Among them are some of China’s biggest companies like Bank of China, Anta, JD.com, and China Mobile, but also a host of global brands like Estée Lauder, Cadillac, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, and Victoria’s Secret.
Eileen Gu’s net worth
Gu’s agent did not immediately respond to request for comment, but one Chinese media outlet reported that her average fee had risen from $1 million last year to $2.5 million, while another quoted an industry agent who had worked with Gu saying that her fee averaged $2 million.
Very few female athletes can boast that earning power. The top two best paid female athletes last year in the world according to a Forbes ranking were Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, who earned $57.3 million and $45.9 million, respectively. Venus Williams came in third at $11.3 million. (Forbes did not immediately respond to a Quartz query on why the ranking did not include Gu.)
Why brands love Eileen Gu
Gu’s bankability rests not just on her athletic abilities. Her build—she stands a lanky 5’9—matches the classic fashion model physique. She also has cross-cultural appeal in two huge markets, the US and China: She was born and mostly raised in San Francisco, but speaks Mandarin fluently.
Her Instagram following topped 1.1 million followers, and her Weibo account is nearing 5 million. Even small offhand remarks—like where she would like to go on vacation or who she is spending Valentine’s Day with—trend nationally on the Chinese social microblogging site.