Liu was born into a working-class family on January 27, 1988, in Yongzhou, Hunan. Liu is an only child. In her teens, her mother encouraged her to be professional, to eat well, and to enter the modeling contest which led to Liu's discovery.
Early career and success
Liu started her modeling career in 2005 when she entered the New Silk Road World Model Contest, a contest previously won by international covergirl Du Juan. Although she did not win the competition, Liu soon began working full-time as a model, eventually becoming a national success story after working with Chinese fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.
In February 2008 she appeared in four fashion-related articles for Chinese Vogue. She debuted on international runways in the same month, walking for Burberry and closing the fall Trussardi show in Milan. The week after, she walked for Chanel, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Hermès in Paris. A year later in February and March 2009, Liu Wen led the entire modeling industry by walking 74 shows in New York, London, Milan, and Paris for the Fall 2009 ready-to-wear season. It remains the record for the most shows ever walked by a model of Asian descent in a single season. She followed that up with the Spring 2010 ready-to-wear season, walking 70 shows in the same four cities. This statistic made her the second most booked model for the season following French model Constance Jablonski.
Liu has appeared in campaigns for Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Oscar de la Renta, Hugo Boss, Alexander Wang, Rag & Bone, H&M, Marni, Lane Crawford,
Bergdorf Goodman, Diesel, Gap, and Vivienne Tam. Her record for a single season is seven including DKNY Jeans, The GAP, Barneys New York, Benetton, Alexander Wang, Converse, and cKone in Spring 2009. She has been featured as the only female in major Vogue editorials for Vogue Germany, Vogue Espana, Vogue China, Vogue Italia, British Vogue and American Vogue. She has also been featured in editorials for Numéro (As well as a cover), GQ, V Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, Pop Magazine, Allure, i-D (as well as a cover), Interview, and W.
In 2009, Liu became the first woman of Chinese descent to walk in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Liu also participated in the 2010 show. Liu said that she was somewhat surprised to be chosen because most Victoria's Secret models "have big boobs." She has walked the show for four consecutive years as of 2013.
In April 2010, it was announced that Liu and Jablonski would help to represent the cosmetics company Estée Lauder. Liu is the first Asian face of the company.
In March 2012, the New York Times featured Liu Wen on the cover and in the main feature for their Style "T" Magazine's Travel Issue, and she was dubbed "China’s first bona fide supermodel." In the same year, she attended the Cannes Film Festival for the first time and walked the Victoria's Secret Show for the fourth consecutive year.
In Spring 2013, Liu Wen was dubbed one of "The New Icons" by H&M for her widely-admired streetstyle. In August 2013, Forbes listed Liu as the 5th highest paid model in the world, and the first Asian model to ever make the annual list, with earnings of 4.3 million dollars. She also joined The Society Management.
Due to her notoriety, Liu Wen has garnered a heavy social media following on platforms such as Instagram and Weibo. The immensity of her audience led to American Vogue to dub her as a leader in the digital movement, saying in their April 2014 issue that "Liu also has, by far, the biggest social-media audience of any model."
As of August 2013, Liu is ranked #3 on the Top 50 Models Women List by models.com. She is the highest-ranked model of Asian descent in history.
In the past, Liu has said that after modeling she might enjoy working as a stylist or, were the opportunity to arise, as an actress - she feels that modeling and acting have much in common, but for now she enjoys modeling and working in the fashion industry. She has stated that she knows that, as a career choice, working as a fashion designer or stylist would be "very hard work," but she is now more seriously considering becoming a stylist because she would like "to share her fashion style - tomboyish, vintage, and comfortable - with the world."
She is friends with fellow models Joan Smalls, Constance Jablonski and Lindsey Wixson and fellow Chinese models Shu Pei Qin, Du Juan, Fei Fei Sun, Sui He, Ju Xiaowen, and Ming XiHERO DYD