When a famous face becomes absent from the public eye, it can be hard to identify them when they surface again in an unfamiliar setting.
For every year that a celebrity avoids the limelight, they become less and less recognizable to the masses. As a result, they quickly blend back into the normality of society, where the only person to recognize them is a super fan who happens to stumble into their secret space.
Be it a former reality star who was only blessed with 15 minutes of fame or an A-lister who fell from grace, there will always be someone to recognize you.
That has certainly been the case for the martial art superstar Jet Li, who has been relatively absent from the spotlight in recent years.
The 55-year-old Chinese-national was well-loved in the ’90s and ’00s, when he starred in cult classic Hollywood hits such as Lethal Weapon 4, The Forbidden Kindgom, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Expendables.
Starring in numerous blockbuster bangers alongside his friend and fellow martial arts icon, Jackie Chan, Li became a household name synonymous with kick-ass action.
As a result of this fame, Li was paid staggering sums to appear in films both in China and America. For example, he was paid an eye-watering $7.5 million to appear in the 2001 science-fiction martial arts movie, The One, which also starred Jason Statham.
It is this ability to demand huge paychecks that makes Li’s disappearance from the public eye even harder to comprehend.
However, there is a reason as to why Li hasn’t been as prominent in the movie industry in recent years, and that is due to his health.
In 2010, the father-of-four was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a condition which has left him with no choice but to abandon his career.
Hyperthyroidism is a caused by the thyroid gland excessively producing hormones, which can prompt muscle weakness, sleeping problems, a fast heartbeat, weight loss, heat intolerance, and irritability.
Replying to a fan, Li stated how the condition has caused him to live in constant pain, but reassured them that he was not uncomfortable in life.
As a result of this diagnosis, doctors warned Li that he would be endangering himself should he continue to perform in high-intensity roles. Thus, the star, who now resides in Singapore, has chosen to only accept roles that don’t require a great deal of physical commitment.
For example, he shall lend his voice to The Emperor in the 2020 live-action remake of Mulan – a role that won’t require any physical exertion from the martial arts master.
This video from New Year is his latest public appearance. Can you see the difference…
So, when a photo of the star, who many thought would be the successor to Bruce Lee’s legendary legacy, was photographed by a fan on a recent trip to Tibet, fans were left in shock.
Their hero appeared a great deal older than his 55 years, prompting many concerns about his health.
Fans were quick to comment on the appearance of their hero…
However, Li’s manager, Steven Chasman has claimed that the picture is “sensationalism” and that Li is much healthier than he appears. “He has hyperthyroidism that he’s been dealing with for almost 10 years. It’s nothing life-threatening and he’s dealing with it,” Chasman told The Washington Post.
Chasman simply said that it was an unflattering photograph of a 55-year-old man.
Over the years, Li has maintained that his distance from the film industry has had nothing to do with his illness and is rather due to his dedication to the charity he set up after he was involved in the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Even if that is the truth, it would certainly seem that the star is a far cry away from the glossy movie posters that he once adorned. Nevertheless, Li’s legacy in the movie industry will stand against time, and fans will always adore him – no matter what he looks like.