25-year-old Chinese R&B singer Ayi Jihu has been dubbed the "Chinese Madonna" for her sexy, provocative music videos. And having a million copies of her debut album, Try Me, downloaded by fans is testament to her growing popularity in China.
She was awarded a gold disc for having achieved that feat, which she has since brought back to her adopted hometown in Cambridge, UK, to present to her parents, where her mother and stepfather run a restaurant, reported the BBC.
She was talent-scouted by a UK record company after performing in a video for rapper Fugitive and then whisked to Macau where she performed in the casinos there. There, she caught the attention of China's music lovers and even more awe-struck male fans. Today, she is adored by fans who would turn up daily to catch all her performances where ever she performed.
But Ayi does not forget her roots. Returning to the restaurant run by her parents to share her happiness with them, she reminisced about the times when she was growing up as a teenager and washing dishes and waitressing for pocket money.
She grew up in a small village in China's Sichuan province, and was 11 years old when her mother sent her to live with an aunt in the UK so that Ayi could have a better life. Her mother later remarried and they moved to be with Ayi, where they bought the restaurant, The Ugly Duckling.
"I was washing the dishes and waitressing for pocket money," Ayi told the BBC.
"I learned a lot about discipline and what it takes to get things done. It was very good training for me, I reckon.
But the R&B singer who hails from a minority ethnic group in China did not seem to let fame go to her head.
She is an ambassador for the Canadian-based Federal Association for the Advancement of Visible Minorities (FAAVM) and travels around the world fulfilling the role of spokesperson for minorities.
"They've never really had a Chinese person representing them before," she said.
She is also a fundraiser for Macao-based Global Flying Hospitals, an organisation whose medical staff respond to disasters worldwide.
The Friends of the United Nations recently made Ayi their ambassador, and she also works for a NATO initiative, the Partnership for Peace.
She has been asked to appear in the Hindi version of the Bollywood movie Udyan Express.
She now hopes to do in Britain what her talents did for her in China, and will be releasing her new single, Sad Sweet Dreamer, in the UK on 27 September 2010.