THINK of Yao Yao and “baby face, big breasts” comes to mind.
That’s the nickname the Chinese media across the region has given to this 19-year-old Taiwanese singer, whose real name is Guo Shuyao.
After all, countless photos of her with a come-hither expression, wearing revealing tops and squeezing her formidable 32E assets together can be found on the Internet, newspapers and magazines.
So when Yao Yao was in town for an autograph-cum-hugging session for fans last Saturday at IMM to promote her debut album Love’s Embrace, it became the talk of the town.
It was attended by a predominantly male 300-strong crowd, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens.
Too bad then that her famous chest was covered up in a black T-shirt.
Toning down sexy image?
And when the Taiwanese media asked her recently if she would pose for lingerie ads, she gave an unexpected reply.
“My mum won’t even allow me to pose for pictures in a swimsuit. I have a psychological barrier. I can’t shoot an ad wearing just lingerie,” she said.
She even stepped on the toes of lingerie models when she explained her decision, saying: “I’m a good girl from an honest family. I stick to my virtues.”
That seems a bit rich coming from an artiste who rides on her sex appeal and was 25th on the Taiwan edition of lad mag FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women list this year.
So what’s happening, Yao Yao?
Is the teen sex bomb trying to tone down her sexy image now?
She and her bosom first rose to fame after she appeared in a Taiwanese video gaming ad earlier this year wearing a pink bustier and a short black skirt, and speaking with her trademark saccharine voice.
She also made appearances on Taiwanese shows Guess, Guess, Guess and Variety Big Brother.
In June, she was signed by Taiwanese label Seed Music.
Yao Yao told The New Paper last week in a separate interview that she is taking the advice of Taiwanese host Tsai Kang Yung on presenting herself to the media.
“He once told me that I should learn to take one step at a time, and reveal my figure only in a way that’s suitable for my age.”
And she trusts her company will give her an image appropriate for her age.
Is she worried then that the public might find her autograph-cum-hugging sessions rather exploitative?
No, she said.
“Hugging is a basic gesture of love. It’s a reminder to cherish the people around us. And hugging between opposite sexes is common in the West too. We should have a healthy attitude towards it.”
She said she has already hugged more than 2,000 fans and members of the media in Taiwan and Singapore. With promotional events to be held in China and Hong Kong, her target is to embrace 10,000.
Last Sunday, veteran Hong Kong actor-singer Jackie Chan was in town as a spokesman for gym chain California Fitness.
When quizzed by Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao about Yao Yao, Jackie said he didn’t know who she is.
But when reporters described her to him, the action star said: “It’s important to have real abilities. Otherwise, after you are done with your figure, what’s left of you?”
In response, Yao Yao told the media: “What Big Brother Jackie said is true! People around me have said I haven’t been showing other talents, other than having a figure.”
She admitted she doesn’t have much experience in singing, so she’s taking dancing, singing and piano classes – which she couldn’t afford when she was younger.
She told The New Paper she’s sad that some netizens focused only to her voluptuous body, yet added: “At least I learn something. It’s a reminder that I must develop fully as an artiste.”
To Yao Yao’s credit, the showbiz newbie’s attitude towards local reporters was professional.
After touching down in Singapore last Friday, she immediately spent three hours fielding questions.
During our interview – her ninth that afternoon – she was visibly tired, yet she morphed into a sunshine girl the moment she was in front of the camera.
She was coy when asked if she had a boyfriend.
“I’m focusing on my work now,” was all she would say.
Later, she revealed that she had three relationships when she was 15 and 16 years old, the longest lasting for a year.
And Yao Yao didn’t exactly have a charmed life in her youth.
Two years ago, her father died of heart failure. Her mum, a Myanmar-born Chinese living in Taiwan, works at a stall selling breakfast food.
Yao Yao, the eldest child, started working at the age of 15 and gives almost all her income to her mum to help support their family of four.
While she’s thankful she gets to travel across the region to promote her album, she’s trying her best to keep her family out of the limelight.
She has said on Taiwanese show Variety Big Brother: “I seldom go to my mum’s stall to help out recently, because she doesn’t like others to know Yao Yao is her daughter.
“Even when we were seen together, she would tell others I’m her goddaughter.
“I’m fine with it. If she’s happy, I’m happy.”
This article was first published in The New Paper.