Beauty queens turned celebrities are a dime a dozen. Singer Wincci Soo, who holds the title of Miss Malaysia World 2008, is taking it one step further.
She is working on her PhD in business administration at Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur to better manage her career.
"People don't understand why I'm doing so many things. I'm just waiting for the chance to string everything together. My thesis is on social media strategies in showbiz," says the 29-year-old Soo, who is active on social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, Weibo and Twitter.
The Kuala Lumpur-born, Taipei-based singer was in town earlier this month to promote her latest self-titled Mandopop album. She also performed at the Singapore Hit Awards, organised by local radio station Yes 93.3.
She is putting her business administration studies to good use in her career, especially after she took over her Malaysia-based management company Beyond Artistes last year.
"My company's boss died last year and I couldn't bear to let it shut down. After all, my management team groomed me. So I challenged myself to take over the business," say Soo, who made her singing debut in 2009 with a self-titled multilingual album with songs in English, Malay and Mandarin.
She adds: "My working formula is that I don't sign on artists. We give them the platform, do the promotion for them and charge them a fee. We push them for shows and we train them to handle the business side too."
Soo, who has released six albums in Mandarin, English and Malay, rattles off sales figures and business strategies. It could well be because running a business runs in her family.
Her parents manage their own businesses in Kuala Lumpur. Her 50-year-old mother owns a restaurant and her 66-year-old dad has a kids' apparel store. Her two younger brothers help out in their parents' businesses.
Soo may be busy at work but she says her romantic life is quiet.
"I haven't been dating for three years. I'm a workaholic, I've abandoned my private life. My parents used to hurry me to settle down and start a family. But I'd tell them not to expect me to get married so soon," she adds.
1 Why did you make the switch from beauty pageants to singing in 2009?
My dream has always been to become a singer. I wanted to find the fastest route that would get me into show business. I have tried out all kinds of modelling contests and beauty pageants.
I actually took part in 10 contests in a year. I was such a familiar face that the judges would remark, "You again?"
2 Most beauty pageant contestants are well prepared to beat their rivals. What did you do to stand out from the competition?
I needed to learn a talent for the Miss World Pageant finals in South Africa in 2008.
I wanted to do something different so I came up with the idea of playing the piano while doing bian-lian (face-changing), an ancient Chinese dramatic art.
In future, I can perform bian-lian on Taiwanese variety shows.
3 You made inroads into Taiwanese show business with your ballad Happiness, which was the closing theme song of the popular idol drama Love Me Or Leave Me (2012). Why not focus on building your career in Taiwan? Why did you still eye the Malaysian market?
Taking part in cooking face-off reality TV show Masterchef Celebrity Malaysia (which was conducted in Malay) in 2012 gave me a sudden boost of fame. It's tough for a Chinese artist to break into Malay show business in Malaysia. Once you do so, it's a goldmine. I was getting lots of drama offers and making variety show appearances.
Back then, I would spend my weekdays in Taiwan and fly back to Malaysia for the weekend. I paid the cost of flying back and forth. It's my investment as I didn't want the Malay audiences to forget me.
4 How much funds did you invest in your latest self-titled album?
I collaborated with Ocean Butterflies (a multinational Singapore record label) for the two Mandopop albums that were released in Taiwan - Happiness (2012) and my latest self-titled album.
I invested RM1 million (S$388,000) in Happiness, which covered costs such as production and marketing. After that, Ocean Butterflies saw the value in me, so we co-invested in my self-titled album and shared the cost of RM1 million equally.
5 You will graduate from your PhD course next year. Will you continue your show business career or consider becoming a professor?
I will continue being an artist because that is my branding across various countries. A singer can also be a professor too. It's a unique selling point. I started out as a beauty queen-turned-singer and that was fresh then. You have to keep innovating, otherwise audiences will get bored with you.
6 Your thesis is on social media strategies in show business. How does that apply to your own career?
I keep track of my sales. Every album is a case study for me - I find out what strategies suit me. Now, it's all about the reach of your music, rather than the physical album sales.
My latest album released in Taiwan generated RM300,000 from digital media platforms, such as digital downloads and hits garnered by my music video on video-streaming site YouTube. Advertisers are drawn to advertise on pages with a lot of hits. For every click on the music video link, we get paid by YouTube.
7 Your manager got worried that you have not been dating and wanted to get you a date for your birthday. You had your pick of 10 hunks at your album's press conference in Malaysia in October. What's your ideal guy like?
My ideal type looks like a Korean. I like guys who are tall and fair, and have small eyes. But all my ex-boyfriends don't look like that at all. (Laughs)
8 How would you like to be remembered?
When I started off as a beauty queenturned-singer in Malaysia, I had no predecessors for references. I want to be remembered as someone who pushes the boundaries and doesn't stick to tradition.
Wincci Soo's self-titled album is out in stores and available on iTunes.