8Q

Moustache brings Taiwanese TV host Mini Chao fame

Host-actress Mini Chao (above) says she still has to shave her moustache once a month.
Host-actress Mini Chao (above) says she still has to shave her moustache once a month.PHOTO: SINGTEL TV

Mini Chao says the teasing over her excessive facial hair has led to greater exposure for her as a host

8Q

Taiwanese artist Mini Chao was a small-time host of children's shows till Dee Hsu of the defunct legendary talkshow Mr Con & Ms Csi drew attention to the excessive facial hair above her upper lip.

A few years ago, host Hsu teased her with masculine monikers such as Moustache Zhang (the Chinese name of a braised meat rice eatery chain) and Grape Big Brother (Chao's former stage name was Grape Big Sister).

Far from baulking at the unflattering nicknames, Chao laughed it off and saw her career grow with the increased exposure.

In an interview in Taipei earlier this month, the 29-year-old says: "When people meet me, they will ask me if my moustache has grown out again. Thanks to the nickname, people got to know me. I've left an impression on them."

She has made a name for herself since debuting as a host with the stage name, Grape Big Sister, on children's channel YoYo TV in 2005. She left the channel in 2010.

She went on to host shows such as food travelogue Super Taste (2013) and took on supporting roles in dramas such as I Love You So Much (2012).

Recently, she snagged her first leading role as an ill-fated stepdaughter in Taiwanese melodrama Fighting Meiling. The series premieres on Jia Le Channel (Singtel TV Channel 502) next month.

She was self-conscious about her moustache when her male co-star Wang Kai performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her in a scene. "To prepare for the scene, I exfoliated my facial hair and put on a lip mask. I haven't put such effort for my husband since I got married two years ago," says Chao with a laugh. She is married to Taiwanese businessman Hsieh Ming Chieh, 35.

On her days off, she helps out at her parents' traditional biscuit shop in Changhua County and runs a dog shelter in Hsinchu City.

Chao, the youngest of three children, says: "I help my parents sell traditional biscuits when I can. More people drop by so that they can take photos with me."

1. Did you try to get rid of your moustache?

I tried to laser it off, but it kept growing back. I've undergone laser treatment to remove hair all over my body, including my back and tummy. The doctor told me I have high levels of male hormones. I still have to shave my moustache once a month.

2. Why did you audition to be a children's TV show host?

I wanted to help earn money for the family. When I was in school, we did not make much from selling biscuits.

Once, my mother sold our fridge. I wondered why as we needed a fridge to make biscuits.

I found out later we needed to pay school fees. I vowed that I would become successful and make lots of money.

3.  As a children's TV host, did you have to watch how you behave?

I felt responsible to be a role model. Once, my friend was about to jaywalk. I told her we have to use the pedestrian crossing. I was afraid kids might see me jaywalk and do it too.

4. After leaving YoYo TV in 2010, you shed your innocent image by posing for lads' magazine FHM. What made you do the shoot?

I didn't do the photo shoot because I wanted to cast off my "big sister" image. I felt it was a chance to show a different side of myself.

I can be innocent, but I can also be sexy. After the pictorial came out, people said: "Wow, Grape Big Sister. I didn't know you had such a good figure."

Besides, not everyone can make it to the cover of FHM.

5. Now that you are married, do you have to be more conservative when it comes to photo shoots?

My husband hasn't said anything, but I am more concerned about what my mother-in-law thinks.

When I shot a slimming advertisement, I sent the bikini shots to her to have a look first. She was fine with them. She is more concerned about me overworking because of the hectic schedule.

6. Since you have experience interacting with children, will it be easier for you to be a mother?

I plan to have children in a few years' time. I'm too busy with work now.

I'm in awe of mothers who have to spend all their time taking care of their children. As a host, I need to entertain kids for only a short period of time.

I'll probably have the patience to take care of children. The problem is that I'm a big kid myself. Knowing how I can be absent- minded, I may lose my future kids when I take them out. Maybe I should put my kid on a leash.

7. What prompted you and your husband to start a shelter housing stray dogs?

I took home two mongrels after I saw a Facebook post putting them up for adoption. Many people prefer pedigree dogs and it is harder for mixed-breed dogs to get adopted. Many strays have to be put down.

When I thought about other dogs wandering, I wanted to give these strays a home. Now we house about 50 of them in a shelter in Hsinchu.

8. How would you like to be remembered?

I hope to be remembered as simple and innocent. I speak whatever comes to my mind. I would like to keep my heart as pure as a child.

Having come this far in my career and snagged my first leading role, I'm grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.

  • Fighting Meiling premieres on Jia Le Channel (Singtel TV Channel 502) on May 19 at 6pm. It airs on weekdays at 6pm.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2016, with the headline 'Moustache brings her fame'. Print Edition | Subscribe