Photo: The Straits Times
She may not speak much in her videos, but China's Internet sensation Ms Yeah is chatty in person.
Well-known for her "office chef" videos on YouTube, the sweet and petite Ms Yeah, whose real name is Zhou Xiao Hui, answers questions rapidly in a 20-minute interview with The Straits Times.
She says in Mandarin: "Not talking on camera was not intentional at first. But after a few videos, I realised that people don't really care about whether you are talking. In fact, it adds more mystery. Some people even wonder whether I am dumb."
She was in town for Content Summit Asia 2017, an event organised by GRVTY Media and attended by online content creators at the Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay on Monday. Her keynote address was titled From Zero To Hero - How We Orchestrated The Office Chef Internet Sensation.
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The 23-year-old from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in China, catapulted to fame after putting on YouTube videos of her cooking in the office with office equipment. In more recent videos, she has also used food as make-up.
The videos of her preparing food such as spicy hotpot, cooking beef with an iron and flame-grilling fish - with a deadpan expression - have gone viral with millions of views.
On the grilled fish video, where she sets soap suds on her hand on fire to create the flames, she says: "That took four hours to film and I burned my hand and singed my eyebrows and eyelashes. I need to be more careful. I don't encourage people to try this at home."
Her stunts may look easy on camera, but a shoot takes about three to four days to complete. When she started out, she shot the videos with just one colleague using an iPhone.
They work for a creative media company which specialises in generating original content as well as marketing. Now, she has a team of six who get together for brainstorming sessions before deciding on the theme and getting the ingredients and equipment.
And yes, she eats the food she prepares. "It may get cold after a few shoots, but I'll just heat it up and eat it anyway. It's still edible," she says. On her cooking chops, she explains that her father used to run a hotel and she picked up cooking by observing him in the kitchen. She says: "I don't dine out a lot. I cook at home and, yes, I use a proper wok."
The social media star has received plenty of offers to be a chef and to write cookbooks. Fans on her Facebook page have also asked about her marital status, to which she says coyly: "I'm waiting."
She says she will continue to do cooking and make-up videos. But she has a passion for singing and does not rule out acting in movies as well. Recognising that her popularity could wane as quickly as it rose, she says: "There will always be a peak and then a plateau.
"You need to have a good attitude. I will continue to produce quality content. If it were not for Ms Yeah, I'd still be doing video planning."
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This article was first published in The Straits Times on 1 November 2017.