Influencers. The culture just can’t get enough of them. They occupy fashion weeks’ most coveted FROWs, pen sell-out memoirs, and even foray into showbiz, TikTok-dancing their way out of your phone and into your favourite television shows. But in the large pond of Internet stars, Siew Pui Yi—better known by her online moniker Ms Puiyi—is an odd duck. Her meteoric rise to stardom largely hinged on her adult entertainment content on OnlyFans, before denouncing the platform late last year in pursuit of a music career. It was a route unfamiliar to most of her peers.
She debuted her single Men-Mory months prior to that announcement and it is, admittedly, a banger of a breakup anthem. Her branching out, although unexpected, is not unfounded. Her passion for music stems from her home life: her mother used to participate in singing competitions and her father was one of the tour managers for Westlife. That being said, getting the public to see her in a different light poses a challenge. Even her most wholesome updates, from receiving a business degree to launching the US$1 million scholarship programme, are met with heavy cynicism.
“I think those are new followers,” she comments on the matter. “If they’re just tuning in in the last couple of years, they would only see the big things that are happening in my life. They don’t know what I have done to get to where I am today. They don’t know that it took me six years to reach the 600,000-follower mark before I started my OnlyFans account,” she reflects on her journey. She adds, being a woman who openly embraces her sexuality in a largely-conservative country such as Malaysia is a tough balancing act between staying true to oneself and being respectful to others. She, however, has no regrets and even wishes that she was bolder in telling her story.
When asked if she was worried about the possibility of being pigeonholed as a one-dimensional character—her first film role in KL Love Story largely relies on her sex appeal as a homewrecking DJ and so does her second outing as an actress in this year’s Pulau—Ms Puiyi wants it known that there’s much more to her than what’s being portrayed in the media. As far as her filmography goes, she sees it as a means to get her foot in the door rather than an opportunity to show off her acting chops, while also holding out for more diverse roles in the future.
Take the multi-hyphenate Emily Ratajkowski as an example, she says. “Some people see her as this sexy model and that is it. But if you take the time and look closer, you would know that she has a dozen of acting credits to her name, a successful podcast, and she is also an author of a critically-acclaimed book. I think Malaysia is slowly becoming a modernised country. There are so many facets of yourself that you can play with and people are learning that there’s more to a person than what’s being presented,” she adds.
It is a rather simple yet unfathomable notion to some, which begs the question: Does Ms Puiyi’s online persona match her offline personality? As it turns out, there is a distinction between the two. “The image that I present online is one to capture people’s attention. It’s the same thing when I’m performing on stage. I’d have to have great showmanship to get the crowd hyped up. It’s a strong character that aligns with what you see in the pictures. I think of it as an alter ego,” she says. “In terms of personality, there isn’t much difference. I’m still giddy, cheerful, and a little bit geeky,” she adds.
She, in turn, shares that the pictures she posts on social media do not always mirror her daily wardrobe either, saying that she would regularly be in her sweaters and tracksuit. It gives a glimpse at what Ms Puiyi would be like in an alternate universe where her laptop’s private images were not leaked online, which was the reason why she created her OnlyFans profile in the first place. “Everything would have been different. Ms Puiyi is a character that I have built based on my life story, so my personality, sense of fashion, and perhaps the way I talk would all be different under different circumstances.
“I would probably use a different approach to content creation. I’m not sure if I would be as successful as I am right now but I would definitely be online. There are so many avenues one can explore with the rise of TikTok and other platforms. I think I’d still be able to make a career out of it,” she muses. Whether or not she would be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny is anybody’s guess, but in this reality, the 25-year-old remains unbothered. She is not in a hurry to prove her worth to the naysayers and she sends that message loud and clear in her latest song.
“Shackle is about breaking free. In many ways, it is something that my team and I have been doing for the last two years: breaking free of people’s expectations and the stigma that has been put on me,” she shares. “It is my hope that young women out there are comfortable and confident in verbalising what they want without worrying about what the reactions would be. If you let a false statement about yourself go unaddressed, you’ll be stuck with it for a long time. You have to take control of your own story,” she adds.
Reclaiming her own narrative, Ms Puiyi is committed to making her name in the entertainment industry. With Shackle, a collaborative effort with singer-songwriter NYK, and a couple of other songs set to be released sometime this year, Ms Puiyi looks to solidify her status in the music scene and ultimately take her career to the next level. Her wish—as she continues touring, spinning decks in major cities including Jakarta, Melbourne, and Taipei—is to show the world that Malaysia is not under-endowed with quality talent.
Photography: Chee Wei
Styling: Sarah Chong
Creative Direction: Ian Loh
Hair: Keith Ong
Makeup: Kf Bong