From one illustration to 360K fans: How did it all start?
A Hong Kong couple who have shared their romance on social media through the cartoon characters of “Dai Dai and Siu Mui” have won awards and in two years wooed 372,000 fans. In July this year, Dai Dai and Siu Mui published their second graphic novel –- Love at Every Station, which won the My Favourite Writer Award and the Best Graphics Book Award at the Hong Kong Golden Book Awards 2017. So how did this all start?
By Isabel Ng
Adviser Ms Sandra Lowe
Pages Editor Yammi Lee
Photographer Keith Lau, Terri Li
Graphics Dai Dai and Siu Mui FB Page
Dai Dai and Siu Mui met in an art course. When they started dating, Siu started drawing pictures of themselves on dates and sent them to Dai on WhatsApp.
On January 6, 2016, Siu opened an Instagram page and posted all her drawings there. A month later, they had started their Facebook page.
Siu Mui, a full-time graphic artist, draws the cartoons. The couple said the name of their pages “Dai Dai and Siu Mui” had no special meaning. “I named the boyfriend cartoon character Dai Dai because it was a Taiwanese saying that meant ‘a good fighter’ in video games,” said Dai.
Two months after the pages were launched, Zhonghua Book Company was the first publisher to ask them to do a book. Reflecting on the process, Siu said there were a lot of obstacles when producing the first book.
The company first approached them in March and told them the book would be published in October. But when it was nearly October, Siu discovered that her drawing style had changed a lot from how she was drawing the characters in the beginning. She then had to redraw everything, which she found a bit troublesome.
But change could also be a good thing. Before Dai Dai and Siu Mui were “born”, graphic artist Siu Mui said she had no confidence and relied heavily on Dai Dai. She was afraid that Dai might cheat on her or fall in love with other women.
After the Instagram page was born, her fans boosted her confidence and gradually she became more independent.
“Sometimes after posting graphics of me and Dai Dai being sweet and clingy, some readers would make comments saying something like ‘You can’t be too clingy!’ or ‘Everyone should have their own space to do what they like,’” said Siu.
“Their comments affect my creativity and I knew they were right. Therefore I started to reflect on myself.”
When the couple’s fame and popularity grew on the internet, some people would compare their graphics to that of other artists, and pointed out parts that were similar.“I hate being scolded for copying other artists,” said Dai Dai. “This is insulting,” Siu Mui added.
Siu said sometimes they would be criticised for copying some foreign graphic artists. “I used to have a heart of glass. When I got negative comments in the first six months since the page was opened, I cried a lot at home,” she said.
“No one had scolded me before and I had never thought that I would be the target of criticism. Now we have got used to it and no longer get affected by them.”
But not everything was smooth sailing in their relationship – at work and at home. In March this year, Dai Dai and Siu Mui decided to collaborate with some big companies on an advertising campaign to promote their own dolls.
Siu believed she would have had less stress because the companies would be responsible for the advertising campaign and she only had to take care of the drawings.
Within three months, Dai and Siu discovered that there was a divergence of goals between the companies and them. Six months later, they quit the campaign.
“I had been under great pressure, but now I am much happier than before, so I can do whatever I like,” said Siu.
The couple are extremely guarded about their privacy and prefer to remain anonymous.
They even wear face masks every time they attend public events because they want their cartoon characters – Dai Dai and Siu Mui – to enjoy the fame . “We won’t take off our masks even though we have millions of fans,” Dai added.
Talking about the future, Siu said she had no big plans in mind at the moment as she had already achieved her dream — publishing her own book.
Now she wanted to cherish the time when she was still young and to do things she liked. “Never forget why you started,” she added.
Having lots of money has never been her goal and Siu said she would be satisfied as long as she had an income enough for a living.
“I won’t be sad when nobody reads my graphics one day. There is a Chinese saying: no flowers can bloom for a hundred days. Having readers is a bonus,” Siu said