Super Girl is super impressed with Hamilton
Chinese pop star is studying English in HamiltonMIKE MATHER
She has performed on live television to audiences of hundreds of millions of people - and now she is studying English in Hamilton.
Chinese pop star Meng Meng Ai is attending classes at the Waikato Institute of Education.
Meng Meng (whose full name is Amoa Ai Mengmeng) placed fourth in China's Super Girl television singing competition in 2006.
The show is based on entrepreneur Simon Fuller's popular Pop Idol franchise and its viewership has been as high as 280 million.
By comparison American Idol at its peak in 2003 garnered 38 million viewers.
Meng Meng has since continued her musical career and released two albums.
Although she continues to enjoy popularity in her home country, she decided she wanted to expand her horizons and study English in another country.
And as the diminutive but ebullient singer proved in conversation, she was getting a good handle on her new language.
Meng Meng said she visited New Zealand as a tourist at the start of this year and said she found it to be all that she could want: a beautiful, clean country with hospitable people.
"I like it here [in Hamilton]. If you want to take a drive to the centre of the city it only takes a short time. Up in Auckland it is too difficult to do that," she said. She also visited the institute, based inside the Centre Place complex in Ward Street, and was impressed with what the facility had to offer.
She started her four-month course on July 21 and said she was enjoying the course and staying with her host family in Glenview.
"I have made a lot of new friends from New Zealand and Saudi Arabia and India. Also our teachers are very good. They make the class very funny."
She explained that while she had always had a passion for singing, she studied art and design in high school and had planned a career in that area.
After graduating she joined a rock band in Beijing, that performed in a popular bar in weekends. One evening a television director came to the bar and asked her if she wanted to perform in televised competitions.
After appearing in a handful of such shows, Meng Meng got what turned out to be her big break: An audition for the extremely popular Super Girl.
Over the duration of the season - a period of about five or six months - she had to prove her worth on stage, against dozens of other competitors.
One of the secrets of her success was performing rock and roll versions of the Aqua hit Barbie Girl and songs by Avril Lavigne.
"When I was a kid my first idol was Michael Jackson. I dreamed of meeting him and Whitney Houston. Sadly it's impossible now."
Meng Meng was coy on her age - "It's getting close to 30" - and said she eventually hoped to return to New Zealand to live, after she became too old to be a music star in her own country. "Pop stars must be young and beautiful," she joked.
For now she wanted to make the most of her current visit, including performing at the Festival of the Moon celebrations on August 30 at Founders Theatre.
- Waikato Times