MPL SG host Cheryl Yao interview reveals the career, life, and perks of being an esports host for MLBB

I met Cheryl Yao during my visit to the Philippines for the MLBB M5 World Championship and now I invited her for an interview to share her journey as an esports host. Other than being a host for the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) Singapore, she has a rich background in the fashion industry with a major highlight in the 2019 Miss Universe Singapore where she was the second runner-up.

Tousif: Hi Cheryl, thanks for coming to this interview, could you please us a brief about yourself?

Cheryl: My name is Cheryl. When I was younger, I used to do modelling, acting, and then hosting. So I wasn’t involved in the esports scene at all. I don’t even really play games, so it was a very nice jump for me. So for me, in terms of accolades or for context, I was part of this universe 2019, and I was the second runner-up. Yeah. So it’s nice to represent Singapore on the international stage, just in a different industry this time.

Tousif: Tell us about your journey before you got into esports.

Cheryl: I didn’t play games at all but my fiance was just saying that like, hey, you know, let’s play this game. It’s super fun. At least we could do things together, we could play together as friends. And that was the point when I was exposed to Mobile Legends Bang Bang, and that was just slightly before, um, COVID happened.

So during Covid itself, I got plenty of time to shape myself into a pro. Just kidding. I got plenty of time to explore the game. And I did find myself enjoying the game. Getting hooked on it more so than any of the games I played previously.

So my friend, who was also an avid player of MLBB asked me, hey, why don’t you just ask MPL SG if they’re looking for a host? So I was just like, yeah, why not, Right? So I wrote on their Facebook page. Till now, MPL SG still has left me on two blue ticks with no reply on my application, giggles. But, fortunately, one of my other industry friends linked me up with Zenway Productions. They were looking for someone who plays the game, and I was just like, sign me up. I love the game and I just can’t wait to host for them. And in season four, I had the opportunity to host for MPL SG, and yeah, it’s a crazy ride so far.

Tousif: You have appeared in a handful of TV series as well as commercials. So when you did this career jump did you have any second thoughts while doing that?

Cheryl: I don’t think that I had any second thoughts. This is expanding my portfolio. Because I feel that for women, we strive to be a little bit more than, what we see on the outside, like a little bit more than appearances. I want to be more than just a pretty face. You could look decent now, but it goes away with time. So that’s why I was looking to explore something that could grow me more holistically.

And I feel that working with esports and by extension, Mobile Legends Bang Bang, makes me feel fulfilled and accomplished in that sense, going into new territories, especially in a game that I love. So I don’t feel that it was like there were any second thoughts. This is a really good decision that I’ve made and I’ve enjoyed the journey so far. And that’s why if Mobile Legends would still have me for future seasons, I would love to be a part of it.

Tousif: When you made this career change what was the reaction from your family and close friends?

Cheryl: A lot of Asian parents are just like, you know, gaming is not lucrative. It’s not a job. It’s a waste of time. Like anybody who games get that a lot. Like, it could be a hobby, but it could never be a profession. So that’s what people usually think. During mealtime, parents will say, hey, come on down and eat. I said, cannot get out. I can’t end yet, give me five minutes. So they’re just thinking, what’s so nice about this game? You spend so much time on it.

And then when I tell them that, I’m hosting for the Singapore tournament, I’m flying internationally to attend their tournaments, like the M series, it changes their perspective. And they’re like, oh, wow! You can actually gain work from this. You can actually monetize from this! We slowly changed that very ingrained Asian mentality that gaming is just something for leisure, it’s a waste of time. Like, hey, actually it could be a career. And, I felt that firsthand, even for myself.

Tousif: What was the tipping point in your career when you decided esports should be a part of your career or this is the thing you wanna do?

Cheryl: I’ve done a lot of events, as I’ve mentioned. I host and stuff, and coming to esports, it’s still the same job scope but of a different content in nature. Yeah. What I feel it’s different from my other shows is like, when I do corporate shows, when I do grants, it’s very one-off where I just come to the show, hi, welcome to this and that, and then that’s it. After the job ends, the relationship ends there as well.

But when it comes to esports, it’s a family, like we’re a family with MOONTON with Zenway Productions. So it becomes this entire family that we meet twice a year, especially during the seasons for MPL SG. And this is why I feel it’s a little bit different esports or rather sports in general because you see, the same faces and the same people that you work with, which just makes it very endearing. For me, whenever I embark on a brand new series with them, it’s a different series, different season, but same people that we all love.

Tousif: For you, what are the best parts, or I would say like, best parts of being a host for MLBB esports?

Cheryl: I love the merch and, um, of course, the opportunity to head on over overseas. Being there at the MLBB M5 was a very surreal experience for me. And this is of course, with thanks to MOONTON as well as Team Flash for making that trip possible. Before being involved in the production side, I was just a regular viewer, just like anybody else. But being there in the arena in real life is totally different. it’s so surreal when you’ve only ever seen someone on TV or the screen. It’s just very surreal to physically be there and feel the atmosphere, particularly for a place like the Philippines. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than the M5.

Anywhere you walk on the streets in the Philippines, even in the islands, like the most remote of islands, where the internet isn’t really that developed, you see people on the streets by the beach, just play Mobile Legends. People of all ages are playing Mobile Legends. And I think that is, that shows why the, the Philippines has been dominating MLBB for such a long time, and granted because they’re so involved and ingrained in the culture. So I think that’s amazing.

Tousif: How do you see women taking a lead in the MPL scene?

Cheryl: I guess it goes both ways because, in terms of viewers, there are also a lot of males. So that’s why, in terms of host wise, I think strategically why there is a female host. Similarly, if it was a female-dominated industry there would be a male host. So I think this is a very natural step even for other games in the industry as well. Usually, hosts are primarily female if it’s a male-dominated scene. But in terms of women taking the lead in the MPL scene, I would say that we are just faces and vessels. I feel that my fellow teammates and casters also play very important roles, having conversations with all of the people who are watching. And I feel that they’re very integral.

Tousif: What are your thoughts on the current MPL SG scene? and how do you see it developing three years down the line?

Cheryl: I think for the MPL SG, we are currently in the redemption. At the very start of the MPL scene, we had EVOS making huge waves on the international scene. And then along the way we have kind of lost our footing, but the hunger is still there. So what I hope for the Singapore scene is that this is our redemption. Our players can show our friends over on the international stage that, hey, we still have what it takes, don’t forget about us, like eyes on us.

And, of course, we are having, additional help as well with some amazingly talented imports. And right here in Singapore, we embrace that. Like, there’s no shade at all. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, we embrace that so long as we win, or like the team wins, that’s all that matters.

people from all different parts of the world come on over and experience Singapore, and that’s what Singapore is. We are not of a particular race. We welcome anyone to come all for the spirit of loving the game itself.

And what do I see in three down the line? I, I don’t even know. I’m at a loss for words because what I realized about coming into the esports scene is that things move very fast. But, I feel that in three years it’s going to be a lot of changes. Like it’s, it’s gonna be monumental. So what I think is we are going to have more international style gameplays, like in Singapore, we are rather reserved and rather risk-averse when it comes to playing.

Tousif: If you could be the host for any other country’s MPL, except Singapore, which country that would be and why?

Cheryl: Oh, wow. That’s a tough one. I really couldn’t put a finger on it, but if I could, perhaps an emerging region would be China, maybe. For all of our hosts out there, I would say that they are very integral. You can’t replace them quite literally. You can’t just swap. I can’t speak Tagalog, that’s for sure. And I can’t speak Bahasa. I can’t speak Malay. So, these are the restrictions, especially if you’re talking about a worldwide game with people from all different regions. My second language being Singaporean Chinese would be Mandarin. So the only region it would make sense for me to try out for would be the China region.

Tousif: Who are your top 3 MLBB heroes?

Cheryl: I only can play a few. I play Tank a lot because I have an inherent fear of dying. My favorite tank now in this current meta would be Minotaur. I like Irithel, my other most favorite hero. And let’s see, what else do I play? I used to play Atlas a lot, but right now it’s just not very viable, so that’s a little bit sad. So those are mine.

Tousif: If you could go back and correct a mistake you made during your esports career, what would that be?

Cheryl: It’s a hard question. I would say anything that happens, it’s always a lesson for betterment, so, I wouldn’t want to undo anything. Because it brought me to where I am now. But I would say there is one particular thing that I would want to erase. Uh, and that would be the MPL SG season six grand finals where I cried. I wish that I could hold my emotions in more. I feel that it was unprofessional in a certain context to be actually teary in the grand finals itself.

But anyway, to contextualize why did I even cry? It was because of a very difficult moment given how RSG performed in game six. It was a very mixed emotion, given that they are both Singapore teams and all the players in MPL SG you know them and they’re like friends to you. So either way it’s gonna hurt when you see a team go back. So, and that was why it was very emotional for me. And I believe a lot of the audiences who were there as well felt that emotion. RSG our three-time champion lost the championship.

Tousif: What would be your advice for a female who is trying to enter the esports casting scene?

Cheryl: I feel as women we are not looking to have any special treatment, but rather to be equal to our male counterparts. So, for any advice to give to the females out there, you know, we are no different from the males in the industry. If you do have passion for the game, come apply to your region, wherever anybody’s watching this from. Like I could write in on Facebook, they blue tick me. But it’s okay.

Some things happen one way or the other. If you never try, you never know what you miss. You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. So if you enjoy something, perhaps start by doing it on your own social media, perhaps like TikTok coverage. You could do small bites of you commentating or casting on certain highlights of any particular game you like and post it on your socials so that you could get noticed. And once the opportunity arises, you’re ready to come on stage with all of your favorite casters. And one day, who knows, you could be sitting alongside them and casting some of the biggest games in the season.

If you loved reading this interview, feel free to check out others in our Women In Games Industry interview series

What are your thoughts on this interview with MPL SG host Cheryl Yao? Tell us in the comments below!

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