TAIPEI: As a younger man, Taiwan s Lin Yu-chun sang for hours on end, trying to get his mind off the sneers he endured because of his portly figure.
The round-faced soprano with the bowl haircut never imagined his voice would one day transform him into an international sensation.
But now, he is being compared to Britain s Susan Boyle, the plain-looking 48-year-old who shot to stardom after singing I Dreamed a Dream on Britain s Got Talent.
Lin s Whitney Houston-like rendition of I Will Always Love You on Taiwan s Avenue to Stardom talent show last Friday has already racked up some 1.3 million views on YouTube, and the number is climbing fast.
For the 24-year-old with the disparaging nickname of Little Fatty, the event has been a life-changer.
I now have more confidence in pursuing a singing career, Lin told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. You don t have to be a good-looking man or woman to succeed. Just be yourself and try your best.
Lin said he had long suffered from a lack of self-confidence because of his plain looks and rotund figure.
Being fat draws a lot of mockery in our society, he said.
To cope with the pain of his exclusion, he locked himself in his room and sang along with the songs of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey.
But the artist who really grabbed him was Houston – particularly the song I Will Always Love You, from the soundtrack to the 1992 film The Bodyguard.
I played it again and again even though my parents couldn t stand it any more and asked me to stop, Lin said.
Lin has had a bumpy start to stardom.
After graduating from college last year, he failed to make much of an impression on another Taiwanese talent show, where judges criticized both his looks and his high-pitched voice.
One said I should instead pursue the career of a comedian, and another questioned whether it was right for a man to sing soprano, he said.
Now all that is behind him.
(The show) has reinvigorated me, he said.
Still, Lin said, he is doing his best not to let his new found fame go to his head.
I m trying not to be overwhelmed, he said.