Guangzhou - Liu Qianping was visiting his 24-year-old granddaughter in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou recently when the women's clothes the aspiring fashion entrepreneur was packing into boxes caught his eye.
His visit came as the model that granddaughter Lu Ting and four friends had booked for a photo shoot to promote their online fashion business suddenly cancelled, dealing a setback to their new venture.
But Liu, a 72-year-old former farmer visiting to escape the chilly winter of central Hunan province, stepped in to help.
“I walked into the room and saw them packing up some clothes and I thought they looked quite interesting and quite cute,” Liu said.
“So I tried on a jacket and they found it really funny, and I thought it was quite funny. So they asked if they could take pictures of me and post them on the internet to sell the clothes. And I said, 'why not?'.”
It was at that time two weeks ago that a star was born.
Liu, known affectionately as “MaDiGaGa” - funny elderly - is now one of China's most recognised models.
Delighted with his new fame, Liu says he now sometimes looks at fashion programmes on television for ideas on how to pose but generally relies on Lu's team for direction.
He does, however, have his own opinions on styling.
“He will tell us which items should be stronger and what should be improved,” Lu said.
“He really likes bright, contrasting colours while I prefer more tone-on-tone combinations. So he gives lots of advice when we try different combinations, so we have some very different styles.”
Since her grandfather became involved, visits to their online site have increased four-fold and continue to rise.
Liu, who travelled to Shanghai with his daughter for the first time last week after they were invited to appear on television, said he had been approached by other companies to model for them but had turned them down.
“I never dreamed of lucky things like these happening to me. Now, my name has spread to everywhere in the country,” he said.
Lu has been criticised on the internet and accused of using her grandfather, but he insists the experience has put a spring in his step and she says they are now closer than ever.
“We have no firm plans on how long we will continue, it depends on my grandfather,” she said. “If he is happy and his health is fine, we will keep using him as our model.” - Reuters