The Circle star Yu Ling Wu talks strategy, Spice Girls and Vortex Eyes

Yu Ling Wu wasn’t watching The circle when her sister first asked her if she was a fan — but after brief binge-watching and an ongoing campaign from her family, the 26-year-old brand marketing consultant agreed to compete in season four of the Netflix competition show.

“My sister and brother-in-law sent me the application every week,” social media pundit told The Daily Beast in a recent Zoom interview. “As if they were on a campaign.”

Your parents against it? “They had no idea what I was doing,” Wu said. “Today I asked my mom if she saw it and she said, ‘I saw you; I didn’t really know what it was.’”

The circle Season 4 ended this week on Netflix and—Spoiler alert– crowned Frank Grimsley as the winner. This season was among the devilish game show’s best — a wild ride featuring an adorable performance by two Spice Girls, artful catfishing by newcomers, a franchise celebrity (Trevor, husband of Season 2 winner DeLeesa St. Agathe), and some of that best circle chemistry we’ve seen so far. (If only Detroit-based radio host Josh “Bru” Brubaker and New York-based assistant sex coach Alyssa Ljubicich weren’t so many states apart!)

Although Yu Ling didn’t take home the top prize — an extra 50 grand thanks to epic catfishing by Baby Spice and Scary Spice — her endless parade of inspired circle fashion and makeup brush skills caught viewers’ attention. As she pointed out, this is international television, after all. “I can’t just run away.”

Though maybe she was Circle Newcomer Wu isn’t surprised that her sister thought she was a natural fit. She’s focused her brand marketing work on social media — “because I feel like that’s the job of every millennial, head of Gen Z,” she squeaks in a jokingly cute voice — and besides, she adds, she is it actually very into games.

“I’m quite competitive, although I’m also extremely unqualified, some would say,” Wu said. She managed to play Animal Crossing for about 600 hours when the pandemic first sent us all into lockdown — enough to damage nerves in her elbow. “It’s essentially tennis elbow,” she explained, “but from your Nintendo Switch.”

Wu’s energy, spunky personality and Circle-friendly pluck made her a hit with pretty much everyone in the cast by the end of the season. Those wondering where her on-screen presence came from probably won’t be shocked to learn that in addition to design, Wu also has a background in theater — “in case you couldn’t tell.”

“I wrote my own solo exhibition after graduation,” Wu said. “I’m kind of a theater kid from downtown. I’m less ‘Broadway’ and more ‘let’s be weird and take off our clothes and smooch the floor’.”

Still, Wu made a highly controversial decision this season. When she and her teammates were challenged to each choose an ally to save with “anti-virus” software, she chose a newer player, Rachel Evans, instead of Ljubicich, an ally she had known for a while.

When Brubaker also failed to save Ljubicich, she went home in tears in one of the show’s most shocking eliminations to date.

As Wu explained on the show, she saved Evans believing another player would pick Ljubicich. “No matter what I would have done,” she said, “someone would have been pissed.” But in the end, there were no nasty feelings and the two were able to become friends off the show.

“She’s such a sweetheart,” Wu said. “Just a jewel. In the game it can feel very intense… But when you come back, you have your life and you get to know these people as real people, not just players behind a screen. You build friendships and you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it.’”

This season, Wu added, most players seemed to agree on who they wanted to see take home the grand prize. “In a way, we all thought together, ‘Let’s give it to Frank,'” Wu said. “At least that’s how it was in my head.”

Though she didn’t ultimately bring home the big bucks, Wu dressed like a winner episode after episode this season. The makeup influencer stuck to warm hues to match her pink and orange hair, which was styled in a Japanese style here Cut, also known as the “princess cut”. But her most memorable look has to be those swirly eyes.

Initially, Wu’s bold aesthetic was an act of overcompensation – “for the fact that I’m so tiny”. But it’s also her way of resisting the pressures she feels as an Asian American woman to conform to certain ideals and standards. “There’s this idea that we’re passive, submissive, quiet — keep our heads down,” she said. “We do the work and then we like, that’s it.”

From a young age, Wu said, “I was already thinking ‘no’.”

Wu’s fashion inspiration comes from everywhere—her upbringing in San Francisco, the bright colors and “granny prints” of the city’s Chinatown, and her current home in New York. Speaking of the role personal style plays in her life, she said, “I use that as a vehicle to be a cooler, better version of myself, which I always aspire to be. Eventually I met the person I wanted to be.”

Another side benefit of being the girl with the loud looks and avant-garde makeup? Fewer whistles.

“People tend to be a bit more intimidated – especially men,” Wu said, laughing. “That goes down well with the right people.”

At several moments during her time on the show, Wu used her makeup and some of the in-game challenges to show her heritage as a “first generation and a half” Chinese-American, born in China but raised in the Bay Area is . Wu saw the opportunity to celebrate her culture on the show as something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she stated, “I’m so glad to be able to celebrate my culture and heritage, especially on such a big platform.” On the other hand, playing the surrogate to billions of people can be exhausting. “Now I also feel the weight of the entire Chinese diaspora,” she said.

Wu isn’t sure what’s next for her just yet – and more importantly, she added, let’s normalize Not to know. “I’m at this place in my life and also at the age of where I am what the heck am I doing?” said Wu. “And what the hell do I want do?”

“I think that’s the hard part. You will feel the pressure to capitalize on this moment. And I’m just kind of like that,’or—I’m just sitting here and eating some hot fries.’” The Circle star Yu Ling Wu talks strategy, Spice Girls and Vortex Eyes


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