Nang Mwe San’s parents had her life charted out. Born in Shan state’s Kuching area and raised in Yangon, she fulfilled their dreams by enrolling in medical school. By 20 she was a doctor, and spent the next years working at hospitals in Myanmar’s largest city. Doctors at public hospitals make about US$200 per month. At private hospitals, she earned slightly more.
But it wasn’t her dream. She began posting sexually charged photos in swimwear and lingerie on social media as a hobby, drawing an audience and commercial appearances. The photos led the Malaria Monitoring and Evaluation office in Yangon, where she worked as a medical officer, to demand her resignation.
Now 30, she is a national sex symbol with 2 million followers between Facebook and Instagram. But her new career closed doors behind her in culturally conservative Myanmar.
The national Medical Council last year ordered her to stop and made sure she couldn’t work as a doctor again when she didn’t.
“They told me it was against Myanmar tradition and asked me to sign a paper. So I did sign it, but it didn’t stop me,” she told Coconuts Yangon. “Eventually, they sent me a letter saying that my license has been revoked.”
With the majority of the population practicing a very conservative brand of Buddhism, Nang says she’s gotten endless harassment about her pictures. Yet, she says she ignores it all, as the attention has helped drive up her popularity.
“My parents didn’t like it at all since all the old people in Myanmar are very archaic,” she said. “Though I was shackled by those pressures, by doing so, I became financially comfortable.”
One month ago, the curvy 30-year-old opened an account on porn-subscription site OnlyFans. Since its Sept. 21 debut, Nang Mwe San said she made US$50,000 in one month.
She said social media gave her a way to make money without having to sell her body.
“I wanted to make some earnings, not from sugar daddies, but on my own,” she said. “When I found out that I can do so on OnlyFans, that’s when I jumped in.”
She uses the service to post frequent erotic videos and play with sex toys for her followers, who pay up to US$25 a month for access. She does not have sex on camera. Nang said there were many more foreigners among her audience than locals, especially from the United States, Mexico and other places. But it is a business, and she entices fans to subscribe by offering discounts.
“It’s amazing how it works. Here, I earn more than any other job I’ve worked before,” she said with a snicker.
Even though Nang isn’t a doctor anymore, she still stands up for those in the profession, such as her younger brother, who works at a government hospital.
According to Nang, young and inexperienced doctors are paid very little. Even assistant surgeons at government hospitals only earn US$250 per month. Because of that, there isn’t much incentive for qualified doctors to remain in Myanmar.
“I feel happier working as a model. Besides, if you look out there now, with COVID-19, doctors are frontline heroes,” she said. “And that’s why most people go abroad for better earnings after graduation.”
“I was a bit worried when I decided to go for a full-time modeling job. Because I didn’t have a choice back then. Now I have many opportunities as it’s doing well.”
Nang says she is the first Myanmar national to be on OnlyFans. Before that, she had regularly posted free videos to Instagram and Snapchat stories. But the pandemic brought an end to events and commercials, forcing her to rethink how to make a living to be truly independent.
“That’s when I found out how to make a bigger income and not depend on anyone else in my life.”
Nang said she is thinking of branching out to more platforms including YouTube and Snapchat premium. When she considers her place in the global culture of internet sex, she isn’t discouraged by her critics at home.
“They can’t judge me by what I do since many Hollywood celebrities such as Amber Rose, Bella Thorne are doing the same thing. As long as the seller and their customers get along, it’s not a big deal.”