A Biography of Jeannie Mai

Discover more about this co-host of 'The Real'

The Real host Jeannie Mai
The Real host Jeannie Mai. Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Fans of The Real know co-host Jeannie Mai as the show’s fashion maven and style guru. Which comes as no surprise, as the California native is best known for her style expertise and her Style Network show, How Do I Look?.

Mai was born in San Jose, Calif., on January 4, 1980. She’s the older sister to two brothers, Dennis and Daniel. The siblings, of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, grew up alongside 16 family members in a three-bedroom home.

Mai’s parents, who escaped Vietnam during tougher times, would save money to help move family members from Vietnam to the United States. When she was 9 years old, her parents flew Mai’s grandparents, three uncles, three aunts and their two children to the U.S. Later, the family would add two more children to the household.

Mai told online magazine, The Other Asians, “This household was the most amazing, blessed experience I’ve ever encountered. I learned how to share, to be giving, to always create an atmosphere to include everyone.”

Her passion for broadcast communication came early, by all accounts, as Mai would interview family members and friends for imaginary television programs. But her parents wanted her to pursue a more practical career, like law or medicine. Mai tried, but it never stuck. She was trying hard to be good at things she struggled with rather than do those things at which she excelled.

Mai attended De Anza College in Cupertino, Calif., for a year before dropping out and pursuing her passion: communications, motivation, and inspiration.

Jeannie Mai Follows Her Dreams

She didn’t land a plum television role right away. Mai started her career as a makeup artist for MAC Cosmetics. Her success as a trainer for MAC allowed her to travel the world and meet celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys. She eventually becomes a stylist for local TV shows like Good Morning Sacramento.

Mai then started auditioning for roles in front of the camera. She eventually landed a co-host gig on Stir, a magazine-style show for an Asian-American audience.

And then came a trip to the William Morris Agency.

Mai Crashes William Morris and Kickstarts Her Career

After hosting Stir, Mai was ready for bigger things. So she took $268 and moved to L.A., she tells The Other Asians. Mai brought a few head-shot, a homemade demo reel, and the results of her research of the top agencies in Hollywood. She pulled up in front of the William Morris Agency, the top agency on the list.

Sauntering in, she asked the receptionist to connect her with an agent who handled television and talk show hosts. The receptionist told her no one would see her without an appointment, so Mai said she’d sit in the lobby until someone canceled. No one canceled. But former talk show host and comedian Wanda Sykes did see her headshot, struck up a conversation with Mai and, in less than 30 minutes, Mai was meeting with Sykes and her agent.

Primetime Debut for Mai

Soon Mai was hosting shows in primetime on national networks like USA and MTV. Then she landed on a handful of style-centered programs. This led her to her breakout performance on Style Network’s How Do I Look? She took over hosting duties in 2009 and the rest is history.

In September 2014, Mai, alongside Tamera Mowry, Loni Love, Adrienne Bailon, and Tamar Braxton, launched The Real, a syndicated daily talk show.