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Taiwan's 'betel nut beauties' drum up business,
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Competition can get particularly fierce, especially in summer, when harvests mean there's more to sell. But selling is about more than just looks.

"If a new girl with a beautiful face shows up but she's stupid, there isn't much competition," says one seller who left the industry and keeps her past a secret. "But there are a fixed number of drivers coming by. And if she's got good sales skills, she can steal away 50% of the business."

The exact origin of betel nut beauties is a matter of some debate. A recurrent story has it that somewhere around Nantau in central Taiwan in the early 1990s, two good-looking young sisters started selling the nuts on the roadside, wearing sleeveless outfits. That led to far better sales than their older, more homely competitors, and spurred copycats.

n 1997, artist Wu traveled to the area looking for the sisters. "But wherever I went and asked, everyone there claimed they were the original beauties," she says.

As the industry has become more successful -- by some estimates earning hundreds of millions of dollars annually and employing 2.5 million people -- it has drawn more critics and calls for regulation.
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