During the early development of Fatal Fury 2, SNK had two different ideas for Japanese characters: a male ninja named Ninja Master and a female idol. Ninja Master had been around 60% completed before being scrapped. However, many of his design elements were used for the design of the idol character, who would eventually become Mai Shiranui. The design for her "tail" was taken from his long scarf.
Contributed by DrakeVagabond
According to an issue of Neo Geo Freak, Mai's bust was modeled on Fumie Hosokawa and her buttocks on Ai Iijima; both women were famous idols at the time.
Contributed by DrakeVagabond