Jeanette Aw isn’t a fan of human bondage. “I feel so helpless!” she protests at the shoot. It’s hard to keep a good woman down. Jeanette is every bit as spirited as the feisty Wen Qing she plays in Spice Siblings along with Tay Ping Hui as her on-screen brother. As an undergrad, she went against her parents’ wishes to take Theatre Studies and Psychology (accountancy firm boss Dad and real estate agent Mum wanted her to take up Business or Law) and eventually ended up an actress. Saying the risks have paid off is an understatement.
Playing demure dimwit Mo Jingjing in Holland V has made her a household name. Advertisers like Intenz and SK Jewellery know a good thing when they see one and came knocking on her door. For Jeanette, a sure sign of her success was when a bunch of primary school kids met her in Chinatown and started chanting, “Jingjing jie jie! Jingjing jie jie!” (‘sister Jingjing’ in Mandarin). But this is no bright-eyed, bushy-tailed starlet. If anything, Jeanette comes across as a tad blasé. She loves her non-branded stuff. She wears no foundation (even during filming!). She runs zero risk of getting too big for her size-5 Pretty Fit sandals. “How am I hot?” she ponders, her bright eyes genuinely befuddled for five seconds. “I don’t dress up just because I’m an actress. I’m myself and I think that’s hot in its own way.”
You seem nonchalant about being on the cusp of fame.
I don’t think fame has changed me. Acting is my passion and I enjoy every moment of it. It is not my motivation to become more famous.
You are trained in classical and modern ballet and jazz. How often do you show off those moves at Zouk?
I don’t go clubbing precisely because I know how to dance. It doesn’t give me that kind of satisfaction. But the last time I was there, I had a really good laugh. I think it was on a Wednesday night. Did you know that there are synchronized dance moves to certain songs?
Er, we assume you’re talking about Mambo Night.
It was so amazing, watching everyone dance in sync. I asked my friend, “Is this a universal thing?”
’Fess up. Did you get along with Ping Hui on the set?
He was like a brother to me. Sometimes when I get grumpy on the set, he’ll make funny faces or crack jokes to cheer me up.
We heard a rumour that you once turned down a cover shoot with him for a fashion magazine.
(Stares at us blankly for five seconds, then artiste manager jumps in, “This never happened. There are always rumours like this.”) I haven’t heard anything of that sort. I was on a break before I started filming A Child’s Hope II. I work 12 to 18 hours a day. I couldn’t have had time for a shoot.
There was another rumour that claimed you were already married to a dancer.
Oh yes, that started two years ago.
So that’s not true?
(Shakes head. Artiste manager quips, “That’s her ex-boyfriend.”)
Are you seeing anyone now?
What do you look for in a partner?
Someone with a sense of humour. Someone who sees me as I am. I feel like it’s difficult to find someone who wants to know Jeanette as a person. I’ve friends who tell me so-and-so wants to meet me because he saw me on TV and thinks I am pretty. But I want to put my work and celebrity status aside. I am quite unaffected, in the way I dress and behave.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt about love?
To have your own space. I was so in love once that I wanted to spend every day with the person and I lost myself. So I think it’s very important that you maintain your own space.
What would you like to change about yourself?
You know how ballet dancers walk? (Places her hands together with fingers pointing in opposite directions).
Like a duck?
Yes! And I’ve been told many times by friends and my managers not to walk like that. It’s very ugly. I'm making a conscious effort to change that.