Zoe Tay was one. So were Shu Qi and Phyllis Quek. Sexy and womanly, they were all paid handsomely to take a shower at some point in their career when they were already indisputably stars. They were Lux girls. Enter Joanne Peh, the Lux girl for a new generation. One who’s adorable and charming more than sexy; one who’s a university schoolgirl on the cusp of womanhood; and one who’s not quite a full-fledged star, although she’s surely on the fast-track to becoming one. We can’t help but congratulate her on winning the Lux contract back to this side of the great media divide, never mind that Michelle Chia’s Lux Shampoo deal is the younger sister to the Lux Body prize that currently belongs to Joanne. In choosing Joanne to be the latest actress to take that most lucrative of showers, Lux couldn’t possibly have overlooked the fact that she’s still scrambling to revise for exams at NTU, still concerned about getting enough credits to get her Bachelor’s degree, despite having just signed a new full-time contract with MediaCorp. So the sexpot mould has been very deliberately broken in favour of the apple-cheeked, clean-scrubbed appeal of the girl-next-door. You could say Joanne’s the right girl at the right place at the right time; but fact is, Lux didn’t just choose any girl from behind any door. And according to Joanne, she had to sit for a fairly tough interview with Lux, during which she was grilled on questions such as “Is she a person who follows her head or her heart?” and “Would she give up her dream of being a journalist to pursue stardom and riches?”. For this interview today, we’ll spare her the hard questions. We’ll stick to frothy, foamy, sudsy talk instead.
8 DAYS: Now that you’re the new Lux girl, wouldn’t you say your chances of dating a regular guy your age are very slim?
Yah. What’s your point?
That you’re missing out on the regular things in the life of a young Singaporean adult.
It depends on what I’m looking for. I guess there will always be chances. But what is difficult right now is not just dating somebody my age. After a while, you start to wonder if people want to be with you because they like who you are, or because you’re a celebrity. Having said that, it’s not like I’ve received any proposals or anything.
Are the guys at NTU intimidated by you?
Maybe they are, or maybe they’re attached. But I don’t like to be the domineering one in a relationship; I don’t want him to be a henpecked boyfriend or husband. I want to have my goals, and I want him to be comfortable with that.
Back to you looking gorgeous in the upcoming Lux ad: Do you feel sexier now?
In a way. If you were to ask me to do a sexy pose or look or whatever, I would feel a little bit more comfortable doing it. Yet I know I’m still a little girl lah, I have this little girl inside me, but all this experience has helped me discover something more womanly about myself. It’s quite a nice feeling, actually, to be comfortable with your own body. But I’m not out to attract men. I don’t have time for that, anyway. Right now, I don’t think I’d be able to handle it. But if it comes, it comes.
What’s the key difference between being a girl and woman?
Your mentality changes. The things you care about are different. Your dressing sense also changes: J-pop style’s a very girl thing; women don’t dress J-pop style.
What’s your new style now? Foam?
[Laughs] No! I guess my style is nothing out of the ordinary. I like jeans and pants.
Did you feel uncomfortable at our photo shoot, wearing very little under all that foam?
The thing is, I don’t think the company doesn’t want a young girl image for me, nor are they playing up the sex factor. They want a more sensuous image, a more womanly thing.
It’s a fine line that separates sexy from sensuous.
‘Sexy’ is about trying to get people to be attracted to you. ‘Sensuous’ is about being comfortable with your own body, and not necessarily to attract people. I don’t think the Lux ad is sexy. It’s sensuous.
Did Mum object?
She trusts the company a lot. Yes, she’s concerned that I’d be taken advantage of, about things like kissing and bedroom scenes, but I’ve had kissing scenes and she’s accepted it. This is how I am: If you think it looks good for me to go topless for a shoot, I’d do it. But I’ve to be protected, like I was in the Lux shoot [for the soon-to-be-out print ad, which will soon be followed by a TV campaign].
Whoa, you go topless? Details, please.
I kind of expected that it would be something like that, considering it’s a shower setting, you know. I expected to bare my shoulders, but not go topless. The stylist was very protective. Initially, it was arranged so that I could at least wear a bra. Then after trying some shots, he asked if I was okay with going topless. I told him if it’s going to look nice, I don’t mind. Then he went, “Okay, all straight boys go outside!” So I just did it lah. Then they kept pulling my jeans down to make me look as naked as possible. It felt weird, but I had to be professional.
You must be proud to be the latest in a long line of glamorous Lux girls.
Yah. Shu Qi, Phyllis Quek, Zoe Tay — they have all been pretty big names compared to me. For them, they were already big before the ad. For me, I think this is going to be what makes me big. It was the best 21st birthday gift a girl could ask for. [Her birthday’s April 25.]
How about onscreen intimacy? You had a kissing scene with Qi Yuwu, right?
Yah, but the first screen kiss I ever filmed was a very quick peck with Alan Tern in To Mum With Love, which was supposed to be an accident in the show. With Yuwu [in I Love My Home], we didn’t discuss it so thoroughly because we had worked together before. We just did it. He told me to tell him if I was feeling uncomfortable. It was very embarrassing for both of us.
Did either of you blush?
If we did, it didn’t show. It was quite nerve-wracking, because he’s not my boyfriend. It felt weird, but I still had to look like I was enjoying it. Actually, there were quite a few takes.
We think he deliberately screwed up, so he could keep doing it.
No, it was because there were many angles.
We think he paid the director to say he needed many angles.
[Laughs] No, he’s not that kind of guy!