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Why 71-Year-Old Jin Yinji Is Not Retiring Anytime Soon

She's having too much fun.

Jin Yinji is vigorously twerking for the camera, almost bumping into a shocked Jayley Woo whose slack-jawed expression at the sight is almost identical to ours. Jayley's expression then softens into concern at the septuagenarian's nimble thrusts, all while holding an enormous birthday cake that she and the stars of upcoming Ch 8 drama Life Less Ordinary had prepared to surprise the veteran actress for her recent 71st birthday celebration.

Jin Yinji with the cast and crew of Ch 8 drama Life Less Ordinary, which includes Felicia Chin, Jeffrey Xu, Aileen Tan, Cynthia Koh and Rayson Tan. 

Not that you can tell that Yinji is eligible for a Pioneer Generation card. After the cast and crew (including us journos) sang her a lively birthday song during the imaging session for the 130-ep drama on Monday (Jun 19), the beloved veteran actress spontaneously breaks into a happy dance that could put Beyoncé to shame.

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"Make a wish, Jin-jie!" urges everyone eagerly. “I wish...that we will stay together for always!” Yinji trills in her distinctive Korean-accented Mandarin before blowing out her candles with gusto.

8 DAYS: Happy birthday, Jin-jie!
JIN YINJI: Thank you! I didn’t celebrate my birthday on the actual day [June 17] ’cos my husband was in China for work. We’ve been married 46 years and I know he isn’t the type to celebrate special occasions, so it’s useless getting angry at him for not sending me flowers or calling me on my birthday!

You seem more energetic than your colleagues who are half your age. Have you ever considered retiring?
I don’t think I’ll ever retire. I won’t know what to do. I can’t stay idle at home. Even if I’m taking care of my grandkids, I don’t do it all the time ’cos it’s very physically demanding. So for a while after my contract [with Mediacorp] ended, I thought about what I should do in life. I’m afraid of growing senile, and I don’t want to be dependent on anyone. I need to stay active every day, and I think one should always live and learn. That's the message I want to spread! 

Speaking of contracts, there was controversy over your recent comment to a Chinese daily that a producer had told you, “If I hire you to act, I might as well get a $50 an hour freelancer”. You later clarified that the incident happened 10 years ago.
It’s all okay now. My company resolved the issue very quickly and I feel better now. The bosses have agreed to my terms, and we mutually understand where each other is coming from. So I shall not talk about this anymore (laughs). It’s all in the past.

You decided to leave Mediacorp after 30 years when your contract ended and you're now working on a project basis. Is it true you’re considering signing on with Vivian Lai or Mark Lee’s production companies?
Not yet lah. But they’re really good people, and care a lot about me. As long as Mediacorp has dramas for me, I’ll take the jobs as they come. No need to think so much! [My colleagues] are all very fond of me — everyone from the props and costume departments to the make-up artists. I can’t bear to leave them. I wish that one day I can thank them on stage. But I don’t think I can find the words to express my gratitude (tears up and dabs at her eyes). I don’t think there’s anyone else who’s as emotional as I am (laughs, clearly embarrassed by her outburst of emotions). I don’t know what just came over me!

Life Less Ordinary debuts Oct 2, Ch 8, 7.30pm.

PHOTOS: AIK CHEN

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