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Thu, Jan 22, 2009
The New Paper
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Heart stoppers
by Ho Lian-Yi, Charlene Chua & Tan Kee Yun

1. Jeanette Aw, actress, 29

Claim to F(l)ame: One of the so-called seven princesses of MediaCorp, Jeanette first rose to prominence after playing the lovable simpleton Jingjing in the 2003 serial Holland V.

Then came The Little Nyonya.

The Story So Far: For a while, Jeanette's career looked to be floundering. She didn't manage to win a Top Ten Most Popular Female Artiste award at the Star Awards last year.

But then she was given the roles of long-suffering mother-and-daughter Ju Xiang and Yue Niang in The Little Nyonya, which proved to be a titanic hit.

Suddenly people were in love with her. From students to housewives, everyone tuned in nightly to see what torments she would have to go through.

And suddenly there was talk of her joining the likes of Kym Ng, Fann Wong and Zoe Tay as 'Ah Jie' or 'big sisters'.

Mr Paul Chan, 40, vice-president, branding and promotions for Channel 8, gave her the thumbs-up. Even Zoe, the original Ah Jie, said she had a good chance of stepping up.

While there are some questions over her acting, there is no doubt that her girlish charm has won her fans.

And how's this for sweetness: She became the legal guardian of three young children of a close friend who died in 2005.

When told of her nomination, she said: 'Actually, I'm quite surprised, quite flattered. Why? Because it's quite a nice compliment!

'I think a lot of people like my smile and probably my eyes. I don't have a voluptuous figure. I think it's more on the sunshine girl side...'

Next Change: Jeanette has taken the criticism of her Mandarin and wooden acting to heart. She has been taking lessons at the National University of Singapore for the last six months to brush up on her Mandarin.

Catch her next in another Channel 8 mega-production, Shaolin Warriors, opposite Christopher Lee, from 4 May.

2. Joanne Peh, actress, 26

Claim to F(l)ame: Also one of the seven princesses, Joanne certainly does not behave like one.

We like a girl who can hold a bug close to her mouth, even when she's terrified of it.

Daring to go without make-up while covered in dirt and acting like a raving lunatic, it certainly doesn't get any unbabelicious than that.

But she did it and fans love her for it.

The Story So Far: Some Little Nyonya fanatics believe that she stole the show with her role as the ill-fated Huang Yuzhu.

In a scene where she acts as a pregnant woman abandoned in an old hut, she has to catch live worms and flying crickets.

She even had to pretend to eat them.

The actress, who considers herself timid, told The New Paper last November: 'I'm the everything-also-scared kind of person.'

Yet, true to her professionalism, Joanne threw caution to the wind when it was time to shoot the scene.

Wearing only a sarong around her fake pregnant belly, she went down on her knees and started crawling.

When the director told her that the gloves she wore could be seen in the footage, she removed them without any fuss.

When told that she had been nominated, Joanne said: 'Wow! I definitely didn't think I looked anything like a babe dressed in a dirty sarong so I'm indeed surprised with the nomination!'

She added that she was grateful to The New Paper 'who looked beyond the dirt and grime to nominate me'.

Her fans - many of whom are friends on Facebook - are 'those who have families and children' so she's not confident of a win.

'I am truly flattered but my chances of winning are zero. My fans are not within the age range who will SMS and vote for me,' she said, with a laugh.

Next Change: Joanne is filming a 180-episode drama, Your Hand In Mine, which will begin airing in November this year.

She plays a lawyer with a multi-faceted personality.

'My character's cold on the outside but warm on the inside. She grew up with a lot of baggage in terms of dealing with men.'

3. Rui En, actress/singer, 28

Claim to F(l)ame: Known as a non-conformist who is fiercely private about her personal life, Rui En made heads turn when she finally dropped her ice-queen exterior and opened up in The Monday Interview series of ST Life! in December.

The Story So Far: The confessional interview turned out to be a surprise.

More so because Rui En has gained a reputation for being cool and nonchalant.

She had been garnering rave reviews over the last two years for her acting, mostly in roles of strong, intense female characters, like a feisty cop in Metamorphosis and a selfless HIV patient in By My Side.

But fans knew little about her. Until the interview.

She spoke about her parents' divorce, her 'periods of delinquency' when she dabbled with cigarettes and alcohol, the insecurity and emptiness that led to her hunger for fame and how she hated herself back then.

And 'what touched me completely was the heartfelt response from readers and fans' after the interview was published.

She said: 'It crossed my mind that I'd be nominated for being honest, so this is something refreshing!

'And of course, it feels great!'

Rui En does not rate her chances of winning Babe of The Year high at all.

'I think this will be The Little Nyonya year,' she said.

We certainly dig her candidness.

Next Change: Rui En stars as a bubbly and spunky aircraft engineer in the upcoming Channel 8 drama series The Dream-catchers, which opens on 4 Feb.

This article was first published in The New Paper on Jan 20, 2009.

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