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Sun, Feb 22, 2009
The New Paper
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I’m no Ah Jie
by Charlene Chua

SHE has been on TV for seven years, but Jeanette Aw says she still sometimes feels like a “caged animal” on location shoots.

She has come a long way since she filmed her first Channel 8 drama, Beautiful Connection, in 2002.

Now she’s a household name, thanks to her breakout role in last year’s smash hit, The Little Nyonya.

The 30-year-old said: “When I first started acting, and we filmed outdoors, I would be uncomfortable with a lot of people staring at me on the set.

“But I told myself that I had to push through it. I really enjoy filming now.”

After her role in The Little Nyonya, some have even labelled her a possible successor to Ah Jies (“big sisters” in Mandarin) Fann Wong and Zoe Tay.

But Jeanette insists she doesn’t want the title. She said: “Although it’s flattering that some people think that, I really don’t want the extra pressure.

“I don’t want to get too caught up with the hype because then I would lose myself.”

She added: “I don’t want to be a second Zoe or a second Fann. I don’t want to be in the shadow of anyone. People know me as Ou Xuan (her Mandarin name) – that’s good enough for me.”

Also, she doesn’t want to take anything away from Fann or Zoe.

“Everyone is basically doing her own thing. I do not buy into these comparisons,” she said.

Although she was all smiles, she seemed careful with her choice of words.

Perhaps she is still stung by criticism from viewers when she switched from the now-defunct television network MediaWorks to MediaCorp in 2002.

She said: “I still remember that they called me ungrateful to leave a station that spent so much time grooming me. It was a personal insult to my character.

“But I stand by my decision. I just ignore the things that don’t reflect the person that I am.”

She was speaking to The New Paper at the Fitness First studio at One Raffles Quay last week where she was practising hip-hop with her dance instructor.

She has been chosen as the face of Nike’s latest Women Spring 2009 Campaign.

Self-confessed introvert

The self-confessed introvert said she often turns to dance when she “badly needs an outlet to express myself”.

She said: “Dance changed my life. I would go so far as to say that it gave me the courage to pursue acting in the first place.”

She was 13 when she persuaded her parents to let her take up ballet.

She had been in the gymnastics team in primary school and “ballet seemed like a natural choice”.

“I used to be stiff. But through dance, I could emote from another character and still have those feelings come from within me.”

These days, however, she prefers the more fluid style of hip-hop dancing.

“Ballet is very pulled-up, it’s all about being straight and being upright.

“Hip-hop is the opposite as you have to concentrate on the ‘locks’ and keeping your energy up.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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