updated 28 Feb 2010, 06:14
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Sun, Feb 28, 2010
The New Paper
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She's pretty tough
by Tan Kee Yun

LOOKING at Ariel Lin, it's easy to dismiss her as just another sweet, petite, cookie-cutter cutie-pie actress in the Asian entertainment scene.

The 27-year-old Taiwanese – known for her leading roles in popular idol dramas It Started With A Kiss (2005) and Tokyo Juliet (2006) – has wowed television audiences with her cheery disposition and consistent performances as the adorable girl-next-door.

The real Ariel, however, is much tougher than most would expect her to be.

Just last February, she had an endoscopic surgery to have a tumour removed from the base of her skull.

Endoscopic surgeries are less invasive and risky than traditional operations.

Doctors gave her no alternative. She had to have the tumour removed, they told her, as it would start affecting her vision in the long run.

Ariel is in town as part of the cast of Man And Woman, War And Peace, the headlining theatre production of Esplanade's Huayi Festival.

Relooking her life

She candidly shared with The New Paper how that experience made her "relook many aspects" of her life.

"Before undergoing the operation, I used to be a perfectionist," she said with a smile.

"That's probably one of my most masculine traits. When it comes to work, I'm ambitious, determined and I can be really harsh on myself."

It likely contributed to her stress levels, which affected her health.

Following the surgery, she recuperated at home for two months before returning to work.

While the operation was a major success, she suffered side effects such as vomiting, dizziness and severe mood swings.

She broke down on several occasions, but her mum was constantly by her side, giving support.

"Having pulled through this, I think I've begun to appreciate life more. I am still very motivated to do well in my career, but I've learnt when to slow down.
Achieving happiness is my top priority now."

Man And Woman, War And Peace – which also stars Cantopop star Denise Ho and Taiwanese actor David Wang – marks Ariel's stage debut.

It's a battle-of-the-sexes urban comedy set against the backdrop of two rival television stations competing for talkshow viewership ratings.

Ariel plays Angel, a manipulative spy sent to infiltrate one of the talkshow teams by their rivals.

The Best Actress winner at 2008's Golden Bell Awards for Taiwanese TV shows views her maiden theatre gig as "the first step towards something new".

"A veteran actor once told me, when you've successfully portrayed an eggplant, it's inevitable that all the roles that come your way next would be purple in colour."

That was essentially what happened to her, she explained.

One after the other, the idol drama characters that were offered to her became similar.

Since My Secret Garden in 2003, her first leading TV leading role, she has acted in six drama series as the "girl next door".

She said: "Also, I needed to upkeep this image of a 'decent girl', as it would help in securing endorsements. However, I hope to expand my repertoire gradually to try all sorts of roles."

Ultimately, she is firm that she "just wants to act, without the idol baggage".

That said, good things have definitely come out of her idol drama stints.

Friendships have blossomed between her and several of her male co-stars, including 30-year-old Wu Chun, from boyband Fahrenheit, and actor Joe Cheng.

Not dating

And no, she is not dating any of them, contrary to gossip in the Taiwanese press, she insisted.

"Wu Chun (her co-star in Tokyo Juliet) and I, we are just very good buddies," she said with a laugh.

"He will slap me on the back after filming and say, 'Come, let's go eat'!"

As for Joe, 28, whom Ariel has acted with three times (It Started With A Kiss, They Kiss Again and most recently Love Or Bread), she described their relationship as "family".

"I've known him for so long. Of course, there is a special bond there, as we endured long filming hours together."

"We've grown so close that I feel he is like a sibling of mine."

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