Behind that glamorous persona, actress Janet Khoo is just a regular gal with no airs, no frills, and who works hard for a living.
: Janet Khoo Kheng Hoon
: Air Itam, Penang
: Feature films – Putera, Kad Cinta, Lurah Dendam, Paloh. Television – Idaman, Sebening Syawal, Haryati (as actress and producer).
: Penang asam laksa
: Watching movies, swimming
Favourite sports (to watch)
: Steven Gerrard
: Richard Gere (for his “dreamy eyes”), Ethan Hawke, Tom Hanks, Sean Penn
: The Terminal, Mystic River, Taking Lives, The Green Mile
: Marc Anthony
She has graced magazine covers, been on FHM’s list of 100 sexiest women, appeared in award-winning TV dramas and films, but Janet Khoo says that life as an actress is not all that glamorous. One finds that hard to believe, especially after meeting her in person.
It is difficult to take your eyes off her stunning, sculpted features and her bright, piercing eyes stare straight into you when she speaks. She seems built from pure confidence and elegance.
“I’m a very confident person,” she proudly proclaims. “I always like to be on par with others.”
Janet does not like the label “celebrity” but would rather be recognised for her work as an actress. She prefers to keep a low profile, and only be in the limelight when it comes to her acting work. And because of that, if you’re looking for gossip about Janet Khoo, you will find none.
“I love and respect my job a lot, and I don’t want people to mix up my job and my personal life,” Khoo, 32, explains. “I don’t like any funny publicity.”
Off the job, Khoo is like any other regular person, running errands by herself and accomplishing everyday tasks.
I’m a very confident person. I always like to be on par with others. – Janet Khoo
Make-up and hair: Zue Beauty Studio 03-61858673
Wardrobe: donna c 03-21452752
Location: The Westin KL 03-27318333
“That’s why you see me going out everywhere on my own in my jeans and slippers,” she says. “I kind of like that, because I like the freedom to do lots of things. We don’t live like Hollywood stars. It is not like what people may think.
“I’m saving hard for myself. I hardly party. I only attend functions that are really important; otherwise I don’t socialise a lot. I’d rather be myself, watching DVDs and VCDs at home.”
In fact, on days when she is not working, Khoo prefers to spend time with her family, taking her nephews out for a walk, shopping and eating.
“I love to eat,” she says.
Asked how she keeps trim, Khoo says: “I don’t know. I just stay like that! (Laughs)”
On the day of this photoshoot, Khoo arrives in casual clothes, fresh off the shoot for On the Wings of a Butterfly, a TV drama directed by Khabir Bhatia for Singapore’s Mediacorp, which stars Craig Fong and Lina Teoh, among others. She immediately comes across as easy-going and accommodating, tolerating every slight hitch with a smile and a joke.
In fact, just a few days earlier, director Brando Lee, who had worked with Khoo on a telemovie, spoke to me about the actress’s professionalism and seriousness towards her work.
The glamour persona and the regular gal could not be more obviously different than during this photoshoot; in between serious posing, Khoo cracks jokes easily and even plays the fool at times. No airs, no frills.
It is also well-known that the Penang-born actress is willing to go the extra mile for her work. Adman Salleh, the director of Paloh, literally put her through hell to get her into character. The result of that was a Best Actress nomination at the 17th Malaysian Film Festival.
Khoo, the fifth in a family of seven siblings, first garnered public attention through her performance as a vixen in the soap Idaman some years ago. Since then, she has been among that rare breed of Chinese actresses who have made a name in the Malay entertainment scene, appearing in countless telemovies as well as feature films such as Putera, Kad Cinta and Lurah Dendam.
Last year, she turned producer with her maiden effort, Haryati, screened on Astro Ria. She also starred in it alongside Datuk Rahim Razali and Rashid Salleh. 2004 was a good year for Khoo; she helped some friends out with their projects and starred in three telemovies which were shot in Australia. However, things took a dive this year.
“I thought I would be given at least an opportunity or two to keep on producing (after Haryati),” Khoo explains. “But then all my hopes were dashed.”
Even though she sent out numerous proposals for telemovie projects, Khoo found herself constantly knocking on closed doors.
“We are like beggars and we don’t deserve this,” she says. “Here we are, the directors and producers trying hard to make something good for the viewers. But we are not getting the breaks. And we have to suffer because of that. At the end of the day, who are we to blame?”
What upsets Khoo most is the fact that awards, experience and talent mean nothing in the industry. She bemoans the fact that many talented directors are not getting jobs, and some have even left the industry, disillusioned.
“When I did Paloh three years ago – when the Government financed Embun and Paloh – it was great,” she says. “We all had this hope burning in us. We thought it would be an opportunity to make good movies.”
Khoo laments that the quality of local films has not improved since then. But she tries very hard to remain hopeful.“For things to change, everyone should have an open mind,” she says. “And be optimistic. Only then, things will change for the better.”