1. She’s a director now
The famed actress can now call add the title “director” to her resume. Joanne’s short film, Under The Tree, which aired on April 5 at 9pm on Channel U and is part of an incubator project, is about two childhood friends, a boy and a girl, whose friendship blossomed under a tree but eventually lost touch as they grew up. One day, the girl decides to write a song but couldn’t, due to her poor grasp of the Chinese language. She enlists the help of a lyricist, who turns out to be someone from her past.
The 30-minute short starred model Fiona Fussi (who was apparently approached by Joanne on Instagram), real-life cameraman Pang CC and national basketball player Chase Tan. Joanne has been actively documenting her journey as a first-time director on another Instagram account (@jpdirects), showcasing her observations and challenges in a candid manner (such as working with child actors — a post that drew mixed reactions, unfortunately). Tough as the journey was, her satisfaction in her work is clear as day, and we too can’t help but feel proud of her enthusiasm and passion for her newfound role.
2. She has her own children’s enrichment programme
Most people would have been satisfied with just being a successful star in the entertainment industry, but not the tireless Joanne. In February 2018, she launched an enrichment programme for children called The Dimple Loft, which helps children tell stories in creative ways through different mediums such as painting, writing, acting, singing, dancing and more. Joanne, who has two children with actor husband Qi Yuwu, said in interviews that her aim is to provide children with a conducive environment to kickstart their interest in learning. She also wants to inspire their imagination through fun, self-directed and experiential learning. The Dimple Loft organises workshops and school holiday camps as well, the previous one inspired by the Pixar film Inside Out (2015). What an admirable initiative.
3. She is a supermum
Joanne has always been upfront about her struggles with motherhood and has never been one to sugarcoat it. Take her recent family vacation to Japan in December last year, which took a turn for the worse when she came down with a severe case of the flu, followed by her two little ones getting hit by a stomach viral infection. In her Instagram post, Joanne detailed her experiences and kept it real, describing her ordeal of taking care of her kids who were taking turns throwing up and having diarrhoea. “So it’s non-stop going to the toilet, changing diapers, washing stained clothes, feeding medicine while trying to fit in time to look decent ourselves,” she said. All this, plus three trips to the hospital for the kids to see the doctor, has left her spent.
Her accompanying photo shows her looking a little worse for wear (but still bright-eyed and radiant), as she baby-wears her crying son while holding on to her older daughter — something every mum can totes relate. Thankfully the kids recovered enough for them to enjoy the rest of the trip. Goes to show, she might be a well-known celebrity, but she’s still a mum, and a super strong mum at that. Just look at her positivity in the face of things: “Even though it’s gruelling, I see it as a way for us to bond with the children and create experiences that we would otherwise not have if we hadn’t done this.” Kudos to her.
4. She’s an independent woman
Happily married to Qi Yuwu since September 2014, Joanne is based in Singapore while Yuwu is based in Beijing as he’s working on projects there. This means the couple spends long periods of time apart, with both shuttling between the two places to try to spend time with each other whenever they can. Sometimes, big moments such as birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day and anniversaries are missed. On top of that, Joanne has to manage everything on the home front, while juggling her various work projects. Not easy at all.
But Joanne, as you can probably sense by now, is not one to wallow. She has spoken about their distance in interviews, saying the pair are adaptable creatures and technology has made it much easier to communicate. “I always try to look at the positive side of things so that I have something positive to look forward to. (I tell myself things like) ‘Soon, we’ll be able to meet, two months later, I’ll go and find you’,” she said. Her posts are also upbeat, appreciative and positive, with her taking each moment as a blessing. In one, she said: “We weren’t sure if @qiyuwu was going to be back for his birthday this year because of a long project he’s been on, so we are all so happy that he’s back to spend time with us. To be able to celebrate special occasions together is always a bonus. So we try to make it count!” Something we can all learn from.
5. She’s all about mindfulness
Scroll through her Instagram and you can sense that Joanne is often reflective, measured and observant. She meditates “to acquire greater awareness of what’s happening around me and gain clarity over what I want and don’t”, and makes it a point to be present and deliberate. She muses about her life experiences with certain consideration and a touch of whimsy. Case in point: A simple run inspired Joanne to pay attention to the pieces of leaves and flower petals she had been unintentionally crushing under her feet as she was pounding the pavement. While running in nature brought her a a sense of calm, she realised there were many things all around that people often take for granted or go unnoticed.
It was enough to spur her to create something, so she gathered some of the pieces and arranged them into an artwork of two beautiful figures (a prince and an ostrich), giving the leaves and flowers new life before they wither away. “It forced me to really look at what was around me and the possibilities it offered,” she observed. How often do we, if ever, do something like that?
6. She’s super hands-on
A strong advocate for outdoor play and experiential learning, Joanne often posts photos of her kids playing with sand and plants (and the odd snail) while enjoying the sun in the great outdoors — faces creatively hidden of course. While many a mum might feel a panic attack approaching with the thought of having to get rid of all that sand and dirt clinging to the kiddo’s clothes, Joanne, while acknowledging that fear, prefers to look at things with a different perspective.
Playing with real things help her kids learn how to handle and respect these tools, and sensory play boosts cognitive development, she adds. “These moments are so precious and since I don’t get many chances to do this because I work and they grow up so fast, I’d just slather on more sunblock and not worry about it, or dread the sand that is getting in their hair, in their clothes and in my car.” Wise words.
7. She’s an eco-warrior
Taking care of two active kiddos, helming a children’s programme and filming/directing/editing duties can take a toll on anyone, but on top of this, Joanne has started packing her own lunch in a reusable lunch box to play a part in reducing waste and recycling more. Although this can be hard, especially when she’s out filming, she says she is committed to doing it and has found ways to work around it by creating meals that work despite her circumstances. “I believe that once we turn it into a habit, it becomes a part of our daily routine that we don’t even think about it much. We shouldn’t mistreat the environment because of a whim of convenience,” she said. By the way, she can bake, sew and crochet too. How admirable.
(Text: Joy Fang / Additional reporting: Natalya Molok)