2006-03-19 | Post Magazine
The celebrity cosmetics queen tells Lim Hui Sin About juggling her lives in China and the United States, her burgeoning television career and combating jet-lag.
Theres no such thing as a typical day for me. Part of the reason is that I do so many different things. If I have a favorite time to get up everyday, its about 9:30am. I have a simple breakfast- it's usually something my vyi (housekeeper) prepares- with protein, especially since I am trying to lose weight.
I have a home in Shanghai and I have a place in New York. This year, I am spending a lot of time (in Shanghai) because of my TV series, Yue-Sais World. It started airing on October 2 (last year) on Channel Young in Shanghai and has continued to roll out across the rest of China. The TV show is produced in the United States and all over the world because I have to go and interview people such as (singer) Julio Iglesias, Queen Noor of Jordan and Hillary Clinton. The people I interview are my friends. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (former United Nations secretary-general) is my neighbor. (Actor) Adrien Brody, for example- I know his mother; I know his best friends.
Here, I do a lot of promotion for the show. I am also the vice-chairman of Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics, so I work on that too. The first thing I do when I wake up is drink three big glasses of water, no matter where I am. Then I try to get onto the computer, because all my e-mails come during the night.
I am an Audi ambassador, so, for example, I had to go to a press conference at 8am recently for Audi. I am also involved in some charities. Education is a cause I really believe in. I just built a school in Guilin and I havent had time to see it. I was born in Guilin, so I built a school for a poor area. I am also on the board of the Song Qingling Foundation.; it's a big education charity foundation in Shanghai. I will meet the secretary-general at lunch. Im usually at the meetings during lunch time.
In the afternoon, there's marketing and promotion work again. At night, I might attend a private dinner given by the president of Chloe and there will a big fashion show afterwards. Last night, for a few hours, I had a meeting with the top management of LOreal; today LOreal owns the Yue-Sai brand.
A day in Shanghai for me is very different from a day in New York- a day in New York will be spent primarily on production. I think the hardest part of my work is not the actual work, it is combating jet-lag. I do the usual things like adjusting my schedule to the time of the destination and I try to sleep on the plane. It still takes a long time to adjust. But when I recently traveled from Shanghai to Paris and stayed for two nights, then to New York for there nights and to Los Angeles for one night< I had little jet-lag.
It's rare I can go (to any one place) for a week. I recently had to go to Paris for my job, go home to New York and to Los Angeles for the screening of The White Countess. I was the associate producer.
The White Countess is a Merchant Ivory movie with Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson. They shot for three whole months in China- it was fascinating. I wanted to see everything and do everything. I am intellectually curious and I make myself go crazy sometimes- its stupid. But I love my life, I love what I do. That doesn't mean I don't have a lot of hassle, a lot of problems. I suppose it comes with the territory.
My work in China is different from my work in the US. My work in China, for example, has nothing to do with TV production and the work I do in the US has nothing to do with cosmetics. I have lived in the US almost all my life and even though I have lived and worked in Shanghai and China for the past 20 years, it's still different. It's like two different lives and it's hard for me to be sitting here and describing to you what my life is like in New York. My experiences are so different.
I hardly speak Cantonese in New York, unless I see my father. When I'm in Shanghai, I use Putonghua 90 per cent of the time. Maybe because I spoke Cantonese when I was a child, I feel more relaxed when I am speaking it, but I don't speak it much. I think Putonghua is a much more formal language. Maybe its because I learned Putonghua much later in my life and I use it mainly for work.
They call me the Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey of China when I do television; when I do cosmetics, they call me the Estee Lauder of China; then when I do the lifestyle stuff, they say, Oh, shes the Martha Stewart of China. The fact is I do all of these things. I think people dont know China well and they don't understand what I do here because its so broad, so they need to define someone like me.
I don't think there was model for what Im doing. I admire all these people I have been compared to and I am inspired by many outstanding people. But I think the most important role model I had was my omother. My mother was always beautifully dressed. She was the most gentle and feminine woman, but she was the person who made all the decisions in the family, even though she deferred to my father. She was a brilliant manager of money and that allowed us to lead a wonderful life, and to be educated and cultured.
When I have time to myself, I watch TV. I consider it relaxing. You can be really stupid, just sitting there letting your brains turn into much. Its a real luxury. I love CNN, HBO, Star TV, Cinemax. I have to catch up with such things because it helps to remind me of the other half of me- after I spent a whole day in China, I miss the other part.
I usually go to bed at 1:30am or 2:00am. I drink water at night before I go to sleep. I try to eat lightly after 9 oclock. I 'm very careful about what I eat.