Interview: Jolin Tsai

Known for her upbeat tunes and captivating dance moves, Taiwanese pop idol-cum-fashion icon Jolin Tsai has spent a good half of the year on the road. With her Myself Worldwide Tour Concert completed, the spirited songstress finds time to chat with us

Singer, dancer, designer, fashion icon, entrepreneur – Mandopop idol Jolin Tsai seems to have all her creative bases covered. The 30-year-old recently completed her pan-Asia Jolin Tsai Myself Worldwide Tour Concert, during which she presented some of her most fast-paced numbers to date. In addition to delivering a thrilling rendition of Madonna’s chart-topping Vogue, Tsai showed off her dance credentials with Honey Game, performing with world renowned voguing master Benny Ninja. With 11 sets of costumes being showcased – a haute couture fashion show in itself – Tsai tumbled in and out of her outfits in just 30 seconds. The grandeur was inevitably preceded by sweat, as Tsai recalls: “I stopped everything I was doing and spent a month practising in advance since all the moves were new.”

That wasn’t the only thing that Tsai and her team had to overcome. Despite saying that she is practical by nature, her dance stunts suggest otherwise. “Different cities gave us completely different stages to work with – runways, panoramic – therefore we had to adjust our assembly accordingly,” she says. “Stage mechanics dictated the way we performed and as such I might have had to forgo some of the more dangerous acts, but I still brought along the infamous mirrored disco ball for all my performances!”  

Tsai was clad in an array of sexy outfits when performing songs from her latest album Myself (2010). Though never one to fear pushing boundaries, it seemed like a rather bold move. “As long as my butt is being covered, I’m not worried,” the singer jokes before elaborating: “If you’re always worried about what your fans think of you, you’ll be confined in a box. I try to let my imagination run wild and venture into uncharted ground.”

Fashion Forward

From her hair down to her nails, Tsai’s unique brand of styling has bedazzled fans and fashion critics. Is there a particular image that she really likes? “I want to appear as versatile as possible but at the same time pleasing to the eye. I also like to hone a more feminine look with a sexy edge, because I don’t think I’d hold up too well with a manly image.”

A regular patron of fashion shows in Paris, Milan and New York, Tsai is quick to give her two cents on current trends. “Vintage styles have been making a comeback for a while, and I definitely see long, billowy maxi dresses with a touch of the bohemian for this year. Haute couture is something I’m fascinated by, but would never really wear on a daily basis – that’s the whole point of going to fashion shows!”

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"If you're always worried about what your fans think of you, you'll be confined in a box. I try to let my imagination run wild and venture into uncharted ground."

The fashion icon is also an ambitious entrepreneur. She helms Jolin’s Fashion Color Sugar, which specialises in nail varnishes, and Seventy Two Changes, a joint venture with Ken Erman, executive producer of Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B collection. “For Seventy Two Changes, I meet with the team twice a year in New York – if I have the time to fly over – or Hong Kong. We also communicate via email constantly. With my nail polish line, I oversee the creative process and put my team in charge of the marketing and research process.”

Tsai philosophises: “For a brand to have a long life span, you need to have access to certain resources. A good marketing and branding team is a case in point. For me, building up a brand is not just about the clothes, but also the correct form of marketing.”

Pressure Point

From dodging zealous reporters to the constant gleam of the spotlight, the pressure facing a celebrity of Tsai’s stature is immense – have there been any regrets? “Being a singer has allowed and opened up doors for me in a way that would have been impossible if I were a regular office lady. For example, if I wasn’t a singer I would not be able to travel and meet so many talented people in the industry and in the world,” she says humbly. “When you meet and talk to these people, you see that they have true talent and you are in awe of them and you want to learn from them. If I could choose once more, I would still want to sing!”

Over the last 13 years, Tsai seems to have amassed the wisdom to deal with the tabloids. “Yes, there is definitely pressure, but you don’t have to take it that seriously because it will become a part of your daily life. I try not to let that bother me too much,” she says. “There are so many fictitious stories printed about her, she has learnt not to care,” quips Tsai’s manager.

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"I don't need the man of my dreams to be a big somebody, but he needs to have that special something in order for me to respect him."

From Gossip to Cooking

For ardent fans who want a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, Tsai admits to being obsessed with the – fictional – lives of the rich and famous herself. “I’ve been watching Gossip Girl lately just to see how exaggerated the clothes and the plot lines will get. I go through so many emotional ups and downs watching that show, but I love it so much.” Those who follow Tsai’s Weibo postings religiously will have noticed the liking the singer has taken to baking. “I love decorating cakes, but lately I’ve been experimenting with French pastries and desserts.”

While her strenuous dance drills can easily ward off flabby arms and a bulging belly, Tsai still needs to monitor her calorific intake. “I tend to control myself and not eat abnormal amounts of food. Since I usually wake up around noon, I tend to eat twice a day. Not having late-night meals makes a huge difference.” That’s not the end of it obviously as Tsai preaches on the importance of exercising: “There’s a gym near my house so I go and do the basics – running and some cardiovascular training. As far as exercise goes, I like to keep everything in moderation.”

Man of Her Dreams

Tsai used to be very soft spoken and yielding, but the star who turned 31 in September has grown a tad tougher – and shall we say more prudent – when it comes to love. “I’m not in a hurry to marry. I think that it takes a lot of time to decide, though 10 years would be way too much for me,” she says, alluding to Christine Fan and beau Blackie Chen, who dated for 10 years before tying the knot earlier this year. “If the right guy comes along and I feel like I can rely on him, that would be amazing. I don’t need a guy I have to constantly take care of, and I certainly don’t need a guy that I have to constantly look after,” she adds.

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When confronted with the all-time favourite ‘what do you look for in a guy?” question, Tsai is rather tight-lipped about the specific qualities (he needs to like kids though), but she did say: “I don’t need the man of my dreams to be a big somebody, but he needs to have that special something in order for me to respect him.”

When asked whether there is anything she wants to change in her life, she muses: “I’ve been pretty surprised and satisfied with what I have achieved. This is beyond my expectations so I’m very thankful. There’s not much that I’m dissatisfied with . . . other than the fact that I’m still waiting on my Hermes Birkin,” she adds cheekily.

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