“Can we play a little Rod Stewart?” asks Joanne Peh as she settles into another pose; her arm languidly draped over her husband’s knee, gazing up at him expectantly. Qi Yuwu on his part gives his wife a knowing smile as if a secret is being meted out between them. Without warning, they erupt into a pile of laughs.
And not just any short-lived giggle either. This is a laugh that’s hearty, deep and warm. A lived-in laugh, if you will, between a pair of lovers who are as comfortable in their own skin as they are with each other. There’s also a closeness and a feeling of security between them that’s electrifying in person and can’t quite be put into words.
From afar, Joanne, 36, and Yuwu, 43, are your quintessential celebrity couple: Both statuesque, impossibly gorgeous, and with a movie star aura about them that’s almost untouchable. There’s such a heightened sense of awe that follows them that you can’t help but wonder whether their interactions with each other are for real or the product of careful orchestration.
But watching them have that private moment together over the music playing on-set, and all pre-conceived notions go out the window. This isn’t a couple that’s aloof and ice-cold. This isn’t a couple that’s putting on an act. They come across, rather, as a couple who don’t have to prove anything to anyone else but themselves.
“Even when I’m acting, I’m not acting. This is real, we are real and this is our married life,” reveals Yuwu. “In the beginning, we were a bit more careful not to reveal too much because I felt that this marriage belonged to us. It was our private life and we needed to protect it, not treat it like a consumable.”
“The thing about two celebrities getting together is that everyone wants to get in on the hype,” Joanne reasons. “Everyone’s just riding on the fact that we are a celebrity couple, to the point where it becomes less about the real love that exists between two people, and more about the attention that the union provides for others.
A LOT OF THINGS WERE BEING SAID ABOUT US WHEN WE FIRST CAME OUT AS A COUPLE AND FOR US IT WAS LIKE ‘YOU KNOW WHAT, TIME WILL TELL’ AND IT HASJOANNE PEH
“I didn’t want to be consumed by that hype. A lot of things were being said about us when we first came out as a couple and for us it was like ‘You know what, time will tell’ and it has.”
Buoyed by the public scrutiny directed at them, the pair have now weathered through five years (and counting!) of marriage together and are proud parents to two children: A four-year-old daughter, and two-year-old son. Time was also the reason the very private pair agreed to appear on their first magazine cover together, for the February issue of The Singapore Women’s Weekly.
“We’ve always been a little hesitant about appearing on magazine covers together because it makes us a little bit uncomfortable to be talking so much about the relationship,” confesses Joanne.
“But since all that time has passed since our wedding, we thought okay now it can be more about us as a couple rather than things like ‘Oh how big is the ring?’ or ‘How did he propose?’, which isn’t what our love is about.”
Qiwu nods at this before dropping a confession. “I’m not very good at taking pictures. A picture to me should be like a snapshot of a moment, something more candid. The thing about photoshoots is that you need to put on an act and this is something I really don’t like,” says the Guangzhou-born actor.
“That’s the reason why we don’t have wedding photos. He gets very annoyed when a photographer is trying to direct him, saying ‘Oh put your arm around her, look at each other lovingly’,” laughs Joanne.
“To me the most touching moments are not the ones that you need to choreograph,” counters Yuwu. “It should almost be like a documentary. You should just capture the interaction between the couple, not create a moment for them.”
Ups and Downs
Life in their household is apparently like this – real, relaxed, and relatively normal. Even their fights are mundane by celebrity standards. They argue about not spending enough time together, the kids, their workload; issues that any regular couple face on a day-to-day basis; but yes, they do argue.
“Honestly, if I’m reading a magazine and all a couple has to say is how things are fine and things are wonderful, I wouldn’t believe them. It just an image they want to project,” says Yuwu. “If I was part of a couple reading that, I would think there was something wrong with my marriage. Why is everybody so happy? Is my marriage a failure? The truth is marriage takes work, don’t be afraid of admitting this.”
[QI YUWU] IS MY BEACON OF LIGHTJOANNE PEH
For Joanne, a life already bursting at the seams with acting, directing, parenting two kids, and running her own filmic arts enrichment programme with The Dimple Loft, is exponentially more complicated because she does most of it alone. Yuwu has been based in China since 2018, flying back to Singapore as and when he can.
“It hasn’t been easy because being apart means there’s always going to be challenges whether it be finding the time to be together, saying something that could lead to a misunderstanding, readjusting into a routine with the children,” explains the
“There are times when I’ve felt like a single parent but in a way, it’s also accelerated our communication. Whenever there’s a problem, we never sweep it under the carpet. We’ll always talk it through because ultimately, we want this marriage to work.”
Part of making their union stick has meant learning each other’s love language, referring to a tool that has helped couples decode the many ways love can be expressed for over 25 years.
“My love language is words of affirmation, I’m quick with compliments and encouragements,” quips Joanne, whereas Yuwu ponders awhile before answering, “Mine is physical touch and also acts of service and…”. “Quality time,” Joanne finishes for him, causing them to break into another laugh.
“In truth, we’ve always been focused on the relationship first. Children second. Because I think eventually we are the ones who are going to grow old together and I always say that he’s the one that will be holding my hand when my kids are holding onto somebody else’s hand. He’s my beacon of light. So this, what we have, is what we have to work on and always be building upon.”
The interview wraps up as the last strings of Rod Stewart’s All for Love play out, and fittingly the song’s title sum up the couple best because they’re doing all they can, all for love.
Photos: Joel Low, assisted by Alfie Pan
Art Direction: Barbara Koh
Stylist: Martin Wong
Hair: Nigel Woo/Passion Salon
Makeup: Clarence Lee, using Bobbi Brown
Location: Rose Marie Suite/Goodwood Park Hotel
This article first appeared in the February 2020 issue of The Singapore Women’s Weekly.