Jeanette Aw got emotional when she opened up about losing the Best Actress award for her performance in The Little Nyonya.
The 2008 period epic drama about a Peranakan family broke viewership records and is still one of the most-watched local dramas today. The actress, known for her youthful looks and impeccable style, was the star of the show. She played both the roles of mother and daughter Huang Juxiang and Yamamoto Yueniang. She was widely expected to win Best Actress at the Star Awards in 2009, but castmate Joanne Peh clinched the award instead.
Recently guesting on talk show Hear U Out, Jeanette was candid about the loss. She revealed to host Quan Yifeng, that she was indeed disappointed with the results and said, “I was heartbroken, but I still had to keep smiling.”
Swamped with interviews after the award show, she didn’t know how to react, but told herself that she didn’t win because she wasn’t good enough.
Jeanette also remembered calling media veteran Man Shu Sum to tell him that she didn’t get the award. Breaking down in tears at the memory, she said he told her that what’s more important than winning is to lose with grace, and that she had done well.
Although it was hard for her back then, a wiser Jeanette has gained perspective. “Now that I look back, I might not have won the award, but I received so much more in return. I got a lot of endorsement deals and I had many opportunities to travel overseas to promote The Little Nyonya. What I’ve learned from this is that when you lose something, in return, you’ll gain something of equal value or even more.”
She finally won the Best Actress award in 2016 for her role of Zhao Fei Er in The Dream Makers II. Playing a top actress who is diagnosed with depression, she called it the most difficult role she had ever played. She also felt the additional responsibility of not misrepresenting actual patients with depression.
She became immersed in the character during filming as she thought they had many similarities. Gradually, she also felt like she was descending into a world of darkness. She shared that she once broke down for no reason in the midst of a discussion with the director, and there were times when she could be laughing one moment, and crying the next on set.
These days, Jeanette is much happier. She surprised many with her decision to become a free agent a year after winning Best Actress. “You have to leave when you’re at the top so that people will remember you when you were at your best,” she said to Yifeng.
She is now focusing on doing behind-the-scenes work like directing, producing and scripting short films, and continues to act in both local and international productions. A certified baker, Jeanette also enjoys sharing recipes with her fans on Instagram. For her next acting project, she will be reuniting with her The Little Nyonya co-star Qi Yuwu. They will act in horror-adventure series The Ferryman – Legends of Nanyang which will be available on streaming platform iQiyi.