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Sunday
Jun252017

Woman of many talents

BEING a celebrity certainly has its perks. You get to appear on TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. Emceeing gigs offer good cash flow. And everyone wants you to be at their glitzy events. But fame can be fickle. So what do you do in the long run?

That’s a question every celebrity faces. Many seem to like to try their hand at public relations. Perhaps being familiar with the media, they feel this is a logical area to go into.

Singapore-born Jojo Struys who’s made Malaysia her home, could have gone into PR but decided instead to make full use of her TV experience and personal interest in wellness to start new ventures. She talks to Savvy about how she ended up in Malaysia, how she co-founded her TV production company, and her ventures in the wellness industry.

YOU’RE ORIGINALLY FROM SINGAPORE AND LOOK ASIAN BUT HAVE A EUROPEAN-SOUNDING SURNAME. WHAT’S YOUR ETHNIC BACKGROUND?

Both my parents are Eurasian. My mum is half Chinese-half Scottish and my dad has a Dutch, Asian and French background.

HOW DID YOU END UP IN MALAYSIA?

I had just graduated with a business degree from Curtin University in Australia and decided to do some travelling. When I was passing through Malaysia, I attended a casting for a cameo role in the sitcom, Kopitiam. I thought I could do this to earn some pocket money but I ended up getting a major role in the series. One thing led to another and I stayed on and eventually I started calling Malaysia “home”.

YOU’VE DONE A LOT OF THINGS IN SHOW BUSINESS. SUMMARISE YOUR CAREER THUS FAR

I started off with modelling and acting in Singapore, then did some acting, TV hosting and radio hosting in Malaysia. My experience in writing and producing eventually led to the founding of my own production house, Kyanite TV, with my husband, Michael. I also have a wellness business.

WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO BUSINESS AND WHAT’S THE SECRET TO YOUR SUCCESS?

I knew from the start that modelling and acting were short-term. As a business degree holder, I always assumed I would start my own business. So after I gained some industry experience, I decided to form my own production house. Doing the necessary research and preparation before embarking on a business venture is important. We wanted to produce high quality programmes so we spent years learning about the content game, travelling to content and media trade fairs all over the world: France, the US, UK, UAE, you name it.

HOW’S KYANITE TV COMING ALONG?

We started small. In the beginning, Michael and I did almost everything ourselves, from writing and client servicing to producing and directing. And where appropriate, I would host the shows. We were a real start-up but we’ve come a long way since.

These days, we do work for Mediacorp Singapore, Astro, Go Asean etc. We’ve done cooking shows for the Asian Food Channel and reality programmes like Miss Universe Malaysia. We have also ventured into documentaries for international distribution. We recently did a high-end documentary series called Frontier Borneo for Discovery Channel Asia/Animal Planet. It’s the largest co-production deal between Malaysia and Singapore, slated for global distribution.

ANY NEW AREAS KYANITE TV WILL BE VENTURING INTO?

With the world going more digital, we’re developing more content for online consumption. We have started venturing into Virtual Reality as well. Our partner for this is an expert in VR. He even has a column on VR trends in Forbes Asia.

HOW BIG IS YOUR STAFF?

We used to have 45 people when we were also handling animation but we have since scaled down because we’re focusing on live action programmes again. We don’t need a big team for this because when we shoot documentaries or travel shows, we hire specialists and some of them are not even based in Malaysia. So we hire the right team of people for every project.

IT’S OBVIOUS YOU LOVE THE CREATIVITY ASPECT OF BUSINESS BUT WHAT ASPECTS OF BUSINESS DO YOU DISLIKE?

I like the creativity and brainstorming sessions and the excitement of coming up with new ideas but I do not enjoy the administrative aspects of running a business because it can really kill my creativity. So, I’ve pulled back a bit on that and am now spending more time on my wellness endeavours.

DO YOU PRODUCE THE WELLNESS CONTENT YOURSELF?

I generate all the content myself. I research, write, produce and host the content. I’m also about to start shooting online how-to videos so that people can learn yoga and health tips wherever they are.

DO YOU STILL DO PERSONAL APPEARANCES AND HOSTING?

I still make appearances and host events, although what I prefer to be doing most is teaching people something. For example, when I taught yoga to 50 women in Sephora Malaysia for International Women’s Day, that was such a blast!

WHAT KIND OF CORPORATE WELLNESS WORKSHOPS DO YOU DO BESIDES YOGA?

I teach workshops in breathing techniques to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as classes in movement meditation. As a HRDF accredited corporate trainer, I also hold workshops and management retreats for various multi-national companies on stress management, communication skills and employee motivation. A happier workforce is a more productive one.

DO YOU ONLY TEACH CORPORATE WELLNESS CLASSES?

No, I like teaching to members of the public too and I’ve just started my own yoga studio for that. It’s something I’m very excited about. I find it very fulfilling.

DO YOU SPEND A LOT OF TIME ONLINE?

Well, if I don’t need to be online, I won’t even open my laptop. But there are times when I spend the whole day in my bedroom researching workshops and training sessions. I also like to watch videos online especially Ted Talks on topics I’m interested in. When I’m writing an article,

I can literally spend hours researching the topic I’m writing about. So, there’s a time and place for technology. It’s important to strike a balance. If I’m not researching online, you’ll find me out and about, enjoying nature.

ANY WELLNESS TIPS FOR US?

Try waking up earlier in the morning —I get up at 5am — so that you don’t feel so rushed. Also, don’t check your mobile phone the moment you get up because it drains willpower, which is at its strongest when you rise. When you wake up, it’s the perfect time to do a bit of exercise, engage in creative thinking or meditate — whatever it takes to get you into the right state of mind to start your day.

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