Vicki Zhao: "I am fated to be an actress"

Decked out in a figure-hugging orange bandage dress, Chinese actress Vicki Zhao padded across the carpeted floor of the lounge with feline grace, as throngs of cameramen jostled for a better shot of the international star at slimming firm Mary Chia's press event earlier this month.

Zhao had just been revealed as the company's brand ambassador and it was obvious why – she is their most famous client and had shed virtually all the weight she gained since giving birth to her daughter in April.

The actress was simply beautiful.

But if Zhao had stuck with her career plan, she would have become a teacher instead of the dazzling star she is today, albeit a distractingly good-looking teacher.

"I trained to be a teacher before, though I really hated to be a teacher. It is so boring!" the 34-year-old blurted, when I caught up with her in a spacious hotel suite after the press event.

Even at the time, however, people around her already knew she wasn't exactly cut out to be a teacher.

The doe-eyed actress revealed that she was quite the restless youth back in the day and was a real handful for her instructors.

"When I studied at the teaching college in China, my teacher told me 'Zhao Wei (Zhao's Chinese name), you should change your profession.'

"He said a teacher needs to behave in a very formal way. I was too mischievous. My teachers couldn't control me so he really could not trust me to discipline and care for other people," said Zhao with a giggle, pointing out that her teacher was happy for her when she decided to become an actress.

Zhao would eventually walk away from teaching and become an actress, appearing in big movies like Stephen Chow's "Shaolin Soccer" and John Woo's "Red Cliff" films.

She attributed it all to "fate".

"It (being an actress) is something I am fated to be. When I was young, I would think about doing different jobs but at some point, fate tells you that you need to do this," said Zhao.

She later offered an alternate explanation for her career choice.

"Maybe because other than acting, I haven't been successful doing anything else!" Zhao declared as she burst into laughter.

Anonymous actress

Whenever Zhao was not involved in a film project, the actress would always try to spend some time in Singapore, a country she described as being "quiet, idyllic with good air".

Zhao also adored Singapore because it is a place that is virtually devoid of paparazzi, which may have been why she decided to give birth to her daughter here.

"I find that Singapore is a great place for people in my line of work!" she said with a chuckle. "I hope Singapore remains paparazzi free."

"I really quite like staying in Singapore. I love wearing slippers to the supermarket for groceries, going to a restaurant to eat etc. [without paparazzi shadowing her]. Some people would say hello when they recognise me and sometimes shopkeepers even give me discounts!"

While Zhao loved the relative anonymity and privacy she had here, the actress admitted that she had no plans to follow in the footsteps of Chinese stars Jet Li and Gong Li and migrate to Singapore, though she said anything could happen in the future.

In the meantime, she is thinking about working on a movie in Singapore.

"Singapore has the funding and can probably afford inviting the best directors to shoot something. I hope there is a good movie for me to work on [in Singapore]," said Zhao, adding that she would jump at the chance if the material is suitable.

But doesn't being a mother mean she has less time for her acting pursuits?

"No. I don't think this [motherhood] has caused much changes in my life. I just feel it has brought me more happiness," she said thoughtfully.

The biggest change, noted Zhao, would probably be that her priorities are now a little different than before.

"Now, family is slightly more important than career.

"But when I do something I love to do, I sometimes forget!" said Zhao sheepishly.

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