If you ever see Joanne Peh glide down a flight of ballroom stairs in a sparkly gold gown, it can feel a bit like a surreal moment. The dress hugs her toned frame like a second skin, and flutters like a chio bu’s hair in the wind. Part of us want to resent Joanne for spoiling the market (how dare she look like this after popping out two kids), but the 35-year-old is not here to make her fellow women feel bad. We are interviewing Joanne at an event for German medical aesthetics company Merz Aesthetics, where she was unveiled as a celebrity ambassador for their Ultherapy (a non-invasive skin treatment which uses ultrasound energy to stimulate collagen production in your skin and tighten it).
Fab as she may look, Joanne confesses to us that she actually feels bad about, er, looking good. “People look at [me] and they go like, ‘How come Joanne can slim down so fast after giving birth? Why doesn’t she look like she had two kids? I want to look like that.’ But they don’t realise that you can’t compare this way,” she avers.
Joanne is very candid with us about her struggles with motherhood, even if it doesn’t make a ’gram-worthy caption. She muses, “All that I’ve gone through — we don’t want to discourage people from having children so we don’t talk about these things [on social media]. But it happens, and I want to be responsible and encouraging in my posts and tell women, ‘Look, we’re here to support.’”
1 of 4Mum’s the word
But it helps to have a supportive husband like Qi Yuwu, with whom she shares a three-and-a-half year-old daughter nicknamed Baby Qi, and son Qi Didi, who’s almost two (the couple famously declined to reveal their kids’ real names or faces, except for peeks like this pic above). On top of telling us how she got through motherhood, Joanne also gives us a peek into what it’s like to be married to 715. And just ’cos Yuwu is a good cook, it naturally involves food.
2 of 4Yummy mummy
8 DAYS: How much work do you have to put in to look the way you do?
JOANNE PEH: Before I got married and had kids, I would work out every day. If I had to report for make-up at 7am, I’d wake up at 4am or 5am, even if I’ve slept only four hours, to do a short little combat session, enough to get me panting and perspiring. Back then I was quite crazy [about being in shape]. Three months before the Star Awards, I would work out like crazy to fit into my dress. There’s a foundation there, so after I gave birth, it was a lot easier for me to get back [in shape]. And I don’t drink or go partying. I have the occasional wine with a nice meal, but I don’t like the feeling of going home late and being hungover.
There are different treatments that you can do to enhance and look good [on the outside], but I think it’s also what’s inside that we sometimes forget. I’m kiasu about this, so I pay more attention to inner health. I think the emotional health and wellbeing came more intensely after I had kids. We go through that emotional rollercoaster. It’s the hormones talking. It’s only when you go through it that you realise this can be very real. The anxiety that new mums face is real.
Did you feel very anxious when you became a first-time mum?
I had a lot of anxiety. The fear of not knowing how to be a mother, and my baby not consuming enough milk. What happens if my child grows up and thinks I’m not a good mum? I had a lot of ridiculous and uncalled-for thoughts that would just come up. I suppose it was ’cos I was tired and didn’t have enough sleep and my body was still recovering from childbirth. A lot of irrational things go through your mind. It’s very important to have a support group. I have a friend who’s a mum of three teenage children. I call her my angel. She was the one who encouraged me when I had problems with breastfeeding and basically held my hand and told me it was all going to be okay.
3 of 4On the unglam side of motherhood
What was it like for you as a celeb mum to recover from childbirth in the limelight?
I went through childbirth, and it was not easy. You feel like crap, your hair is messy and you’re [damp] all the time from breastfeeding. You don’t feel beautiful. I felt awful about not being able to wash my hair during confinement. All this I’ve gone through — we don’t want to discourage people from having children so we don’t talk about these things [on social media]. But it happens, and I want to be responsible and encouraging in my posts and tell women, “Look, we’re here to support.” I’m passionate about this issue. Women feel compelled to get back into shape right after they give birth, and it’s really because of this celebrity thing. I feel bad sometimes about it ’cos of who we are and what we do.
When my friends want to go back to exercising immediately after giving birth I’d tell them, “No, no, no, you have to wait till your insides are healed.” People don’t realise it ’cos time flies, but it took me almost two years to get back to where I am now. It was not like, “Whoo!” the next day after giving birth. I read that for women, it can take up to three years to get back to where you were before.
I didn’t diet after giving birth. I ate a lot during my confinement ’cos I was nursing. I didn’t go back to exercising and I wasn’t concerned about losing weight. I wanted to nurse my health back. Imagine being pregnant for nine months. You just went through the most difficult thing in your life, which is labour, and you need time for your scar to heal.
4 of 4Forever young
Do you think motherhood makes you young, or does it age you?
I feel young at heart. I’ve always been passionate about children’s education and being in touch with children’s stuff because of the business I embarked on. [Ed: Joanne started a children’s story-telling enrichment programme called The Dimple Loft last year.] Being exposed to things like cartoons and animations brings me back to a time when I was carefree and didn’t have much to worry about. But I also have the added maturity of wanting to look after myself more so I can be there for my children. Motherhood doesn’t have to age you. It depends on how you look at it. I have embraced it and I think I’ve gained a lot of new inspiration as a result of it.