Named after the popular ’70s american sitcom I dream of jeannie, jeannie mai doesn’t need magic to change your life – just a closet of fashionable clothes and an amazing sense of style. Eena houzyama gets up close and personal.
I first met TV personality Jeannie Mai, who is of Vietnamese and Chinese descent, last year during her first visit to Malaysia for the launch of makeover show How Do I Look? Asia. We managed to have a quick chat over breakfast just before the press conference began. Jeannie, who was born in San Jose, California, asked me how I tied my head scarf and made me promise to teach her one day. Fast forward to May 2016 and the Her World team is in Singapore for an exclusive cover photoshoot with Jeannie, who is in town for the second season of How Do I Look? Asia. I’m sitting with the other media from Southeast Asia when Jeannie spots me and points straight at me, saying with a big smile, “I see familiar faces.” I could not help but grin from ear to ear throughout the press conference. Right after, we have a quick chat and once again, she brings up my head scarf: “You have to teach me how to tie your head scarf.” I couldn’t believe that after a year, she clearly recalls where we last met and what we talked about. That’s how ‘real’ Jeannie is. Who you see on-screen is exactly who you meet off-screen. And let’s be honest, not many celebrities carry the same persona off- and on-screen.
As Jeannie carries on with her press interviews, the team moves backstage to prepare for our cover photo shoot, feeling nervous, excited and a little anxious. After just over an hour, Jeannie walks in wearing a comfy bathrobe and bedroom slippers. We let out a sigh of relief when she admires the clothes and accessories we’ve laid out for her.
We were worried she would be uncomfortable squeezing into the tiny makeshift changing room, but she assures us all is fine. In fact, it doesn’t take long for Jeannie to get into the mood in front of the camera. Once we've got a few shots, Jeannie goes to her trailer for a quick makeup and hair change, and I take this chance to chat with her.
HW: Actress Wanda Sykes played a role in building your career. Have you played the ‘Wanda’ role for someone else?
Jeannie: “I would say that How Do I Look? Asia allows me to give that Wanda Sykes moment to anybody who wants to take it. When Wanda opened the door to my now-agent’s office, I could have just done five minutes of clever, witty chat but never follow through the year after in order to really make it like I have. So, for me, my Wanda Sykes moment is giving women the chance to see themselves more clearly. Out of the three days we spend with them, about two-and a-half days go to the psychology part (of the transformation). Only half a day is spent on the physical makeover.”
HW: Who was your style inspiration when you were growing up?
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