Taiwanese TV host/model Janet Hsieh believes everyone should be proud of their appearance and personality.
“Have your own personality. Be yourself and never try to imitate others. Everyone is special in their own way and we can attain our dreams, if we have faith in ourselves,” said Hsieh, 37, during a telephone interview recently.
In the early 2000s, the model struggled with her body image and battled clinical depression and binge eating disorder. Hsieh was unhappy with her body and felt the she needed to lose weight to look even more beautiful.
“In the modelling world, everyone is skinny and beautiful. My job depended on how I looked. To stay thin, I literally starved, consuming only tea eggs and liquids. It lasted for many years. It was destructive and I went into depression,” recalled Hsieh.
In 2003, the Texas-born Hsieh sought medical help and slowly got back on her feet again. She took a break from her modelling career and decided to explore the world. Her travels took her to France and India – two countries in different continents with rich heritage and culture.
“Through travel, I got to meet people from different cultures, all over the world. It’s exciting to connect with people from different backgrounds, religions and culture. I realised travelling was something close to my heart. That’s what led me to hosting TV shows,” said the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate who speaks Spanish, French, Mandarin and Taiwanese.
In 2005, she auditioned for Fun Taiwan, a new Discovery Travel and Living TV programme exploring Taiwan. Since then, she has been a familiar face on travel shows, Fun Asia and Fun Taiwan Challenge.
As a TV host, Hsieh has managed to capture viewer’s attention with her laidback approach and good-natured spunk. Over the years, she’s moved on to acting, having starred in Taiwanese movies such as Traversal 101 (2013) and Big Brother Ohaev (2007), and lending her voice as Anna for Disney’s Frozen (Taiwan Mandarin version). Since 2015, she has ventured into Taiwanese TV drama series including Aries, Leo and Golden Darling.
Last year, she also signed on to star in Taiwan TV drama series High 5. It is about an underdog basketball team who makes it to the finals of a tournament under the leadership of a newbie female coach, played by Hsieh. Taiwanese heartthrobs Luo Hong Zheng, Simon Lian and Johnny Lu star in the series, directed by Lin Zi Ping. The series is available on dimsum.my.
Hsieh accepted the role because the script strikes a good balance between drama and sports. Plus, it gave her the chance to play slam dunk basketball, one of her favourite sports.
“I was a basketball player in high school. Having the skills to play basketball gave me the added advantage on screen. I also liked the script, involving a female coach tasked with training an all-boys basketball team.”
While Hsieh seemed upbeat about the role, she admitted acting is far more challenging than hosting. The plus point about hosting is she is able to use her intuition and be herself on screen, unlike acting which requires her to get into character and make each role more convincing.
“As an actress, I have to slip into different characters, dig deep into different emotions and translate those feelings on-screen. It takes a lot of practise and determination to nail it right each time. To improve my sports knowledge, I watched basketball videos on YouTube and sport-themed movies,” said Hsieh who trained under Taiwan’s national badminton coaches for the acting role.
Besides acting and hosting, Hsieh has shown her prowess as an author too. With her experiences as an avid traveller, it seemed like a natural progression to venture into travel writing.
Since 2010, she has published six books including Travelling With 100 Toothbrushes, Backpack To The Future and Janet’s Funtastic English. Last year, she released Starting At The End, co-written with her husband, British actor George Young, 37. It shares their conflicting stories on how they met, their travels to Texas and Argentina, and their wedding in Antarctica in 2015.
“On each trip, I learn new things and gain new life experiences. These books are a culmination of life experiences through my travels.
“Travel the world, accept new challenges and exude confidence. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Explore different avenues and enjoy the journey.”
With so much zeal for life and adventure, Hsieh is certainly one who can stay resilient through any challenges.
High 5 is available on dimsum.my. Dimsum offers Asian content in high-definition quality across five concurrent devices, with an option to download for offline viewing. Currently available in Malaysia and Brunei, dimsum.my subscription is priced at RM15 a month. All new members enjoy a 30-day free trial. Download the dimsum app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store or stream directly from dimsum.my. Dimsum also supports Chromecast and AirPlay to cast onto TV. To sign up, go to dimsum.my.