Taking a break from the spa

Should former television actress Jazreel Low ever want to make her comeback in show business, she would have no lack of offers.

But the 46-year-old is not returning to the scene beyond her supporting role in the new movie Taxi! Taxi!, which she took part in because she identifies with its uplifting message.

"Producers have offered me roles, but nothing really interested me. Taxi! Taxi! is the first movie script that made me actually go beyond just reading it," she says. "I even called up the director to meet him in person to talk more about the movie, and I'd never done that before."

Directed by Kelvin Sng, the film is about a science professor (played by Gurmit Singh) who starts driving taxis after losing his laboratory job and what he learns from another cabbie, a rowdy Ah Beng character (Mark Lee).

Low, who plays the professor's wife, says: "The story is all about how people learn to adapt to changes. There are some points in everyone's life where you face challenges. I like how the story is about trying to move on and finding success in a different direction." She has had to do the same.

One of the toughest times in her life was shortly after she left showbiz in 1994, when her very first business venture "crumbled".

After the failure of the music production house she set up with her then-boyfriend, Malaysian singer-songwriter Eric Moo, it took her more than two years to get "back on my feet again", she says.

"I had to start all over from scratch to build my credibility as a business person and it was very difficult. At that point in my life, I thought the production house was my whole world, so it took me quite a while before I realised that I had to move on."

She then opened a bridal boutique in Tanjong Pagar before selling that off to concentrate on running the spa division of Asmara Lifestyle, a company that also runs restaurants including The Green Room Cafe in Bishan Park II.

The spa business was set up by some of her friends, she says, who had called her up to "help out with marketing".

"As I gradually came to know how the spa operations worked, I became more and more interested and involved in it. Then the original partners left, so I bought over the shares," she says.

At present, she co-owns four spas, including Aramsa The Garden Spa in Bishan Park II and The Spa Artisan at The Fullerton Hotel, employing about 100 workers. Not surprisingly, she is much too busy managing her spa business these days to be acting full-time again.

She tells Life!: "I enjoyed getting back into acting briefly, working with a film crew and the director, but I treated it like a mini-holiday away from my usual work. I'll treat the acting thing as a hobby and will do it only if the right projects come along."

Then there is the time she needs to spend with her daughter Michelia, nine, who was diagnosed two years ago with the learning disability dyslexia.

Low says: "My daughter can speak very well and is very smart, and when I used to read her bedtime stories when she was a toddler, she could 'read' them back to me. Only later on did I realise that she wasn't actually reading the stories to me - she was just memorising the story.

"When she started Primary 1, that's when I discovered that she couldn't really spell or write. Ever since she was diagnosed with the condition, I've realised I need to stop travelling so often and spend more time at home with her."

Michelia, a Primary 4 pupil at Singapore Chinese Girls' School, is Low's child with husband Michael Teh, the owner of a landscaping business.

She found out only last year that mummy was an actress. With a chuckle, Low says: "Some friends told her that I used to be on TV. I didn't think I needed to tell her because it was all so long ago."

She was the second runner-up in the inaugural Star Search competition in 1988, organised by the local TV network that is now MediaCorp. Zoe Tay and Aileen Tan, who are still acting, were the champion and first runner-up, respectively.

More than two decades after that competition, Taxi! Taxi! director Sng, 38, still remembers Low in it. He says: "She may not be the most beautiful actress, but I had the best impression of her during Star Search all those years ago, even more than Zoe or Aileen. I used to watch her shows on TV during secondary school and I really liked her. There is something about her that is very charming and elegant, which was what I wanted for the role."

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Taxi! Taxi! is now showing in cinemas.


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