Actress Jeanette Aw is riding high in her career right now.
At last month's Star Awards, she took home seven trophies: Favourite Female Character, Favourite Onscreen Couple (with Zhang Zhenhuan for football drama World At Your Feet), Social Media Award, Regional Most Popular MediaCorp Artiste awards for Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia, as well as the All-Time Favourite Artist Award, given to stars who have bagged the Top 10 Most Popular Award 10 times.
Unlikely as it seems, this same actress has written and illustrated a picture book, Sol's World: Somebody To Love, about the journey of self-discovery of an insecure girl who feels all alone because no one understands her, and she is searching for answers.
But Aw sees glimpses of herself in the girl Sol.
She says: "When I first entered show business 15 years ago, I was unsure what it was all about. I didn't have it in mind that I want to do television. I did theatre studies and what I wanted to do was stage."
Thrown into the media spotlight as a newbie, she found it a challenge to deal with the scrutiny. She says: "You meet reporters, you are answering questions, you are thinking, 'What does he want to dig out of me?'
"I am quite comfortable where I am now, I'm quite confident in voicing my opinion. Over time, journalists give me space and respect this is the person that I am. I am quite private. When variety show producers ask if I want to go to my home to film something, I would tell them no."
The fiercely private Aw explains an unpleasant incident that happened over a decade ago that has resulted in her being so protective over her family and friends.
She says: " I took my friend along to a fashion event. This fashion columnist commented on my friend's appearance, my friend is not exactly the slim type and he was really criticising her. That's not the right thing to do. After all, she's not in show business, she's not there to be subjected to abuse through words."
Aw, who graduated from Theatre Studies in National University of Singapore in 2000, had planned to pursue a career in theatre. But she ended up on TV after taking part in a talent contest and signing on with the now-defunct broadcaster Mediaworks in 2000.
She has gone on to have a successful TV career, starring in hit series The Little Nyonya (2008) and blockbuster show business-themed drama The Dream Makers (2013). She will begin filming the sequel to The Dream Makers next month.
Now an A-list star on Channel 8 shows and managed by talent agency Artiste Networks, she tells Life! that her heart is still set on theatre. "My passion is for stage, it's where my roots lie. I enjoy the interaction with the audience, which varies with each performance. The beauty of stage is that it's real," says Aw, who admits she has tried to get herself involved in stage projects over the years, but always in vain.
"It was drama after drama and there wasn't really time to go back to stage."
She is also rediscovering another first love - drawing. The art student at Crescent Girls' School scored an A for the subject in the O levels.
"I realise that drawing and being able to create something actually makes me quite happy," she says.
Juggling a hectic filming schedule, she took about a year to finish the hand- painted drawings for Sol's World, which was launched earlier this month. She will be signing copies at Books Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City on Saturday.
Her artwork from the book and new drawings will be on display at the National Museum of Singapore from May 30 as part of children's exhibition Masak Masak 2015.
What seems to be missing from Sol's World is an acknowledgements page. In 2012, when she published her first book, Jeanette Aw: Definitions, she had thanked "Marcus", her Caucasian boyfriend of nine years.
Their relationship is still going strong, but do not expect to hear wedding bells soon. Aw explains: "It's not that I want to focus on my career. It's just a matter of time, and I go with my feelings, and (it's just not time yet)."
Sol's World: Somebody To Love is available at all major bookstores at $18.90.
Catch Jeanette Aw at a book signing session on Saturday at 2pm at Books Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City.
This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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