Much Thanks to Vivienne Pal, for her thorough research and open mind when conducting this interview. :)
Monday November 3, 2008
Beauty in full bloom
By VIVIENNE PAL
There’s not been much news about Miss Malaysia/Universe 2004 Andrea Fonseka since she became the latest Malaysian ambassador for Marie France, but the model-cum-actress has been busy.
ANDREA Fonseka greets me briskly at the front door, her head cocked to one side as she slips on a pretty pink earring. She looks fabulous in a simple print halter dress.
“Sorry for making you wait a bit,” she apologises as she ushers me from the porch into the spacious hall of her family home in Taman OUG, Kuala Lumpur.
Busy bee: Andrea Fonseka is Marie France ambassador, actress and model.
The 24-year-old was back in Malaysia for 10 days to celebrate her father’s 70th birthday and spend time with family.
“Would you like a drink? Coke Lite?” she offers over her shoulder.
I am quite floored, I confess. Andrea is hotter in person than in the Marie France print ads: tall, lean and long-limbed. Her long brown hair is perfectly in place, and her make-up is flawless, accentuating her sharp features; she laughs easily, showing off perfect white teeth and a hint of a dimple on her left cheek.
Well, if you don’t already know, the former Miss Malaysia/Universe has been riding high. She’s signed lucrative modelling contracts, appeared on the covers of several magazines, hosted a number of shows and starred in various dramas and commercials in Singapore – and, in the process, making her detractors and rumour mongers eat their words (there was talk that she’d “run away” because she could not face the embarrassment of being a large-sized beauty queen).
“I’d go further than Singapore if I really wanted to run away, wouldn’t I?” she sighs, rolling her eyes.
And the reason for being in Singapore?: To read Law at the National University of Singapore (NUS). "I got accepted to study in Perth and Britain, but Singapore offered the most cost-effective, value-for-money degree, especially after dad had put my sisters through higher education in Britain and Australia. I’ve been here ever since because a contract with the Singapore bursary for my education required me to work in Singapore for three years upon graduation,” she says.
In spite of being more recognised in Singapore than in Malaysia, Andrea is happy.
Although it may seem to the outsider that her life has been largely defined by her win in the beauty pageant in 2004 and her appointment as slimming treatment centre Marie France ambassador last year, Andrea’s move to the island city has also had a big impact on her life.
“Life has been busy and fun. I’ve finally graduated; I’m done with school. It’s been a comfortable life so far,” says the actress-model with a disarming grin as she folds her 1.76m frame into a more comfortable position on the couch.
Now that school’s out, she’s been living the dream and doing what she has always loved – showbiz.
“I’ve always wanted to act and sing,” she says, confessing that she studied Law to please her father, Malaysian Kennel Association (MKA) licensed specialist judge and former president Datuk Dr C.G.A. Fonseka.
Juggling school and being the face of Marie France has been hectic and Andrea’s portfolio includes – even back then – hosting ESPN’s Score Today, appearing as briefcase babe No.10 in the Deal or No Deal (Singapore) game show and co-hosting Live The Dream, a live TV singing contest with MTV VJ Utt and Michelle Chia. She has also been acting, starring initially in bit parts in Maggi & Me and Parental Guidance before landing major roles in Housemates, the Channel 5 drama En Bloc and her first feature film ever, The Carrot Cake Conversations which will be premiering on Thursday in Singapore.
All this, alongside having appeared on numerous covers, including FHM Singapore, and winning top spot in FHM Singapore’s 100 Sexiest Woman for 2007 and 2008, making her the first repeat winner. Incidentally, she was also chosen to be FHM Malaysia’s 100th issue covergirl.
“Woohoo! I’m so pleased that ‘Malaysia Boleh’ in Singapore!” she cheers. Amazing, though, that she was able to juggle both work and studies.
“Ha, ha, I remember how my mum was, like, ‘Andrea, are you sure you’re in school?’ But, yes, I’m a workaholic. I get it from dad, who always puts in 110% into everything he does,” she chuckles.
At the moment, Andrea is experiencing a mix of excitement and anxiety on her soon-to-be-released movie, directed by Michael Wang.
Andrea plays Ruth, a prostitute longing to be Singapore’s first blues singer, whose path converges with that of three strangers stranded in Singapore two days before Christmas.
“I did some research – spoke to friends who knew, and went to Geylang with Michael to speak to some of the ladies of the night. I’m very nervous because I’m not sure if I did a good job. Part of me hopes I didn’t so I can improve – if you do a good job from the start, then where’s the room for improvement, right?” she muses.
“Frankly, even if I ‘bombed’ in this movie, it’d be fine. I’ll just learn from my mistakes and do better next time,” she says.
Much as her success is due to her hard work, Andrea would be the first to admit that she would not be where she is today without Marie France. “When Marie France approached me to undergo their treatments, I saw it as a great opportunity to slim down the right way. Marie France is responsible for where I am now – absolutely! If they hadn’t given me the endorsement, then I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been very blessed. FHM Singapore put me on the cover, then Mediacorp ‘found’ me and the rest is history,” admits the Virgo.
If you’re curious, Andrea currently weighs about 59.5kg.
Flower power: Andrea and her mother, Datin Josephine Fonseka, share in her father Datuk Dr C.G.A. Fonseka’s passion – orchids.
“I have a contract with Marie France to maintain my weight at about 60kg – which I do effortlessly! I eat four square meals a day; I have breakfast, lunch, foursies (tea time) and dinner. I don’t take supper unless I really cannot tahan, and then I’ll cook Maggi mee – hey, if I’m gonna eat after 7pm, I might as well go all the way right?”
But like any other girl, Andrea has her vices, too.
“I have a serious Diet Coke addiction,” she admits. “I need to drink more water.”
“There was a time, not too long ago after I got out of a relationship when my weight plummeted to 57kg. I scared myself when I saw my ribs showing; I looked so unhealthy! I decided to do something about it, and now I eat as much as I want. I go back to Marie France once or twice a month and tell them to hit me with it,” she shares, referring to the slimming treatment.
Andrea says she doesn’t work out but has been toying with the idea of getting a gym membership.
“Maybe I’ll try getting a personal trainer or joining a gym by November. I want to be healthy,” she contemplates.
Meanwhile, what keeps her active is the constant walking from her apartment to Orchard Road – to meet friends, do her hair and nails, and go shopping.
The real thing
Even the most envious of women would be loath to hate Andrea. And why should they, when the woman has remained friendly despite all the cruel jibes thrown at her. That she is intelligent just makes her more alluring.
Articulate and eloquent, she responds quickly and confidently, segues effortlessly from one topic to another and answers questions as frankly as possible. She demurs, however, when I ask if she’s seeing anyone new.
“Well, Paul is someone special and very dear to me. I don’t want to comment on the status, things are still very new, but I’m very thankful that he’s come into my life.”
Family meal: Andrea (right) with her parents, sisters (Lena, left; Adeline, second from left; and Natasha; second from right), and nephew, Lucas.
Not willing to comment further on the matter, we quickly move on to an important aspect of showbiz – beauty.
“It’s very tiring to look beautiful,” she confesses. “It’s not really about vanity – even though I admit I’m vain and that vanity is necessary in this industry – but it’s about being presentable. I call it an occupational hazard.”
Surprisingly, Andrea’s daily beauty routine is practical and her choice of facial care products, not too taxing on the wallet.
“My mother taught me this: would my skin suffer so much from not using expensive products, if the day should come that I can no longer afford them? I’m sure the expensive stuff works, but I believe that if the affordable ones work as well, then why not use them?” she says, repeating the counsel of her mother Datin Josephine Fonseka, a former beauty queen.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the health of your skin. Still, different strokes for different folks,” she reflects, adding that she consumes healthy portions of vegetables and fruits. For an instant boost to particularly tired skin, however, Andrea recommends laser skin resurfacing – something she’s only done twice in the past two years.
As we speak, Andrea’s three-year-old nephew suddenly appears, bringing an instant smile to her face, and revealing her affectionate side. "I’m a very loving person – to a fault, according to my mum,” she quips, giving Lucas an affectionate cuddle.
Clearly, family is important to her. Following her father’s recent illness, Andrea had rejected a number of jobs to come home more often to be with them. Being home this time was particularly meaningful, especially since her three sisters Adeline, 35, Natasha, 27, and Lena, 26, are all back, too.
Adeline and Natasha, both human resource managers, currently reside in London while Lena, a pharmacist, has been living in Perth for the last four years. “I’m a daddy’s girl. I’m close to mum too, but in a different way. My mum had three other girls before me, so I guess I’m like the ‘son’ my dad never had. We talk about sports and movies and we have an unspoken respect for each other. I still hold my dad’s hand when we go out sometimes, and people give us dirty looks,” she sniggers. “Ultimately, my family has always been there for me; we’re very close-knit. When I’m home, I feel my life is richer.”
But she craves time on her own, too – to rest and reflect.
“Most of my ‘me’ time is late at night, like when I was up till 4am this morning just randomly surfing YouTube. I enjoy chilling on my own, like having my favourite whisky at my balcony.
“I question myself, having come this far, am I more at peace? Does my life feel fuller? I’ve made it a point to spend more time with my friends and family, and the fact that I have more than one true friend just shows me how blessed I am,” she reflects.
Having friends and family around her has kept her grounded; Andrea is happy enough being her own person despite the celebrity status.
“It’s nice to be recognised for being good-looking but, at the same time, the industry can make you feel like a product. But have I changed? No, I’m very much myself – I don’t pretend to be an angel or anything I am not,” she stresses.
Presently, the statuesque beauty is enjoying the relaxed pace before her schedule picks up again next year.
“I’ll be doing a bit of travelling, and then I’ve got a spectacular shoot with a magazine coming up soon. I’m also in the midst of negotiating a few gigs.”
And, just in case any local movie producers are reading, Andrea’s very open to the prospect of working in the local film industry.
“My Malay is very good, by the way,” she concludes with a giggle, as she heads to the dining table to join her family for a much-awaited lunch.