Actress and ballet dancer Thanh Mai is a business woman and television presenter of such shows such as Suc song moi (New vitality) and Phong cach nu hoang (Queen's Style). She talks to Viet Van about her varied life and what keeps her passionate.
Thanh Mai was born in the northern moutainous province of Son La, but she moved to HCM City when she was just six years old. Mai experienced a hard childhood, and started working at the age of 10. It was only after she joined the HCM City Conservatory that she was able to dedicate all her time to studying.
She graduated from the Conservatory in 1992 and began her career as a ballet dancer, later becoming a fashion model and actress.
Inner Sanctum: How did you begin to work as a presenter?
It was actually accidental. In 2000, I was invited to present a show when I was in America working on my thesis for a Master's degree in business management. At first, I hesitated, but then I accepted and started to become familiar with this job.
Inner Sanctum: Some people said your life was too hard, is that right?
Looking at it from another angle, my life was too lucky. Throughout my life, I've learnt a little bit from each job. On my course at the HCM City Conservatory, the first course held after Southern Viet Nam's Liberation in 1975, there were 20 students but only seven saw it through to the end. After graduating, I performed for the Sai Gon Pop Music Troupe. Luckily, fashion shows were flourishing then, and I was invited to become a model.
Then the movie career came to me also by chance.
As for business, normally 30 per cent of businesses fail within the first two years. My beauty salons managed to survive and they remain profitable.
Inner Sanctum: What do you hope for most in life?
I always hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
Inner Sanctum: But do you often feel tired from giving 100 per cent in all of your ventures?
Being a businessperson is always like walking on a tightrope. Today I don't have to be stressed by life's pressure like in the years around 1998. Recently, I received a letter from a friend, who wrote "A daring person may not live a long life. But a cautious person will live a poor life."
Inner Sanctum: Do you spend a long time deciding your outfits?
I am a perfectionist. I always prepare carefully and know what to check in order to perfect my appearance.
Inner Sanctum: You are beautiful and very intelligent. As heaven gave you many blessings, does it take anything from you in return?
Nobody's life is perfect.
Inner Sanctum: What character trait of yours are you most proud of?
I know how to recognise what is right and what is wrong, and I have both the energy and will to achieve my goals.
Inner Sanctum: And perhaps you want to achieve many goals?
If heaven let me live for a hundred years, I would still want to have more things. For example, I want to study one more field. When I grow older, I want to be a director. I think right now, I still don't have enough experience in life.
Inner Sanctum: Which of yourself do you not feel satisfied with?
I am not sastisfied with many things. I am harsh on myself but often make concessions to others. Sometimes, I am also timid.
Inner Sanctum: If you could return to 20 years ago, what would you change?
I close my eyes and can remember how my path was so rough and thorny. I used to learn how to dance ballet for six hours a day, my body was damp with sweat and my legs hurt. The time in the Conservatory was very tiring but I knew that without knowledge I could not do anything. I had a hard-working life, but if I had the choice to do it all again, I would still throw myself into it.
Inner Sanctum: What still haunts you from your childhood?
I had a hard childhood, my only toy was a red plastic fish that I played with all across my village. Then I made friends with the wild grass and sugarcanes. But I think a life of deprivation makes people hungry for success - my child today has too much, so I am afraid she will lack hunger.
Inner Sanctum: What in life is most important to you?
Happiness. When working, I always enjoy myself and feel happy. If someone gives me something, I don't feel as happy as I would if I had earned it through hard work.
Inner Sanctum: What are your favourite hobbies?
If I have a short time to rest, I love reading books, especially books about economics, literature, science and spiritual matters. When I have a long time to rest, I love travelling like a bacpacker. Sometimes I love to fly to a strange land, then hire a car and visit the remote and isolated places to feel the tastes and colours of local life. — VNS