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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Real Life "Ugly Betty": Vietnamese Model-turned-Actress Phi Thanh Van

Van, 25, has what a woman wants – a big bust, straight nose and an awesome look.

She has been to Europe and the US to work for modeling companies and appeared in Vogue Magazine.
The model-turned-actress believes without cosmetic surgery she would never have achieved stardom or married a successful man.
Thanh Nien Daily: You look very happy. Is the wedding last month the reason?
Phi Thanh Van: We held the wedding just to satisfy the Vietnamese custom. We have lived happily together for several years.
My French husband, Thierry Blanc, has lived in Vietnam for 15 years and has many friends here.
He always tells me he loves the life here and would never leave the country. He is not afraid of the noise or pollution.
Any couple who live together for a long time become alike. Me too.
People say I am more like him everyday, from the sun-tanned skin to the Western make-up style and behavior.
But to tell the truth, I am still a traditional Vietnamese. I love cooking for my husband and consider cooking is very important for family happiness.

(click read more below to continue)

I also love the art of feng shui, which I have been learning for two years.
I arrange and decorate our house accordingly so that we can feel comfortable and achieve success.
After winning several honors as a supermodel, you revealed that you had spent almost all your teenage years in dance halls and then underwent bust and facial surgery to pursue a modeling career. Did you want to get it out in the open because you were afraid of your past being dug up?
I look back at the past with a calm mind.
I grew up in a wealthy family and usually found partners who were young overseas Vietnamese guys who had returned to their homeland for fun. They went to discos to show themselves off.
An immature girl like me was easily influenced. I was a naughty, playful girl until I met my present husband.
Now I am an established woman who dares to admit the past and to advise other teenagers to learn from my life.
Those who are self-indulgent and not as lucky as I am might wind up with a life in ruins.
Now that I am a celebrity and in the public eye, I should not hide the past, which people would soon discover.
I was brave enough to go through cosmetic surgery. There’s no point being scared to tell people that I became beautiful thanks to the surgery.
I accept I may even have to pay serious medical consequences for it.
How do you feel if someone asks you how much of your body is fake?
Some have even asked me more shocking questions like “Is any part of you real?” At first, I felt hurt.
But now it has become part of my life, so I just smile and show them the fake ones and tell them how much I paid to upgrade them.
Fake can never become real. But I esteem the fakes, which changed me into an attractive woman and helped me succeed.
It seems that you fear ugliness?
If I had lived in the countryside or not performed when I was small, I might have been content with what god gave me.
I started acting on stage when I was 12. I always played the sorcerer while my beautiful friends got the parts of queens and princesses.
As I got older I realized the stage was not a place for such an ugly duck like me.
After attending an acting class at Ho Chi Minh City’s Movie Association, I was asked to play a minor role in a film and I decided to pull out my two irregular teeth to make my face brighter.
In 2000 when I first walked on the catwalk the money I made was all spent on books about cosmetic surgery.
Three years later, I had my first operation – enlarging the breasts.
Since then, the other minor surgeries have been easy.
But will those who are not beautiful still get success?
It might be right for those who are business people. I am a model and want an acting career, I have no way other than being beautiful.
I did not have close friends when I was small because I was so ugly, it is a constant obsession.
In interviews with the media, you seem to talk in a shocking way. Do you think it will make you more famous?
I don’t aim to say shocking words.
I don’t have much free time to think of how to shock people to make me unforgettable.
I only tell them what I have been through. I say the truth.
You became famous for modeling. Now you say you don’t like this career. Do you mean you want to abandon all the benefits modeling has given you?
I am still working as a model. But I am straightforward enough to say I don’t like the models’ world. Movies and stage are my lifetime passion.
In the modeling world, discrimination is serious. A top model never makes friends with lesser models.
I like the friendship and honesty of a film crew where famous and little-known performers regard one another as a family.
For example, when I acted in the TV sitcom Co gai xau xi (Ugly girl), I received so much assistance from experienced and award-winning artists like Chi Bao and Ngoc Hiep.
I didn’t feel any gap between the seasoned actresses and the newcomers.

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