24 hours with Carol Cheng

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 12:00am

I'm a very normal person. I usually get up between 7.30am and 8am - no one gets up at that time in this business, it's unheard-of. I spend 15 to 30 minutes going through my

e-mails (people are astonished to receive e-mails from me at 7.30am), and read my newspaper. Then I get ready for the gym: breakfast is maybe a tuna sandwich with coffee.

I started to exercise and take good care of myself at about age 30: maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. If I don't have to work I go to the gym from Monday to Saturday, and take classes such as Pilates and step. Four times a month I'm at TVB and I can't go to the gym, so I feel bad.

This morning I had my nails done at about 10am and went home to pick up my make-up box and other things before driving to work. I don't want a chauffeur; I like driving. I like to control things - I'm a control freak. My home is like a hospital - minimalist. It's all white walls with nothing on them; clean. I think it's because my mother likes to collect things. If I put an object somewhere, I don't like it to be touched. If it is moved, I'll ask my maid, 'Did you touch it?' I'm a Virgo so it's in my character: everything to perfection. If there is a perfect spot for something it should stay here.

Today I got to TVB at 12.30pm, got made up, picked up my clothes, and had my hair done. My first interview for The Moment was at 2pm. I review the questions at home but the interviews are spontaneous so you can't go question by question. [The Moment] is easy to do, but I would like to break the format, to go in-depth.

I don't take myself too seriously, especially since turning 40. I'm just an ordinary person. I used to go to Mongkok to buy illegal VCDs of Japanese TV series - I'd go on Monday mornings and I was the first in when the stores opened at about noon. But I couldn't go on Saturdays when everyone else was there.

I saw Mick Jagger after the Rolling Stones concert in October. I went to the China Club and waited for the guy for one and a half hours, which normally I would never do. My assistant had a camera ready and I asked David Tang whether I could please have a photo with him [Jagger] and he obliged. He was so polite. That really made my day. I've been listening to their music since I was in primary six; you know, Satisfaction. They're icons, they're legends, they're the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world and they're in their 60s. Come on! I like all kinds of music, so I hope we'll

have Harbour Fest every year. We should have these top performers coming to Hong Kong and not listen to Canto-

pop all the time.

I watch a lot of DVDs now. I have cable TV, so I also watch the Discovery Channel and CNN. I don't necessarily watch Hong Kong programmes, so I don't know what my colleagues are doing. Some of the new ones come up to me and they're very polite and say 'Good afternoon' or whatever, but I don't know who's who.

If I don't have to go out during the week, I won't. My maid usually cooks simple meals for me; I love steak, chicken, seafood, but in small portions. I try not to eat too many carbohydrates in the evening. I don't like rice because it's so sweet; I prefer bread and pasta.

At this stage in life it's hard to build new friendships, so I hang out with colleagues I've known for a long time. I entertain at home sometimes: I don't know how to cook, but I know how to criticise. I am interested in food though; I like going out and enjoying a nice meal every weekend. I like Italian, French and Japanese food. On Saturday and Sunday we [Lui Fong, Cheng's partner of 11 years] have to be together; it's like a rule.

I try not to pig out because I'm tam leng (in love with beauty). I like to look my best all the time. After a certain age it's really hard to control your metabolism: I've been 58 kilos and that's fat for me - I'm 50 kilos now. I don't wear make-up when I'm not working; I'm 46 but I have no freckles at all. I hate putting on foundation and all that crap.

The last time I went to the movies was to see Kill Bill. Maybe Westerners think it's really cultish and cool; I've seen it all before. But it's by Quentin Tarantino and I wanted to know what he was up to. I'm not into Hollywood productions because for Asians there are so few good roles. Lucy Liu is really lucky.

I enjoy watching movies but I'm not looking to act in any now. In Hong Kong there aren't many good scripts, and even when there is one, like Infernal Affairs, it's done to death. And I don't want to do TV series because you have to work around the clock; I just can't do that any more. It takes the fun out of acting, and I don't have the strength to do it. I've been working too hard for the past 28 years - I just want to take things one at a time now.

Oh Carol! was okay because we started around 11am and ended around 8pm or 9pm, so I got a chance to sleep. I did Oh Carol! because it was an English-speaking sitcom and I never had the chance to speak English during my 28 years on Hong Kong TV - people didn't know I could speak it.

I like to work but it's not a major thing for me, so the

deal now is perfect. I have time to do other things, such as commercials and host awards. I don't want to be too busy. I don't want to upset my gym schedule. It's like a religion.

I'm in bed by midnight. I have a ritual before going to sleep: a facial that takes about 15 minutes and I also watch a bit of television; The Late Show With David Letterman then bed. I also love to read books and magazines, although Cantonese magazines are rubbish except for Ming Pao Weekly. I read anything from Vanity Fair to Vogue to People, and sometimes I read Time, depending on the cover. I'm now reading the book Leadership by Rudolph Giuliani, and because I had my picture taken with Mick Jagger I bought Rolling With The Stones [by Bill Wyman]. I'm not a good writer, but friends have said I should write an autobiography. I might do it in my 60s, when I can't go to the gym any more and life is boring.