Yue-Sai Kan knows what it means to make a time commitment. Whether it's hosting a television show, launching a cosmetics company or training a beauty pageant contestant, the 62-year-old Guangxi native devotes all her attention to a project. 'Once you commit to something, you put 100 per cent of your time into it because you believe in it,' she says. 'I can take a project on and really drum into it.'
Such intensity has propelled Kan from hosting two groundbreaking television shows, Looking East, in the United States and, One World, on the mainland, to founding China's first global cosmetics brand and her present role as national director of the Miss Universe China pageant. She has also written several best-selling books, created a line of Asian dolls, launched a retail store, produced Emmy award-winning documentaries and raised millions of dollars for charitable foundations. 'I choose to do whatever I feel like doing,' says Kan, who is single. 'It's not like I have a boss who tells me what to do. I say I want to write a book, so I write a book.'
Since becoming the pageant's national director in February, she has not had a single day off. 'The Chinese feel they are working all the time,' she says. 'The concept of time is so different. Maybe that's the reason why the economy in China grows so incredibly fast. They say to themselves, 'I take calls at any time and any hour'.'
The only time Kan, who has homes in Shanghai and New York, doesn't take calls is when she escapes to the Chiva-Som resort in Thailand. 'When I go there, it's like my world is grounded. It's my little paradise.'
Kan is vice-chairman of Yue-Sai Kan Cosmetics, chairman of the invitation committee of the Shanghai International Film Festival and head of the newly created Beauty Foundation that will support women's and children's initiatives in China.
The former concert pianist, who practised eight hours a day from the age of four, has good reason to remain committed. 'There's only a small difference between number one and number two, but that difference makes all the difference. It's divine, I call it. If you do something, you want to do it really well.'
'I've worn this watch for probably 25 years. I love it. And I was just told that Angelina Jolie wears one all the time too.'
'Because this watch is silver, it goes with all my silver jewellery. I think it makes you look so pulled together if your watch matches your jewellery. The minimum a woman should have is one gold watch and one silver watch.'