Thousands of girls would kill to be in her shoes but model-cum-actress Lee Ann d'Alexandry d'Orengiani would give up her career tomorrow if she were no longer in such demand. The 17-year-old, known simply as Lee Ann, was chosen by heart-throb Leon Lai Ming early this year to be his 'girlfriend' in a mobile phone commercial; and her punchline in the ad - 'Am I very stubborn?' - has become one of the most quoted in Hong Kong. D'Alexandry d'Orengiani also stars in recently released local movies, Love Generation Hong Kong and Tricky King. With so much exposure, it is little wonder fans gasped when she was quoted in an interview recently as saying she plans to quit the celluloid world in two years. But D'Alexandry d'Orengiani claims she has been misunderstood. 'People got me wrong when I said that,' she says. 'I plan to give myself two years, true, but if I had the opportunity to stay longer, of course I'd stay.' Pointing out the short shelf life of many film actors, she says pride will ensure she bows out of movies before she becomes a has-been. This comes from someone who was 'spotted' by a talent scout in Singapore only a year ago and whose girl-next-door looks landed her two commercials in the blink of an eye. But she had no idea a career was beckoning at the time and still feels uncomfortable at the thought of being an actress. 'Look at me, my acting is so bad and I can't speak Cantonese,' she says. 'But maybe one day, when I have more experience, I could do films by Wong Kar-wai [Fallen Angels and Chungking Express]. Acting takes time.' Born in Singapore to a French father and a Chinese mother, D'Alexandry d'Orengiani moved to France with her family at the age of two. During her 11 years living on a farm there, she developed a passion for ballet and won scholarships to schools in Europe. Her last stop was the prestigious Royal Ballet School in London. But after her A-Levels, she decided to move east. So she packed her things and moved back to Singapore, where she stayed with relatives she was meeting for the first time. 'I admit I was irresponsible to leave England just like that, but I really enjoy travelling and I'm happy to be independent,' she says. 'Dancing was something that made my childhood special and was very precious to me. But I thought I'd done enough and it was time to move on.' Because she had moved around so much during her childhood, starting a new life was easy, she adds. That is not all she finds a cinch. 'The commercial with Leon was easy,' she says. 'There wasn't much acting in it because I'm a very stubborn person. I was just being myself.' But, she says: 'I'm not very sure if it suits me here.' In the same breath, she can also say: 'There's still a lot for me to learn in the business. So far, it's been quite fun.' Her interest in acting certainly has been piqued, though Chinese-speaking roles are a problem. 'My next big project is to learn Cantonese after I return to Singapore. I'm determined to break the barrier.' D'Alexandry d'Orengiani, whose voice is dubbed in both her movies, is keen to learn Cantonese not only to improve her movie prospects but so she can do interviews in Cantonese, instead of relying on interpreters. 'Sometimes, I read the newspaper and wonder: 'Did I say this?' But I don't blame the interviewers. I know the situation would be much improved if I could speak the language.' She says she is still not used to being treated like a star, which is why she plans to head back to Singapore after completing her obligations in Hong Kong. 'I can be a normal person [in Singapore],' she says. 'I don't have much privacy in Hong Kong. 'I feel very uncomfortable when people stare at me for doing ordinary things, like shopping in a supermarket. 'I'm used to being in the spotlight. But being in the spotlight is not always good. You sacrifice your freedom.' That outlook has meant that instead of painting the town red, she spends hours in her hotel room in between filming, press conferences and other public appearances. 'I read a lot. That's my favourite pastime,' she says. 'I like suspense, crime stories, science fiction or anything to do with the imagination. I'm definitely a dreamer. 'I'm happy to be in an imaginary world. Sometimes, after a day of work, I'm too tired to meet people. I need time for myself and I enjoy my loneliness. Every person has a cave where they can retreat and my cave is the imaginary world, the silence.' Despite beginning a career before many of her friends, she says: 'I keep telling them, if you can study, study. Don't be in a rush to work. I don't go out and have fun like I used to because I have to work.' Her foray into show business has also pushed her to grow up quickly, which seems to mean having a lot of worries. 'My head is stuffed with unnecessary thoughts,' she says. 'I know this is not good for my age, but I can't help it.' Having said that, however, D'Alexandry d'Orengiani is optimistic about her future. And she counts herself lucky to have come this far but says her story is not a fairy tale. 'When luck comes, I grab it,' she says. 'But if I don't work hard, I know it will slip through my hands.'