Jen Su on being a tv and radio presenter and travelista

_PAN9674_01 cropped1. How did you get into broadcasting?
When I was 4 years old, I made my debut on the “Today” show in America performing with a Chinese dance troupe. I then got into performing classical piano and to make a long story short — I was studying in Taiwan when I entered a national TV singing contest similar to “Idols”. After winning the contest and touring the world, the CEO of our affiliate TV network asked me to fill in for a Chinese-English bilingual news anchor — and I loved the news. After working as a news anchor in Bangkok and Hong Kong, I moved to South Africa where I was very fortunate to find work on our affiliate network Summit TV (now Business Day TV) and Sky News — as well as presenting entertainment on the 5 FM Gareth Cliff Morning show.

2.What are the hours that you work?
I work long hours but the good thing is that every day is different — I’m glad it’s not a 9-to-5 office job. I’m up at 4 am to get ready and over to 5 FM. I’m in the newsroom in the afternoon and late evenings and in the middle of the day I’m filming my drama series “Isibaya” or attending press conferences and media launches. And some evenings there are red carpet gala events, sometimes several at the same time. I usually get home by midnight and I’m up at 4 am the next day.

3. What is your schedule like when you travel?
It’s very hectic! The overseas jobs are the most challenging. I usually fly 12-13 hours to Hong Kong, get off the plane at 7:30 in the morning, and run to the apartment to change, shower and I’m in a meeting in my business suit by 9 o’clock! Everyone is speaking Chinese and they’ve just assumed I’ve been in town all this time, when I’ve actually just arrived and am jet lagged! I have rehearsals and in the evening I’m on my stage emceeing and presenting a whole programme in Chinese. Then I get on the plane at 11:45 at night and fly back to Joburg. Then I’m back in Thailand, where I land early in the morning and go to client briefings and gala events all in Thai. The press junkets in America and Europe are also tiring because we fly in and position ourselves on the red carpet for many hours before the Hollywood stars arrive. It’s hours of standing and waiting and then boom! The stars arrive and it’s mayhem but I really love those moments of excitement and anticipation. Then we get back to the hotel and need to file stories and when I’m in the U.S., I wait until 2 in the morning to do my live on-air crossing with Gareth Cliff. It’s fun but can sometimes be very hectic with the jetlag and I need to keep track of the time differences.

4.How do you juggle being a mom and being a career woman?
It’s very challenging — but I’m lucky to be able to spend quality time with my kids when they’re home from school — whether it’s helping them with homework and taking them to extra-murals. I help them with their piano and organize their playdates and birthdays. I’m very fortunate to have flexibility in my work schedule plus exceptional staff who help me with the kids when I travel, which is about 70 per cent of the time.

So with all that travel, you’re known in South Africa as the Avios Travelista. Tell us more about it.
Yes, I’m the Avios Travelista indeed! A “Travelista” is someone who loves travel, and does so with that extra touch of glamour or pizazz — whether it’s a shopping spree, gourmet food and wine, adventure, or family fun. I’ve been a member of Avios overseas for over five years and have redeemed dozens of flights from the Avios accumulated over the years. The Avios Card and its travel rewards programme has recently launched in South Africa. Swiping your card to purchase your daily groceries at the Pick ‘n Pay, or to fill petrol in your car at your nearby BP means double Avios and a fast way of redeeming flights quickly. The points don’t expire given that you’ve used the card at least once in three years, and membership is free. Now you know the secret to how I travel so much!


5.How do you handle pressure?
Overall, I handle pressure well. The busier and more challenging my life is, the better! I do enjoy a good spa and pamper session when I can squeeze it in.

6. How would a man do your job differently?
Well, a man might have a bit more stamina and he wouldn’t need to run through airports in high heels! How nice it would be to not worry about gowns and potential wardrobe malfunctions. It would be a bit more difficult to take on the Travelista role though — as I do believe it’s a combination of travel and “fashionista” — which would perhaps be better suited to a woman than a man.

7. What do you do to relax?
To relax, I go for a Thai massage or run over to the piano and play Rachmaninoff or sing opera at the top of my lungs. It really helps to belt out my frustration!

8.What makes your personal brand successful?
Thank you — I have spent quite a bit of effort to build my brand in five different countries around the world where I have lived and worked. Not only does it mean always striving to be on top of my game and working extra-hard, but it also means giving and being appreciative and generous to others It can be in the form of charity — doing something to help others who are less fortunate, and also giving little gifts to other sponsors or individuals to show appreciation for their support — which is a very Asian-based custom, but even in Western culture a small token of thanks can really go a long way. And of course, always take time to say “thank you” to people who have supported you. On top of that, it’s important to dress for success, to speak clearly and with charisma, be reliable, and to be warm and gracious to those around you. And finally, become a master at both business and social networking. Engage with your audience and provide them with something unique with your personal signature so that they get a great impression of you.