Pottery and pole dancing: How actress Paige Chua's new hobbies broadened her views
In the latest episode of CNA Lifestyle's podcast series Pyjama Party For 2, the actress shares how working with clay has taught her to appreciate imperfections, and maybe even break the mould. Oh, yeah, she's also taken up pole dancing, but not the kind you're thinking of.
She’s known for her image of elegant detachment, but Paige Chua, nicknamed “the goddess” in entertainment circles, feels that that’s really, really old news.
“I don't understand why they call me ‘goddess’. Am I supposed to sit there and meditate all the time? That's not me. There’s so much more to me,” the actress asserted during a conversation recorded for CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series Pyjama Party For 2.
“And, it's a bit frustrating sometimes, that people have a certain label for me, and I feel like I can't get out of it, or I have to make an extra effort change it. I feel that I shouldn't have to,” she continued. “I think I need to be who I am, rather than stick to a certain framework of what the label entails.”
It’s a conviction that has grown over the years as she’s become more comfortable in front of the media, the public and even her fellow actors.
Now filming for the currently-airing long-form drama Heartland Hero, Chua’s cast mates have dubbed her “Paige 2.0” – a more open, chattier, funnier version of her previous self.
“I guess it's a more outgoing, more unreserved (me),” she mused. “And more accepting of all kinds of topics, jokes and personalities. I've been told that sometimes, people are afraid to talk to me about certain things. They think I'm too conservative to discuss them. But I wouldn't say that's true.”
Instead, she’s self-confessedly shy. “I'm someone who needs more time to get used to the environment… I’m an introvert, so it takes more time for me to get out of my shell. But once I'm out there, you will find it very hard to contain me!”
Growing more unreserved is something that’s come with time, as well as explorations into the things that fascinate her.
Pottery is one of them. Shelves holding her own creations – vessels in blue and turquoise glaze – decorate one of the walls in her home, and her next project, once filming wraps, will be to incorporate more cabinets to display her works.
“I started pottery about two and a half years ago, when I was in Ipoh filming a Chinese drama,” she said. “When I returned to Singapore, I started going to a local studio. My teacher is a master potter… He has been very generous in imparting his skills to me. Whenever I'm free nowadays, that will be one of the places I'll visit for sure."
What was it about pottery that drew her in?
“Initially, I liked the fact that you are able to create something of your own. I make functional ware like cups and crockery,” she shared.
But as she’s gotten deeper into the practice, “I actually like the process of making something. The destination is not really as important to me anymore. Sometimes, I’ll make something and it doesn’t turn out nice; it’s a failure”. But, “the meditative process – I really do enjoy it”.
She added: “It can be a little bit tiring because there's so much focus needed. A minor mistake or a little misjudgment will ruin your product. But, I guess, at the same time, you are able to put away other worries – things that trouble you or don’t give you clarity of mind. You put aside other things that are not necessary at that moment.”
Another lesson that pottery has taught her is that “you have to be very patient with yourself”. “Unless you’re super talented, you won’t make a near perfect creation on your first try. Tell yourself, ‘It’s okay if it doesn’t work out this time. Try again.’ This is something I've told myself many times along my pottery journey. I think with pottery and clay work, we can find beauty in the imperfections.”
There have been many instances in which what looked like a mistake or failure turned out to be beautiful, she shared.
For example, she said, holding up one of her plates, “You can see spots. When I was glazing it, I wasn’t careful enough and the glaze fell onto the plate. So when it came out, I was pretty upset. But when I showed it to my friends, they thought it was very interesting, because it’s very out of the ordinary and not something you’d see at a regular shop. That makes it unique. So, I have to teach myself that”.
If you’re one of Chua’s friends, you’ll have the good fortune of being gifted one of her handmade vessels. “I find more satisfaction seeing my friends who have received my gifts eating out of them,” she chuckled.
“Friends who have received my gifts, please cherish and treasure them, because it's both expensive and time consuming to make them! It’s not cheap to go for classes!”
Pottery is just one of her many hobbies in addition to yoga, archery, tennis and playing the guzheng.
“I started something interesting. I started pole dancing last year,” she revealed. “Yes, pole dancing!”
But, she interjected, “There are different genres of pole dancing".
She explained: "I started because I was involved in a drama that required me to do some pole dancing. I was quite apprehensive at first because, you know, the first impression I had of pole dancing was like, sexy and sensual, and I totally don't see myself as someone who's sexy and sensual. But when I was at the studio, my teacher was so embracing… Pole dancing has evolved to become a very empowering dance, especially for women. When I accepted all this and cast away my judgments, I started to enjoy learning pole dancing.
“There's a particular genre I really like, which is lyrical pole – a combination of modern dance and techniques of pole. I'm more focused on that than the more exotic versions.”
Anyhow, at this stage in life, what other people think doesn’t matter so much any more.
“I should just embrace life as it is and accept my failures, accept my flaws, and grow and progress as a person,” she said.
Listen to the full Pyjama Party For 2 podcast to find out what Paige Chua does before bed, buying sheets on sale and how she used to be a barista in her university days.
New episodes of Pyjama Party For 2 are published every Sunday at cna.asia/podcasts.