Interview: Will Quah

Will Quah is a young outspoken individual with a tireless working attitude and a head for following his passion to the very end. Recently crowned the Martell VSOP Rising Personality of 2009, this chap’s future is as bright as his lust for life, art and entertainment.

Congratulations on winning the Martell Rising Personalities Awards. How did you celebrate your victory?
The after party was pretty cool. Then after that I had a quiet weekend in. I haven’t actually received the 10 Martell bottles, so I’m waiting for them and then I’ll have the actual victory party.

So what’s going to happen when you get those 10 bottles?
I know there are a lot of people who claimed to have voted. So I think they all want to come over and enjoy the spoils of victory with me.

We remember you jumping into the Jacuzzi. You were only in there for a couple of minutes. Was the water too cold?
Well unfortunately I was told to get out of the pool very quickly. Otherwise, I would’ve stayed in there longer and probably shed more clothing.

If you could have 3 people in a Jacuzzi with you, who would you choose?
Cristiano Ronaldo, Wentworth Miller and Jensen Ackles. That’s because with the 4 of us in the Jacuzzi, there is no woman in the world that wouldn’t get in.

You’ve been a TV host, a VJ, a radio DJ, a model, a writer, a brand marketer… Is there anything left on your list of “things to do”?
I love singing, theater and Broadway. I’ve already planned a couple of shows next year. I’m going to be doing a little more theater and cabaret shows, probably at No Black Tie. And honestly, I’d love to be able to come out with an album and a cooking show. But that’s obviously way ahead in the pipeline. I do like cooking very much.

What’s your favourite dish to prepare?
My favourite dish is probably Chicken Parmesan. But done with really authentically Italian ingredients and made from scratch. Not the sort of stuff you buy at the supermarket and you just whack in the oven.

How did you get into this messed-up world of the media?
I used to do TV commercials in school and a bit of theater. In terms of actually getting on TV, I’d say what did it for me was drinking. It’s actually quite funny. Some of my friends had found a newspaper clipping that said there was a new music chart show on TV2 and they were looking for a host. And it said if you were interested you could send in your bio with some photos. So I kind of just laughed it off and stuck it on my computer and never really bothered about it. I think it was the last day before the deadline when I had just come back from drinking in Bangsar (because Bangsar was still cool during those days). And so I just wrote the most bombastic CV and took some really drunken photos and sent it off. A few weeks later, they didn’t even call me in for casting, they called me in for the first episode right away.

So drinking actually got you the job?
Yes, alcohol has always been the key to my victory. Whether it’s back in Day 1 or winning Martell’s Rising Personalities Awards, it’s always been there for me.

Were your parents supportive of your endeavour?
Not at first. They thought I’d probably do Law as I studied that. I never did my Bar. I figured after 3 years that I really didn’t like it. And I find that a lot people take most of the course to figure that out. My parents were supportive at the beginning because they thought it would be something I’d grow out of. I don’t think they realised that I’d be carrying on for so long. They’re quite happy now though. They’re always showing off. They like to pretend that they want me to get a real job, but I hear them talking to their friends.

What’s the most interesting advice that your parents have given you?
My mom gave me a piece of advice that has always been useful. She said, “Always be yourself.” It took me a while to figure it out. It’s hard when you’re young and in this business. You’ve got producers, stylists, management and all sorts of people telling you what to do. It’s very tempting to just listen to them and just do that. But if you do that too much, you’ll lose your own identity.
And my dad had a good one too. He said, “Whenever you can, always enjoy your work.” I try to do that. I do like what I do. I don’t think I’d be very happy doing a 9 to 5 desk job.

We’ve heard that you’re quite the writer and reader as well. Which authors have influence you?
I love Terry Pratchett. He’s the British writer who wrote Discworld. His books are very heavily filled with dark wit and sarcasm. I think that influenced my performances quite a fair bit because I’m known for being quite horribly sarcastic about everything, whether it’s about politicians, news or guests. And I’ve always been quiet an imaginative fantasy-type fellow, so I’ve always been a huge fan of Neil Gaiman as well. I think I’ve pretty much read everything he has written.

What would you consider your most crucial asset?
Probably my voice. I often joke that I’m pretty much a voice with a body. Whether it’s radio or television, people always say they recognise my voice. I could be standing in front of someone and they would never say I recognise you from TV. They’d always say I recognise your voice. I sort of had this husky timbre since I was 13. People would think it was my dad answering the phone when it was me.

What are your views on the local entertainment? And how can we improve it?
I don’t really feel qualified to comment on the music industry. But I know from the TV and radio side, when I first started, we were about 20 years behind American TV, which is what we try to copy. I feel like we’re about 4 to 5 years behind now, we’ve caught up. I think we’ve just come out of the Reality TV craze that America was in for about a good 8 years. I think Malaysian audiences need to be a bit more receptive to what Malaysian talents are doing. I know everybody says that, whether it’s musicians or people in TV. I think the bigger issue it that people tend to underestimate the audiences. That they’re willing to put up with any old crap or that they aren’t willing to support the industry. But we have some extremely clever and exposed audiences out there that I’ve had the pleasure of getting feedback from. And they appreciate and want intellectual, interesting stuff.

How do you keep your energy going with your hectic schedule?
I run on about 4 to 5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky. I don’t actually know where the energy comes from. I don’t drink coffee or carbonated sugary drinks. I try to eat well and hit the gym as much as possible. I think regularly sex is important to keep the energy up – that’s my doctor’s order! But I think as long as you’re enthusiastic and interested in what you’re doing, it’s easy to have the energy for it. If you’re excited about what you do, you’ll naturally keep wanting to do more and more of it. I think the reason people find work tiring is because they don’t enjoy it. So as long as you enjoy what you do, it’s easy to get up in the morning.

So how many times did the doctor order you?
As much as you can get! It’s the endorphins. It’s scientifically proven that it’s good for you! It stops illnesses, keeps you young and flexible.

And what’s next for Will Quah?
So far I’ve always been lucky. Opportunities just come along and I’ve tried my best to make the most of them. I’m going to carry on doing TV and events. But I’d really like to explore the performing arts part of it rather than just the old TV side of it. And for the last year and a half, I’ve really been trying to work with kids in school. You can really learn how to do well in the entertainment industry or learn soft skills. They just don’t teach it. It’s a little better in the international schools, but the local schools are not very good and if anything they’re going to get worse. They’re already cut out music classes if I’m not wrong. So I’ve been trying to set up little programmes with a bunch of other people to try and inculcate a love or at least an understanding that you can do pretty well in the entertainment industry if you’ve got the right temperament and passion.