MTV VJ Denise Keller

Denise Keller

As the new Asian spokesperson of UK skincare brand Witch, Denise proves to be hot stuff. But when she isn’t modelling, she’s on screen looking all spiffy and bringing you your favourite music on MTV Asia. Cheryl Chia gives you the lowdown on what makes her tick.

Denise Keller
Denise Keller

GASHAUS: How long have you been a VJ at MTV Asia?

1 year now.

GASHAUS: What’s a typical day in the life of a VJ like?

I get up early in the morning, have a quick shower, run into the studio, get hair and makeup done, and it depends what day it is though, cos’ we have separate days – we have the request show which is a daily show – MTV Most Wanted and that’s shot like on one day all day, 5, 6 episodes at a time and then the other days it’s like all the green screen recording and individual shows and I usually finish up late, and then go back home, and I’d go to the gym sometimes.

GASHAUS: Was being a VJ what you had planned?

Oh no, I don’t plan these things. I auditioned for this job when I was based out in Hong Kong and I was still modelling and doing my part time PR work. I was actually moving towards New York to go study my Fine Art diploma and do a little bit of drama and stuff like that.

But they (MTV) called me and a week after and they fit me in and they did a second audition and then a third audition and then a forth audition. It’s actually a long process before they actually hire you. It’s quite exciting.

It was a great learning process for me, cos’ being a model it’s like you go to one casting and you either get the job or you don’t. But when you become a VJ, it’s like they want to test you in every field – to know what you can handle.

GASHAUS: Your job seems to be loads of fun but is it really? What are the common misconceptions about your job that you’ve heard?

Well it looks like it’s a lot of fun, and it is a lot of fun! I have a blast most of the time when I shoot but it consists of a lot of hours of work, research, travelling and sometimes we are also very tired but we still have to keep on going like a Duracell battery. We’re also humans, we have bad days too, but we have to always be a happy presence on our show. It’s just hard work and there’s a lot of work put into the job and people don’t see that behind the scenes.

GASHAUS: Define the role of a VJ; must you have extensive music knowledge?

I think you should know basic knowledge of music or have an interest or a passion in music. For me, I’ve always listened to music since I was a little girl so this was like a dream job. Also, you have to do research on the latest artistes that come out every day, every year, and music that you probably don’t listen to but we need to know about it.

Ya, and just being yourself. When I first started out I thought I had to be somebody or be something, but in actual fact, it’s just me that they want. To get over that phase of just letting go and just being who you wanna be is the tricky thing. It sounds easy but it’s not.

GASHAUS: So what’s your favourite kind of music?

My favourite kind of music is very different from MTV. It’s all the 80’s stuff like Depeche Mode, Newporter; I like to listen to a little bit of alternative rock as well, a little bit of Cold Play, a little bit of Keane, a little bit of Starsailor, but I accept all music even though I don’t listen to it every day.

GASHAUS: Is it tough or weird, standing in front of a camera and talking to it like a person?

It was very weird! I had clenched jaw all the way, it was all stuck here. [points to her jaws] I was like ‘errr’. I couldn’t even pronounce my own name properly! I was fidgeting!

Of course it’s really scary when you first try out because you have about 5 or 6 people surrounding you and they’re going 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… and you’re supposed to shoot away. It’s not a natural process for anyone to do something like that.

We don’t really get in-depth training on how to behave in front of a camera and I think the scariest bit as well is that instead of seeing the camera as just one person, you have to see it as an entire audience.

You see it as like “oh my god my friends are gonna watch me!”, “oh this person’s gonna watch me!”. When you start thinking along those lines, you’ve already lost it; you can’t concentrate on just one perspective. But it’s just a change of perspective I think, from my experience. [laughs] Some people have it like natural you know, and for some people, it’s like they still have to overcome their speech and confidence.

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GASHAUS: Your most memorable experiences?

I think the most memorable one for me was when I had to interview these Hollywood stars from the motion picture Torque. Martin Henderson and Monet Mazur. They were in town promoting their movie and I was sooo sick!

I was the sickest that you could find me. I was in the state of like I couldn’t even speak, everything on the paper was black washing over white and then you got these Hollywood stars and you’ve got a time slot, and you’ve have like maybe 15 minutes to get the entire interview done! It’s not easy.

I nearly threw up on the artiste. [laughs] I won’t forget that one and I bet you he won’t forget it either! He’s like, are you alright, and I’m like fine, very good, fantastic. You know, stuff like that.

GASHAUS: How has becoming a VJ changed you?

I don’t it’s changed me. I just think I’ve learnt a lot in my work. I’m still the same. But I think I’m more outgoing than I was before. I was a pretty outgoing model but now it’s like I don’t think I have as many fears as I used to. I’m just becoming more of a people person; interacting with different people, different countries, different cultures. Ya, so that’s what’s changed I guess.

GASHAUS: What must a person definitely have, in order for them to be a good VJ?

Confidence, and also being relaxed and not too serious about it. I guess if you take this job too seriously, it’ll show on screen. I think you should always have fun with it. Have fun with the producers, the directors, everyone that you work with because it’s a team, it’s not just you. There’s a whole team behind you as well. And I think those are the key factors.

GASHAUS: Did your modelling background help? Seeing that it’s somewhat similar in a way that you present yourself in front of a camera?

Not really, a lot of people think it’s very similar but it’s not. I’ve been in the modelling line for 8 years and now it’s funny, because when I do photoshoots, I’m so conscious. [laughs] Before I could model easily in front of a photographic camera but now it’s so different because I’m in front of big cameras and they’re filming all the time. There’s so many models when you model in a big city like Hong Kong and it’s very different. It’s like you go to a casting and it’s either a yes or a no.

TV is always challenging , there’s always a new show that’s challenging, maybe a music genre that you’re not familiar with and you know this is going to be difficult because you don’t really listen to it. You’re forced to jump into the deep end and then take over and make it look as if you know everything about it. That’s the challenging thing about it. I don’t think you’d really do that with modelling. With modelling it’s more the feel, the look in the face, the eyes, the sparkle, so you see the difference. I think it’s very different.

What’s your motto in life? You once said your favourite quote was from a James Allen work, “Cherish your vision; cherish your ideals, cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts. If you remain true to them, your world will be built at last”.

That’s one of my favourite quotes but now my favourite is live and let live! [laughs]

GASHAUS: Any regrets?

No regrets. I don’t wanna have regrets in life that’s why I think every time there’s a new opportunity, I challenge it and see whether or not I can push myself into it. At least I know then, that I can do it or not do it and move on. Like I’ve just picked up fencing. Why did I end up picking up fencing when I was doing yoga for so many years? I’m a very sporty person but I don’t understand why I picked up a foil and started fencing, but I just wanted to know how it works being a fencer; what it feels like to be in a duel, one to one with a person. Things like that and I’m loving it. If I had not tried it, I would still be talking about fencing being a beautiful sport but never ever experiencing it.

GASHAUS: Any advice for aspiring VJs out there?

In my opinion, you need a happy personality. You can’t take too many things too seriously. I think you’ll know whether or not you’re entertaining with your friends, whether or not you’re the one that talks or runs the conversation. That’s when you kinda know you are in the same field of being a VJ because we talk on the time. [laughs] But the best advice I can give it let go, be happy and have fun!?


This interview was originally published in Think Singapore