FROM sexy bikini babe to squeaky-clean children’s TV show host.
Meet Kanny Theng, whose recent image overhaul made the headlines in Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao – for the wrong reasons.
Focusing on her ample D-cup assets, the article pointed out that the 24-year-old used to be a regular cover girl for local lad mags.
What’s more, when the voluptuous Kanny was signed under Jeffrey Chung Models in 2005 (she was known as Denise Theng then), she was part of the agency’s “D-Cup Team” which appeared on televised variety shows in Taiwan.
On several occasions, the Taiwanese media even praised the trio for giving F4-Girl, the equally bosomy local pop group, a run for its money.
She left Jeffrey Chung Models in 2006 and took on assignments as a freelance model after that.
All of which is a stark contrast to Kanny’s current girl-next-door persona.
Indeed, when The New Paper caught up with her for an interview, she was all covered up in a smart-casual black jacket and three-quarter pants.
So she has moved on from her skin-baring days. But does Kanny feel that her scantily-attired past doesn’t gel with her present wholesome, innocent, tween-friendly appearance?
Not at all. “There is no conflict,” she said. “I was once a model, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try my hand at other things.”
Kanny – who has appeared in bit parts in Chinese drama serials like Perfect Cut, Nanny Daddy and Priceless Wonder – is confident that the public will accept her for who she is.
In December, she inked a contract with local artiste management company WaWa Artistes Network, which has plans for her to break into the local Chinese children’s TV scene.
The programme, in its planning stage, is yet to be titled. She is confident of executing her upcoming role with aplomb, as she is “pretty good with kids”.
“Many viewers and fans have sent me words of encouragement online,” said Kanny. “I remember one who wrote, ‘Having played Tripitaka (a character in the classic Journey To The West) once does not mean you have to keep playing it forever.’
“That was nice, it really resonates with me.”
She added that “many aunties and little kids” have also recognised her on the street, not because of her modelling experience but from her supporting roles on TV.
“I don’t think (they) read men’s magazines, so they don’t really know me from the photoshoots I’ve done,” she said. “It’s a different target audience I’m reaching out to now.”
Kanny, a mass communications graduate from the University of Sydney, said she “wasn’t too upset” by Lianhe Wanbao’s report.
“I’m just surprised that they wrote about (my past),” she said. “I don’t feel that my previous work as a model was demeaning, or anything to be ashamed about.
“When I was modelling, I simply wanted to be professional anddo a good job each time.”
A professional model does not “control how much or little to wear”, she added. But would television viewers, especially concerned parents, mind Kanny’s past?
Ms Dawn Lai, a 45-year-old housewife with a 15-year-old daughter, said: “Our society is still rather conservative. There will be some backlash from seeing the (sexy photos).
“People may think that since she’s hosting a kids show, she could be deemed a role model.
“And being one, her past should be as decent as possible.”
On the other hand, there are those who are hardly concerned about the “track record” of artistes.
“The kids won’t know about her past so they can’t relate to that,” said Ms Karen Ng, a 50-year-old human resource manager who has a 14-year-old son.
“As long as the show is educational and as long as she maintains an appropriate image on it, it doesn’t matter if she has posed for sexy photos in the past.”
Kanny is not the first to make the unlikely transition. Former Channel V VJ Sarah Tan, 29, who currently hosts Spell Cast every Sunday morning on local children’s channel Okto, made the covers of all the local men’s magazines as it was part and parcel of her old job.
She said: “To be honest, I didn’t like doing it because it wasn’t me... I didn’t intentionally put myself out there.”
However, her hyped-up hotness didn’t hinder her from getting the Spell Cast gig. “Maybe it’s because my life has changed since my Channel V days,” said Sarah, who has a two-year-old son.
“I took a break, got married and became a mum.”
Fellow WaWa artiste Silver Ang, 24, who is currently hosting Channel 8’s kids variety programme Fun Learning, added: “Doing a kids show is a very good chance for Kanny to reposition her image.
“It might take some time for people to accept her new appearance, but look at Shu Qi and Paris Hilton, they managed to successfully turn their careers around.
“Besides, Kanny’s (swimwear) shots were done some years back. Initially, there might be people who just cannot get used to her new look, but I think it wouldn’t be a problem after a while.”
Silver added that she feels Kanny would make a competent kids show host as “she has sweet looks”.
“She will be able to get those shy, quiet little boys to open up!”
–Additional reporting by Germaine Lim
This article was first published in The New Paper.