Proving that they are not quite your average celebrity couple, Joanne Peh and Qi Yuwu talk marriage, milestones and misunderstandings in their first cover story together since saying “I do” in 2014.
Joanne wears denim jumpsuit from Christian Dior. Yuwu wears cotton shirt from Dior Homme.
Can we play a little Rod Stewart?” asks Joanne Peh as she settles into another pose; her arm gently draped over her husband’s knee, gazing up at him expectantly. Qi Yuwu, on his part, gives his wife a knowing smile as if a secret meted out between them. Without warning, they erupt into a pile of laughs.
And not just any short giggle either. This chuckle is a laugh that’s hearty, deep and warm. A lived-in laugh, if you will, between a pair of lovers who are as comfortable in their skin as they are with each other. There’s also a closeness and a sense of security between them that’s electrifying in person, and can’t quite be put into words.
From afar, Joanne, 36, and Yuwu, 43, are your quintessential celebrity couple: Both statuesque, impossibly gorgeous, and with a movie-star aura about them that’s almost untouchable. There’s such a heightened sense of awe that follows them that you can’t help but wonder whether their interactions with each other are real, or the product of careful orchestration.
Joanne wears lace dress from Dolce and Gabbana. Yuwu wears cotton tank top, knit cardigan and wool pants, all from Dolce and Gabbana.
All preconceived notions go out the window after watching the couple and their private moment together over the music playing on-set. This couple isn’t aloof and ice-cold. They are not putting on an act. They come across as a couple who don’t have to prove anything to anyone else but themselves.
“Even when I’m acting, I’m not acting. This is real, we are real and this is our married life,” reveals Yuwu. “In the beginning, we were a bit more careful not to reveal too much because I felt that this marriage belongs to us. It is our private life, and we need to protect it, not treat it like a consumable.”
“The thing about two celebrities getting together is that everyone wants to get in on the hype,” Joanne reasons. “Everyone’s just riding on the fact that we are a celebrity couple, to the point where it becomes less about the real love that exists between two people, and more about the attention that the union provides for others.
“I didn’t want to be consumed by that hype. A lot of things were being said about us when we first came out as a couple, and for us, it was like ‘You know what, time will tell’, and it has.”
Buoyed by the public scrutiny directed at them, the pair have now weathered through five years (and counting) of marriage together, and are proud parents to two children: A four-year-old daughter, and a two-year-old son. Time was also the reason the very private pair agreed to appear on their first magazine cover together, which turned out to be The Weekly’s first cover featuring a couple since November 1999.
“We’ve always been a little hesitant about appearing on magazine covers together because it makes us a little bit uncomfortable to be talking so much about the relationship,” confesses Joanne. “But, since all that time has passed from our wedding till now, we thought, okay now, [we can talk] more about us as a couple, rather than things, such as ‘Oh how big is the ring?’, or ‘How did he propose?’, which is not what our love is about.”
Yuwu nods at this before dropping a confession. “I’m not very good at taking pictures. A picture to me should be like a snapshot of a moment, something more candid. The thing about photo shoots is you need to put on an act and that is something I really don’t like,” says the Guangzhou-born actor.
“That’s the reason why we don’t have wedding photos. He gets very annoyed when a photographer is trying to direct him, saying ‘Oh put your arm around her, look at each other lovingly’,” laughs Joanne.
“To me, the most touching moments are not the ones that you need to choreograph,” says Yuwu. “It should almost be like a documentary. You should capture the interaction between the couple, not create a moment for them.”
Joanne wears lace body suit, lace skirt and belt, all from Dolce and Gabbana. Yuwu wears cotton shirt, wool pants and leather shoes, all from Dior Homme.
Ups and Downs
Life in their household is apparently like this – real, relaxed, and relatively normal. Even their fights are mundane by celebrity standards. They argue about not spending enough time together, the kids, their workload; issues that any regular couple face on a day-to-day basis; and yes, they do argue.
“Honestly, if I’m reading a magazine, and all a couple has to say is how things are fine are wonderful, I wouldn’t believe them. [That] is just an image they want to project,” says Yuwu. “If I were part of a couple reading that,
I would think that there was something wrong with my marriage. Why is everybody so happy? Is my marriage a failure? The truth is marriage takes work, don’t be afraid of admitting this.”
For Joanne, a life already bursting at the seams with acting, directing, parenting two kids, and running her filmic arts enrichment programme with The Dimple Loft, is exponentially more complicated because she does most of it alone. Yuwu, who has been based in China since 2018, flies back to Singapore as and when he can.
“It hasn’t been easy because being apart means there’s always going to be challenges, whether it be finding the time to be together, saying something that could lead to a misunderstanding, or readjusting into a routine with the children,” explains the mother of two.
“There are times where I’ve felt like a single parent. But, in a way, it’s also accelerated our communication. Whenever there’s a problem, we never sweep it under the carpet. We’ll always talk it through because ultimately, we want this marriage to work.”
Part of making their union stick has meant learning each other’s love language, referring to a tool that has helped couples decode the many ways love can be expressed for over 25 years.
“My love language is words of affirmation, I’m quick with compliments and encouragements,” quips Joanne. In contrast, Yuwu ponders for a while before answering, “Mine is physical touch and also acts of service and...”. “Quality time,” Joanne finishes for him, causing them to break into another laugh.
“In truth, we’ve always been focused on the relationship first. Children, second. Because I think, eventually, we are the ones who are going to grow old together; I always say that he’s the one who will be holding my hand when my kids are holding onto somebody else’s hand. He’s my beacon of light. So, this, what we have, is what we have to work on and always be building upon.”
The interview wraps up as the last strings of Rod Stewart’s “All for Love” plays out, and fittingly, the song’s title sum up the couple best because they’re doing all they can, all for love.
Joanne and Yuwu knew each other professionally for 10 years before they started dating, and then tying the knot. Here were their most memorable roles on-screen:
Beautiful Connection, 2002
This was Joanne and Yuwu’s first drama together, and we supposed it was the start of an *ahem* beautiful connection between them.
I Love My Home, 2004
Two years later, the pair star on-screen again and their characters get married in this one. A sign of things to come?
The Little Nyonya, 2008
The two are torn apart and paired up with other people, but no matter, there weren’t any sparks flying between them yet anyway.
A Song To Remember, 2011
Thrown together in a period drama, A Song To Remember, Joanne and Yuwu are back in love as the two leads.
C.L.I.F, 2011, 2013 & 2014
Starring as police officers, the pair were ready to enforce the law of attraction as they officially started dating after filming for C.L.I.F 2 ended.
PHOTO: JOEL LOW, ASSISTED BY ALFIE PAN
ART DIRECTION: BARBARA KOH
STYLING: MARTIN WONG
HAIR: NIGEL WOO/PASSION SALON
MAKEUP: CLARENCE LEE, USING BOBBI BROWN
LOCATION: ROSE MARIE SUITE/GOODWOOD PARK HOTEL