Monday, April 19, 2010


There’s more to their pretty faces, arresting vocals and admirable achievements. Here’s proof that even celebrities turn to good old books to keep learning about the world around them. ERIC FORBES takes a respite from reading and talks to six famous Malaysians in the entertainment industry about their favourite books and how they find the time to read despite their busy schedules. THIS INSTALMENT: DEBORAH PRIYA HENRY

DUBLIN-BORN DEBORAH PRIYA HENRY isn’t just a pretty face. She’s intelligent, articulate, multi-talented and has a heart of gold as well. What more could you ask for? The winner of the Miss Malaysia/World 2007 holds a degree in economics (majoring in political science) from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. With her exotic Malaysian-Irish looks, she has modelled for Dior, Ferragamo and Gucci, among others.

In this interview, Deborah, 24, talks about her love of reading and the kind of books she enjoys reading. She currently hosts and emcees events, and serves as an advocate for World Vision’s Sponsor-a-Child Campaign. “Together with a university friend of mine, we run an education centre for Somali refugee children living in Malaysia.”

Deborah loves travelling and exploring cultures and food. “Travelling is food for my soul,” she enthuses. “I want to experience the world and what it has to offer. I am a fashion addict—bags and shoes are my downfall! I believe in second chances and strive to live a life full of love and compassion.”

Interview by ERIC FORBES
Photographs courtesy of DEBORAH PRIYA HENRY

How do you find the time to read with your busy schedule?
I do find the time to read despite my busy schedule. I love reading while lying on the beach or curled up on the couch. Reading is a form of escapism from work and the daily grind. Depending on the kind of book I am reading, it either soothes my soul or motivates me.

Do you think reading matters?
Oh yes! We lead such busy and hectic lives nowadays (whether it’s a career or being a mother) that we sometimes simply do not have the luxury of time to read. But reading does matter; whether we’re reading a magazine, novel or newspaper, there’s always something new to learn and it is vital that we keep abreast of what’s happening in the world.

What kinds of books did you read when you were growing up?
My mother always encouraged me to read as a child, but somehow I never got into it. I just couldn’t sit still and read. When I was about 15 or 16, I started developing an interest in books. I think the important factor was finding books that interested me personally—not books that people told me I must read.

Who are some of your favourite contemporary writers? Why do you like them?
Colette Dowling’s The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence. This is an extremely thought-provoking volume about women and their dependency on men, struggle for independence and need for emotional, physical and material fulfilment. I read six of Paulo Coelho’s novels one after the other at one time when I was desperate for words or messages on life. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was an interesting read as the reader witnessed events through the eyes of a murdered young girl.

Fiction or nonfiction: which do you prefer?
I don’t read much fiction. I enjoy reading biographies such as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Living History and Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, the amazing memoirs of a child soldier in Sierra Leone. I enjoy learning about the lives of others and I feel reading their biographies gives me a special and more personal insight into their experiences.

What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger. I read it shortly after a brief trip to India, which made the experience of reading it all the more meaningful. Having observed the way of life in India, I understood minor comments made by the character and the overall social fabric of the country. I am now reading President of World Vision US Richard Stearns’s The Hole in Our Gospel: The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World. I’m halfway through it, but so far it’s been quite enlightening and has further motivated me to continue working towards making this world a safer and better place for children.

What are your thoughts on the future of books, particularly on e-books and e-book readers? Do you think they will replace physical books one day?
Reading is very nostalgic. There is something emotional about books, the words printed on the pages that yellow over time. Books can be collected, and they tell a story about their owner and the phases he or she has gone through in life. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about buying an e-book reader; it looks very cool and is convenient when one travels, but I don’t think I can make the swap.

Reproduced from the April-June 2010 issue of Quill magazine


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