Girls next door winning hearts on screen

Such sweet, fresh-faced roles in TV dramas and movies have helped many actresses shoot up in the popularity stakes

Never underestimate the power of a fresh-faced, bright-eyed actress in a girl-next-door role.

Last year, such likeable lasses opened doors for three actresses in productions across Asia.

Taiwanese actress Vivian Sung, 23, struck gold in her sophomore project as the nerdy wallflower Truly Lin in high-school romance movie Our Times. She was neither the school belle nor the popular kid. But she had audiences rooting for her.

K-pop starlet Lee Hyeri, 21, was the darling of a sleepy Seoul neighbourhood in hit retro Korean drama Reply 1988. She is now the darling of advertisers and a sought- after female lead.

Singapore's Ya Hui, 29, was a warm and genuine presence as she hawked wonton noodles in the Channel 8 long-form drama 118. Not even an uncool fanny-pack and dowdy attire could mask her sweet smile and winning innocence.

The girl-next-door appeals to a wide audience, said Ms Georgina Chang, head of Mediacorp's The Celebrity Agency. "Boys and girls, and men and women like her. Grandmothers also like her," she said.

She's not devastatingly beautiful... They usually have a fresh light in their eyes and a very sweet smile. They are the kind of girls that boys want to take care of and their mothers want to have taking care of their sons.

MS GEORGINA CHANG, head of Mediacorp's The Celebrity Agency, on the winning appeal of the girl-next-door

The girl-next-door is defined by her pleasant looks and wholesome appeal, said Ms Chang, pointing to Mediacorp actresses Ya Hui and Bonnie Loo as examples.

She added: "She's not devastatingly beautiful, which makes her non- threatening and more approachable. Sometimes plain Janes have that engaging appeal.

"They usually have a fresh light in their eyes and a very sweet smile. They are the kind of girls that boys want to take care of and their mothers want to have taking care of their sons."

Mr Molby Low, chief creative director of television production company WaWa Pictures, decided to cast Loo as her sweet image fit the bill for a student with a love for singing in the music drama Crescendo (2015).

There are plenty of wholesome roles in dramas and movies for a reason. He said: "They are less intimidating and so viewers are likely to be able to relate to their stories and feel for the characters."

Ms Chang agreed: "These roles are more believable and familiar to our audiences and connect closer with them."

Marketing manager Siti Noraini, 30, felt that connection with the endearing heroine of K-drama Reply 1988, who was played by girl group Girl's Day member Lee.

Ms Siti said: "I find Hyeri's energy amazing. She's a little quirky and fun, not just another pretty face.

"She's relatable and I think that is an important factor for a star to become successful. She emits so many positive vibes on TV that it makes viewers happy."

Taiwanese belle who says sorry to fans

When Taiwanese breakout star Vivian Sung gets approached on the street for photographs, she ends up asking her fans whether they mind that she is not glammed up. This is because the obliging actress from last year's hit romantic comedy Our Times feels apologetic for not being photo-ready.

The 23-year-old said: "When I'm not working, most of the time I'm bare-faced or have very light make- up on. That's why I feel embarrassed when fans on the street ask for a photo. I will ask them if they mind, I'm glad to take the photo if they don't."

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Good girl gets a hug on the street

Singapore actress Ya Hui received a hug on the street, thanks to her loveable turn as down-to-earth wonton mee seller Hong Jinzhi in the long-form drama 118.

"An auntie gave me a hug and told me, 'If no one sayang you, auntie will sayang you'," she said, referring to the Malay word for love.

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Just as bubbly as her roles, but so much wiser

In last year's hit nostalgic Korean drama Reply 1988, Lee Hyeri was quite literally the girl-next-door, as the show revolved around the lives of her bubbly character Sung Deok Sun and her family and neighbours.

The show helped to distinguish the Girl's Day member from the many other K-pop starlets out there.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Besotted with the girl next door'. Subscribe