Model, TV host, presenter, and content creator– the multi-talented Denise Keller first burst into the scene at age 21 as a video-jockey (VJ) for MTV Asia, where her million-dollar smile and slightly husky voice won over audiences.
Her megawatt smile is still as engaging today as it was then, after MTV Asia, she added being a host of hugely popular travel series on the the Discovery Channel on her resume; including Passage to Malaysia, Passage to China, Passage to Abu Dhabi and Expedition X: Silk Road Rising, in which she journeys from China to Turkey along the ancient Silk Road.
For her work with Passage to Malaysia, she even snagged a best-presenter trophy at the Asian Television Awards, in addition to hosting high-profile events including two Singapore National Day Parades.
Today, however, she can be found behind the camera more often than in front of it, having started her own company, Keller:Media where she hosts, produces and directs social media/digital campaign content for a variety of clients, including Sony, Phillips, and Genting.
The official launch of her content creation company recently (coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8) is a labour of love that came out of her years of experience in the industry, together with her husband and creative director, Robert Gaxiola.
It is a risk, to anyone outside looking in, for Keller to chart her own path when she could have easily fronted so many media campaigns and continued being in front of the camera. Yet the launch of her own company was also born from her need to balance doing what she loves, and finding her own inner peace and balance. For years, her work with the Travel Channel ran her ragged–she loved the job, but it was burning her out.
Being a host and presenter on the Discovery Channel meant that in the early years, she was always on the road. “It was incredibly stressful, incredibly tiring and challenging and very physically demanding,” she recalls. “At times, we would have only four hours of sleep every day, just chasing the light [for filming] and chasing the story. By the time I returned home to Singapore, I was so exhausted and mentally ‘fried’.”
Yoga became her way of finding that balance, and of grounding herself. The ancient Indian physical, mental, and spiritual practice gave her the means to deal with the stress. The yoga mat was her saving grace, for the only way she could ground herself was to get on the mat and meditate, even if for just 10 minutes.
“That was [my] only way to have that clarity, and to bring it back to self-connection, to move my body mindfully and sink all my breath into my physical body. And I always felt better,” she says.
It has helped her pull through the times she was, in her words, “mentally-fried”; so much so that she made the decision to teach yoga to those in high-stress corporate jobs, so she could help others the same way practising yoga helped her.
As with everything she does, she threw herself into it completely, getting herself certified and now she teaches every day from morning to lunchtime. “And then I go to my production company, and go back to work. I [sort of] have this dual life,” she says.
For her, having her own company and doing what she loves on her own terms and time is now her focus. “I’m still doing what I love doing which is film production, and I still get to tell travel stories– only a little bit more bespoke, a little bit more niche and on my own time.”
Time, after all, is precious. “I think that was one of the things that overwhelmed me the most, back then, was that I felt like time was slipping away. It also dawned on me in China that I want to have a normal life, I want to be married and you know, live back in Singapore and live in my house, enjoy my pets. It’s like you’re missing so much of your own life.”
Knowing this now, Keller takes on projects which resonate with her, and are close to her heart. In fact, she recently completed a special project for the Gili Lankanfushi, in Maldives, where she is producing digital content for the resort’s incredible coral rescue and rehabilitation programme.
There is no stopping Keller, and this media maven will continue to do what she loves, in between poses on the yoga mat.