If you have a young child who enjoys learning English, there’s a pretty good chance the youngster knows Jennifer Periman, or Jenny, as she is known to the legions of fans of her NHK morning English education program, "Eigo de Asobo" (Let’s Play in English), which airs on the broadcaster’s educational channel 2 Monday to Friday from 8:45 a.m. until 8:55 a.m.
This is Jenny’s 4th year in the program which has been running for over 20 years. In each program, she performs with singer-songwriter Eric Jacobsen. “It is so much fun,” says the bilingual 26-year-old. “We use simple key words in each story and introduce a new English song every month. We have two mascot characters and we play together and go to kindergartens. When we go outside the studio, I can ad-lib a bit.”
Children on the show are aged 3-6. “At that age, they are good at picking up English and can sense what I am saying,” says Jenny. “I get drawings of myself from children. Sometimes they even recognize me when I am out and about, but usually the mothers recognize me first before their children do.”
Born in Ohio to an American father and Japanese mother, Jenny says she had lots of aspirations when she was a child. “I wanted to be a figure skater, a singer or an actress,” she recalls. “When I was young, my parents put me in this little modeling agency and I enjoyed appearing in front of others.”
Her family moved to Japan when she was seven and she continued to do some children’s magazine modeling. Then she got her showbiz break at the age of 12 when she was selected to be on NHK’s "Tensai Terebi-kun" (a long-running program that features children taking part in musical performances, skits and playing games). “That was my first time on Japanese TV and I was blessed to have been a part of the show for two years,” says Jenny.
After high school, Jenny became a cheerleader for the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, the Team Giabbits 21, as they are known. “That was an amazing experience -- dancing in front of 50,000 people at Tokyo Dome for 3 seasons.”
These days, she concentrates on "Eigo de Asobo," happy to see more opportunities for foreigners and those of mixed heritage on Japanese TV. “I hope I can inspire more people like myself who are living in Japan to pursue their ambitions. Although it is not easy to get into show business, I believe that as long as you keep aiming toward your goals, you will eventually find the right agency, meet the right people and get your dream job, so never give up.”
When she is not working, Jenny enjoys reading, working out at the gym and has just started yoga. “I like to cook, quilt, and sing karaoke” she says.
Jenny says she has no qualms about being called a "hafu." “I am what I am. What I do notice is that when I go back to visit relatives in California, it takes 2-3 days before my mind changes back into ‘English mode.’ Then I come back to Tokyo and it takes another few days to switch back into ‘Japanese mode.’”© Japan Today