Photos: Joanna Goh & Louis Lim
She’s a flat-chested actress to some and a rich spoilt brat to others. But Julie Tan sees herself as an ordinary girl with big, big dreams: she wants to go international by the age of 25, bring home a “Little Golden Man”, and start a family of her own (one boy and one girl, she says).
Like most 22-year-old girls, she has lofty ambitions and her fair share of insecurities; unlike most young adults in their early 20s, she’s very practical and has wised up, having grown up in the limelight and being thrown into the gauntlet at an early age. Still, despite the complicated work environment, she retains an enviable youthful innocence that – we think – would not be seen in her today if not for her protective parents.
A true blue daddy’s girl, Julie may come across like a hothouse flower who has been carefully nurtured and tendered to - after all, once upon a time, her mum used to accompany her for press conferences and now her dad looks out for her as she advances into China’s shark-infested ‘showbiz’ waters. But Julie is not as fragile as her lithe frame and is hardier than one might perceive her to be.
In a way, having to deal with backlash which included criticisms of her looks and “airport chest”, speculations of her father being the CEO of MediaCorp and getting into the bad books of some directors for being too direct helped her toughen up and develop a keen sense of self-awareness.
In this edition of Toggle Talk, Julie opens up about her insecurities and flaws, her first big – and public – heartbreak, and tells us why she intends to freeze her eggs i.e., her embryos – yes, you read that right – at the age of 22 years old.
Read on for more and watch the videos for a blow-by-blow account of her interview.
WATCH: Julie Tan sets the record straight about her affluent background
She considered going for a boob job to enhance her “airport chest”
Julie was one step away from going under the knife after hurtful and judgmental comments from netizens about her high forehead, flat nose and chest got to the then-17 year old girl. She had even consulted doctors – with support from her parents – to understand the medical procedure and care required post-surgery. “My mum told me that it’s not wrong to enhance my looks if it (plastic surgery) helps in my career in any way, since I’m in this line of business.” She eventually decided to back out from it because of her low threshold for pain and has come to terms that “it’s okay to not have big boobs”.
Still learning how to love herself for who she is today, Julie explained, “I decided not to do anything to myself because to me it’s a kind of self-respect… Rather than trying to change yourself according to other people’s standards, why not embrace yourself? Because I think we can never please everyone.”
She offended directors and producers with her tactless personality
Young, opinionated and eager to ‘chiong’ (make a dash for it) in her career, during her early days, Julie got into the bad books of some local directors and producers when she had differing views about her characters and wanted to do things her way. After some time, her no-holds-barred attitude led to a silent boycott by certain directors and producers. “It didn’t hit me until I realised I was no longer working with some people,” she shared.
Added Julie: “Back then, all I thought of was: ‘I did a lot of homework, I have a vision of how the script should be’ (…) I don’t think I’m in the wrong because I did my homework and I think as an actress I should get a say in how I should play my character, even though I’m young.”
She’s not a pampered rich spoilt brat
Apart from her strict upbringing, Julie’s dad keeps her grounded and makes her work hard for what she wants. Once, she lamented to him about getting the unfair treatment at work and instead of indulging in her, he pointed out her mistakes. “My dad told me: ‘First, you have no respect. You are still young and there are a lot of things that you cannot see. Maybe someone older than you can see it… What you have to do is say sorry, keep quiet and accept it, and see what you have to learn from it,” she recalled. “I learned how to communicate with people, how to talk to people in different ways rather than be a spoiled brat. So I have to thank my dad for this.”
She says no to sleazy bed scenes
With the country infamous for its ‘guan xi’ (connections) dealings and the culture of “sleeping one’s way to the top” in showbiz, it’s no wonder Julie’s dad takes charge of her career in China (he’s her manager, by the way), where he sieves through her job offers and has the final say over her roles and projects, unlike in Singapore, where she has full autonomy.
And it helps that he has plenty of business dealings there too, shared Julie. “He knows a lot of businessman and actually uses his business connections to find jobs for me.” Her only request to dad so far? “No sleazy or bed scenes. I don’t have the figure for it too!” she chuckled, “And I don’t want to do such roles.”
She doesn’t want to be seen as a failure in love
When Julie was 21 years old and “really in love”, she wore her heart proudly on her sleeve for all to see and was very open about her relationship with a former model. But when she got her heart broken a few weeks before she turned 22, everything changed. Looking back on it today, she admitted that there was “a lack of trust and communication” and she held on tightly to the relationship because she “didn’t want to fail.”
“I don’t want people to think that Julie is such a failure and can’t even handle her relationship well,” she disclosed. As someone who had “issues” and certain expectations of her partner, she let on: “To be very honest, I wasn’t happy (despite a blissful front). I was crying every day. I wondered what went wrong – even though it appeared to be happy – we are always quarrelling. I won’t point fingers because both parties are at fault.”
WATCH: Julie's pampered behaviour gets her in trouble
She is more guarded than before
Julie, who says she is not an easy person to date, now has a better idea of what she is looking for in a partner (he has to be a man – not a boy), after her last relationship. And when she finds that special someone in her life, she wants to draw the line between her private life and social media because there's too much pressure living under public scrutiny. As if drawing experiences from her past relationship, she quipped, “Because I know what went wrong… so I know what it takes to have a healthy relationship.”
So is that why she’s more evasive regarding speculations of her relationship with Taiwanese actor Allen Chen? “He’s a very good friend, we have a lot of things to talk about and we hang out in with my group of friends. I think the most important thing right now is communication.”
She is hungry for international success
Julie had her life all mapped out: marry at 26 years old, have children and start a family of her own. But now, her plans are slightly altered because she wants to hit the international market by the age of 25. Aiming to bring home the little golden man (the Oscar trophy) someday, Julie added that Singapore will remain her base as she continues to take on overseas projects. “There’s no formula (to overseas fame)… I want to create my own formula of making it in the international market,” she shared, “I may or may not succeed, but at least I tried… I don’t want to regret (anything).”
She wants to freeze her eggs
At the end of the day, after everything said and done, Julie still hopes to be a wife and a mother to two kids in future. And if she can’t have kids at a younger age due to her career, Julie, who is afraid that her body will no longer be in the optimum condition to conceive then, revealed that she has another alternative – oocyte cryopreservation (freezing of one’s embryos). “If I want to focus on my career, go to China and hit the international market, it will probably take up like eight years and by then I would be in my 30s…. So maybe freezing my eggs at this age might be a good choice.
“It’s not for anyone,” she clarified. “It’s for myself. I should do some planning."
"It’s a responsibility.”
WATCH: Julie explains why she is contemplating to freeze her eggs
Special thanks to W Singapore - Sentosa Cove.
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Quan Yi Fong says no to love, is daughter Eleanor the reason why?