"I Was Bullied In School 'Cos My Mum Is Xiang Yun"
It's not easy having famous parents.
It’s getting crowded in the 8 DAYS studio as Calvert Tay, Chen Yi Xin, Chantalle Ng, and Shalynn Tsai are taking their place in front of the camera. Who? We can almost hear you say. Don’t worry, you’re not alone on this. The four subjects of today’s shoot are the teenaged kids of Zheng Geping and Hong Huifang (Calvert), Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun (Yi Xin), Lin Meijiao and Huang Yiliang (Chantalle), and former Ch 8 actress Chen Xiuhuan (Shalynn). The teens, all of whom are angling for a career in showbiz, are currently managed by Starlist, a talent agency founded by celeb hairstylist Addy Lee, who tells us he has big plans for his young charges in China. But first, they have to conquer Singapore. Chantalle and Shalynn, thanks to Addy, are now the faces of the new Sunsilk campaign, which will be out in May. The quartet has also just auditioned for an upcoming Ch 8 coming-of-age drama While We Are Young, and we find out later that all four have aced their auditions, and so will be starring alongside Zoe Tay, Rebecca Lim and Zhang Zhenhuan in the show, which starts filming next week. The camaraderie among the four teenagers is palpable, as they joke and tease each other like siblings. “We’ve known each other since we were kids! Calvert would come to my house and jump around on my sofa when we were in primary school,” Shalynn laughs, while Calvert smiles bashfully in a corner. The door bursts open and in strolls Xiang Yun with Edmund. They are here to give moral support to their daughter Yi Xin, who seems a tad nervous about the shoot. A while later, Hong Huifang appears sans makeup and kisses her son Calvert on the cheek before leaving. “I just dropped by after my massage session to see how he’s doing,” she says. “I’ll come back and fetch him home later!”
Read part 2 of the story here .
Chen Yi Xin, 17, first-year student at Singapore Polytechnic, daughter of Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen
8 DAYS: What was it like growing up with famous parents?
CHEN YI XIN: There’s additional pressure, so we have to always be on our best behaviour. It makes me want to do well in my studies too as I’m carrying my parents’ names on my shoulders. When I go out with them, I have to look presentable and be polite to everyone. Sometimes, people would just snap photos of my parents without asking, and I’d be right beside them, so it can be a little awkward. However, I’m still very appreciative that so many people still support my parents (smiles).
You mentioned that you were bullied in secondary school ’cos your parents are famous.
Yup, everyone in school knows that I’m the daughter of Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun and they talk about me behind my back. They’d gossip that my parents used their fame to get me in the front row during dance performances, or that the teachers showed bias towards me ’cos of my celeb parents. I was very affected by it, and life was quite hard for me in school. I didn’t know who to trust and I didn’t want to go to school. However, I don’t blame my parents. It could be the way that I expressed myself that led to misunderstandings, and I could’ve come across as being snobbish or rude (sighs).
How did you handle the situation?
I asked to transfer to an international school or go overseas to study but my parents told me that there will be haters everywhere. They told me that as long as I stay true to myself, people will like me for who I am. I think that their advice worked ’cos I became a lot more independent after that (laughs).
Are you worried that people might think you got a shortcut to stardom ’cos of your parents?
Of course people will say that. They can assume what they want but I’m glad to say that I’ve gone for auditions and taken the proper steps to get a role in dramas. I don’t think there’s any shortcut in life.
Speaking of auditions, what was it like auditioning for While We Are Young?
Before the audition, I asked my parents for advice as I was very nervous. They told me to keep calm and not stress too much. They said that as long as I act as myself, I’ll look natural. I don’t have to pretend that I’m someone else. I was asked to do a self-introduction and act as a rebellious kid. I was quite blur, but I think I managed to do fine! (Laughs)
Shalynn Tsai, 17, studies in Raffles Institution, daughter of former actress Chen Xiuhuan
8 DAYS: What did your mum say about you wanting to be in showbiz?
SHALYNN TSAI: At first, she was very against it. I had to convince her that I’d not let it affect my studies. I think she saw how determined I was and she finally agreed to let me give it a shot.
Why did you decide to work with Addy Lee?
Uncle Addy respects our studies, and I’m someone who takes my studies very seriously. He has agreed not to give me any work during my exam period, especially ’cos I’m taking my A-Levels next year. He’ll probably give me a lot more work after my exams.
What was it like growing up with a famous mum?
I didn’t know my mum was an actress until I was in primary school. When I was very young, there’d be many people following us around on the streets and I’d ask my mum who they were. She’d always tell me that those people were her friends. I only realised much later on that they were her fans! (Laughs).
A lot of people miss watching your mum on TV.
Even though she hasn’t acted in decades, people still remember her. I think it’s because she left showbiz at her peak. Just two years ago, my family went to Korea together, and we were on the same plane as [popular K-pop boyband] BTS. The funny thing was many passengers recognised my mum and kept taking photos of her instead of the K-pop idols! I think my mum is more popular than them (laughs). We ended up wearing sunglasses when we were sleeping on the plane as it got a bit uncomfortable. I guess that’s the bad part about having a famous mum (laughs).
You had a bit part in Jack Neo’s short film in local portmanteau movie 7 Letters. What was it like working with Jack?
He’s such a strict director! It was kind of weird ’cos I’ve known him since I was a child and I've always called him “uncle”. I got the role ’cos one of his cast members pulled out at the last minute and he called my mum and asked if I was keen on taking it up. I remember I was in Sec 3 and I had just finished my exams so I agreed. He was very strict and would film a single scene from morning till past midnight. But it was very enriching too. He gave me so much constructive feedback and acted out the scenes himself for me to understand better.
What’s next for you?
I see acting as a hobby, and it’s something I really enjoy. But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my other aspirations. I want to become a neurosurgeon one day. My parents know that I take my studies very seriously. In fact, my mum always tells me to relax and not to study too hard, and I’d be like: “No, I need to study!” (Laughs)
ALL PHOTOS BY EALBERT HO