Noah Yap still vividly remembers the moment he got caught for doing drugs last year. “I was in camp [serving NS] and a couple of officers suddenly came in and asked for me. They took me to the police station, and tested my urine and it was positive,” he recounts. He was subsequently sentenced to nine months in jail in the Singapore Armed Forces' detention barracks (DB).
"When I was first handcuffed, all kinds of thoughts were in my head. Like, ‘Is this really happening?’ and ‘Is everything going to be okay?’ The funny thing is, after I got caught by the police, my [drug] addiction immediately stopped. And I just wanted to start over again, and move on," Noah reveals.
Fast forward a year later, and the 24-year-old Ah Boys To Men star has done just that. Just like other stars who struggle to rebound from drug scandals, Noah’s career took a serious hit after news of his drug-taking broke. But the resilient star is slowly climbing his way back up the showbiz ladder. But first, he's doing his part to spread the message about drug abuse, as part of his agency FLY Entertainment's #SayNOwithFLY campaign which aims to deter drug abuse.
8 DAYS: You were caught for the consumption of cannabis while serving NS in Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)’s Music and Drama Company last year. Now, you're starring in Chances, a video inspired by your story.
NOAH YAP: [My boss, FLY Entertainment honcho] Irene Ang started this campaign ’cos she wants to deter people from going down the same path as me by highlighting the dangers of drug abuse. There has been a rise in the number of drug abusers in Singapore and around the world. So we hope this video can dissuade people from doing drugs. It's also to inspire those who have gone through [similar circumstances] and see no hope [in their future]. The message of this video is that there are second chances. It’s also about cherishing your chances and being thankful for everyone who has helped you along the way. For those who want to try drugs, I’d say, don’t waste your life in exchange for a few minutes of fun. Drugs not only ruin your life, but that of your family and loved ones.
What sort of feedback have you gotten from the video?
Even before we did it, I was afraid that there would be backlash and that people would flame me and say things like “He’s only doing this for show lah,” or “He’s still a drug addict.” ’Cos you know, even if you do something right, there will still be people saying [negative] stuff. But the response has been very different from what I expected. People actually showed me support and left positive comments online, telling me that I can move on and that they’re still here for me. I just want to let those people know that I’ve read every word they written and it means a lot to me, and that I’ll work twice as hard to continue entertaining everyone. (Laughs)
How did you first get into taking drugs?
Peer pressure. When I was 20 or 21, I was overseas with a couple of friends and they did drugs. One of them [offered it to me] and was like, “Eh, this is nothing.” So I took a puff — and that was how it all started. I have since cut them out of my life. Now, I hang out with my boys [the Ah Boys To Men cast] ’cos they’re always there for me.
You shared in the vid that you were rejected for many jobs after news of your drug taking broke.
Yes, I was jobless for six months. And I slipped into, not depression, but sadness. I’m taking this step to tell people that I admit what I did was wrong, and I’m never going to do it again. I just hope that people will learn to forgive, move on and accept me again.
How did being jobless affect you financially?
I was quite down on my finances. I had to borrow from [the Ah Boys] and family to sustain me financially for a while. They really helped me in my time of need. Of course, I had to pay them back once I could. Things are much better now. Job offers and a lot of other opportunities have increased.
When did job offers start rolling in again?
It took time. And it also took that one person to say, “Hey, look, Noah’s actually a good guy. Whatever has happened has happened. So why don’t you try to use him?” That opportunity came in the form of Ah Boys To Men 4, when director Jack Neo decided to take a chance on me again.
Is your time in DB on your records?
It’s in my military records. But ’cos I’m a public figure, my records are on Google. (Laughs) Anyone who Googles my name will see those articles. So right now, I’m just trying to get busy with work, so that more good articles about me will be written and eventually, [those negative search results] will be pushed down lah.
What was your experience in DB like?
It was tough lah. Like, I couldn’t… Eh, wait, I don’t know if I can answer this... (Manager interjects to say he won’t be able to answer the question.)
So what did you think about while you were inside?
I thought mostly about my family. Every week, without fail, they would visit me. One of my most vivid memories is about how there wasn’t a single week when they came to see me and not shed a tear. That was what hurt me most ’cos I was the reason for their tears. That was punishment enough. I never want that to happen again.
What did you do to occupy your time in DB?
I read almost 100 books in six months. My family was able to bring me three books every week. Sometimes, I’d borrow books from the other inmates too. I read the Bible and a few motivational books, but mostly, fictional books. Lee Child, Jodi Picoult and Dan Brown are my favourite reads. But when I wasn’t reading books or doing anything, and just staring at the wall and thinking — that was quite scary. ’Cos all kinds of bad thoughts like “You know you deserve this” would cloud my mind. It was torturous emotionally. Thankfully, God really pulled me through that time. I had thought that I’d come out depressed and crazy, but that didn’t happen.
After you got out of jail, did you face any kind of discrimination?
I’d get people coming up to me and poking fun at me. They would say things like, “Eh, is it fun inside [DB]?” or “Come lah, just smoke one time, we go inside [DB] again.” They think it’s funny but it’s actually not. I’d just ignore them.
After all that has happened, do you think you’re a better person now?
I’m more thankful for every opportunity that comes my way right now. I’m more appreciative not only of my life, but also, the people around me. I never want to let them down again.
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