Photos: Lee Lay Na
Quan Yi Fong has made tabloid headlines – on more than one occasion – for her public meltdowns, brawls and high-profile divorce with former actor husband Peter Yu in 2009. Her name serves as a topic of contention and is almost synonymous with the word “trouble”. But today, we prefer to associate it with a buzzword that’s been making rounds on the internet: zheng neng liang (正能量), as they call it in Mandarin, or positive energy.
Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for Yi Fong, who spent 10 years getting out of a “torturous phase” with the help of medication and religion. At her worst, while being under the influence of antidepressants, she was sleeping all the time at work and recalled being a walking zombie who’d snap in and out of a sedative “trance-like state” in between takes on her hosting jobs.
Her darkest days are well behind her now, thankfully, and life can’t get any better for the award-winning host, who just picked up her very first Best Info-Ed Programme Host award two weekends ago. Her mental health is back on track, her relationship with her teenage daughter - now a breakout star after filming an Apple commercial in China - is stronger than ever, and she has come to terms with her turbulent past and found peace with herself and in religion.
Surprisingly, in a brand new interview series with Toggle Talk, she admits to be no longer rattled by her ex-husband too and even considers him a “friend” today – a candid confession we thought we’d never hear from the famed host whose 11-year-long marriage ended on an acrimonious note.
No longer young, foolish and looking for love, read on for 8 things, including never-before-heard confessions, we learned about the happier and healthier Yi Fong in Toggle Talk, and watch the videos for a blow-by-blow account of her interview.
WATCH: Yi Fong explains why Eleanor gifted her with an Hermès bag
1. She’s thankful for her ex-husband and even sees him as a friend.
In 2013 when Peter first appeared on Channel 8 documentary Tuesday Report and sought her forgiveness on national television, Yi Fong simply wished him well in a Facebook post. Contrary to her detached response two years ago, the straightforward host showed a softened stance towards her ex and expressed no bitterness – only appreciation to him, in her interview with Toggle.
“I’d definitely say hi [to Peter if I see him again]. I’m really thankful for him – if not for him, how can I have such a beautiful child? If not for his misdoings and irresponsible acts, I wouldn’t have established such a strong relationship with my daughter and gotten my (mental) health back on track for her sake,” she stated.
Letting bygones be bygones and bearing no grudges against him, Yi Fong even boldly promised to help him in his times of need. “I used to think we cannot be friends even though we are not enemies, but today I want to tell him he will always be my friend.”
2. Been there, done that: Yi Fong says she’s destined to stay single forever.
Having loved and lost before, Yi Fong no longer seeks romance and instead sees herself as a “torture” to be with. “Maybe I have no fate with love in this lifetime (…) I’m not easy to get along with,” Yi Fong wisecracked, when asked if she still craves attention and company after being divorced for six years. The self-deprecating host then mockingly lamented, “I pity any guy who has to get along with me. Why does he have to tolerate me? Why does he have to accommodate me? Are men that silly today? (laughs)”
3. Her daughter plays a huge role in her love life.
Should fate send a Mr Right bumbling down her direction someday, he needs to accept that her daughter would always be her number one priority. But chances of that prospect becoming a reality is close to zilch, even if she jokes about the meeting the right one – and it’s not because she’s “too used” to being single.
“I know she enjoys what we have (in our lives) today,” said the 41-year-old who wishes to maintain the status quo. Chortling at her daughter’s disinterest in her love life – or the lack thereof -- Yi Fong jokingly added, “She’s super selfish (about sharing her mother with someone else)! And resembles my ex-husband in that aspect.”
Yi Fong with Addy and Eleanor at Star Awards 2015 Show 2
4. She and Eleanor are complete opposites.
Yi Fong lucked out big time with her filial daughter. She reckons if not for her crazy antics, she might not have had such an obedient child. "Life is fair," she joked. “We fill each other’s weaknesses, and Kai Xin (Eleanor’s Chinese name) and I get along like friends.”
Not the best role model to her child in the past, she strives to provide Eleanor with the best upbringing today, and in Yi Fong’s words that means accompanying Eleanor whenever possible, including driving her to and from classes every day and having meals together. “Or I will talk to her and share my past experiences with her… We do communicate a lot and this daughter of mine is receptive and listens to what I say. That’s also because she has witnessed my bruised and battered past.”
5. Her 16-year-old daughter keeps her claws and temper in check.
If we had to pick an element to best describe the mother-daughter pair, Yi Fong’s like fire while Eleanor’s like water – one curbs the other, just like how the host is more toned down these days thanks to her daughter who keeps a tight watch over her.
If not for Eleanor, Yi Fong reckons she would have lost her marbles - and probably made headlines again. “When she notices my temper rising, she’d take the initiative to control the situation. And she’d nag at me and stop me from doing a lot of things. She’s been like that since young,” she added.
WATCH: Yi Fong recounts an incident when she almost flared up in public
6. She regrets her past actions and calls them “detrimental” to her daughter’s future
Yi Fong fears that the skeletons in her closet will one day be used against Eleanor, should her daughter eventually pursue a career in showbiz, especially in China. “When I saw the Apple commercial, the first thing that went through my mind is this: for the first time, I have to face people’s criticisms about me directed at her… What if someone finds out about my background, writes that her dad did drugs and asks her about Addy (Lee) or her mother’s past?”
Reflecting on her past actions with a twinge of regret, she quipped, “Had I known about what would happen in the future, I’d have been more aware of my actions…”
7. She rejected a Hollywood casting opportunity for her daughter because education comes first
Eleanor may be a breakout CF star in the Chinese market, after starring in one Apple commercial, but Yi Fong is not about to let her daughter enter showbiz without seeking a proper education, or at least an ‘A’ Level certificate, if not a university degree. And that explains why she flatly rejected casting offers that came knocking on their door, inviting Eleanor to star in a Hollywood movie after she found success with the Apple commercial.
“You may be a bilingual Singaporean kid who has done a commercial for Apple. But after you turn 18 years old, what do you have? You have no certificate, no schooling background and you’re not a graduate from any school. People would think your family is in debt and ask why you didn’t finish school (before entering the industry)?” she laughed and added matter-of-factly, “You need a very good reason to be doing acting without a proper education background today."
WATCH: Yi Fong has some words for her ex-husband Peter
8. She has never bought a luxury item for herself
There was a huge hullaballoo online when Yi Fong posted a picture of herself carrying a rare and exclusive Birkin bag (that did not belong to her) and when her daughter bought her an Hermès bag after receiving her first paycheck from the commercial. Many spoke out against Eleanor’s lavish purchase but Yi Fong explained that her daughter merely wanted to give mummy “the best”.
Not one who’d hanker over such material goods too, Yi Fong revealed that she has never bought herself a branded bag in her 26 years of showbiz. She saves, scrimps and uses hand-me-downs from friends, which sparked this statement from Eleanor: “Mummy, you’re so thrifty and you’ve never had such a good bag so I want to buy the best for you. You are worth it and you deserve this and I want to buy this for you.”
Special thanks to The St. Regis Singapore.