Ase Wang, who was the object of lust for many a teenage boy back in the early noughties thanks to her scintillating appearances in FHM and Ch 5 teen drama Spin, may have been under the radar, well, at least in Singapore, for a number of years now. But the Singaporean actress and model made headlines last October when she spoke out against disgraced media mogul Harvey Weinstein, who she called “kind of a pig”. She had recalled how a dinner meeting with him was nothing more than a “meat show” and that she felt like she was “treated like a prostitute”.
In person, the Chinese-Swedish beauty is easy-going, very down-to-earth and has a disarming smile. She is cool and casual, much like the ripped-at-the-knee jeans she has on. During our photoshoot, she jokes with our photog: “Just make me look tall!” Her gold midriff-baring crop top hides her famed 32C assets, but flaunts her enviably tiny waist. This is, after all, the woman who was voted as one of FHM’s Sexist Women in Asia five times.
The 36-year-old Bangkok-based actress was back in town to film Toggle thriller Intercept, her first local show in 14 years since Spin. Though Ase was born with a silver spoon, or should we say, spatula in her mouth — her family owns baking supply giant Phoon Huat — it’s clear she works hard for her moolah. At 18, the go-getter moved to Hongkong and later, Bangkok, to pursue her showbiz dreams. Today, the multi-hyphenate not only enjoys a thriving movie career in Thailand, she’s also a #girlboss in her own right, dabbling in ventures from fashion to fitspo. She owns two boxing gyms, a cycling studio and a barber shop chain in Bangkok, and recently, launched her own swimwear line. Can someone say over-achiever?
8 DAYS: You play a doctor in Intercept. Is that something new for you?
ASE WANG: Completely. I had on only a bit of make-up [during filming]. It wasn’t the typical [look for] me — I’m usually dolled up for work — which I thought was great. Some people who watched the show were like, “Eh, [your character] really doesn’t look like you.” And I’d go, “Well, that’s the point, right?” I mean, I’d be scared if I saw a doctor coming in with her nails done and her hair curled. (Laughs) It had to be believable. I was in scrubs every day. And I learnt a lot of new things too, like how to properly hold a drip bag and check a person’s pulse.
Was ‘doctor’ one of your childhood ambitions?
(Laughs) I don’t know. Maybe I could have [been a doctor] if I had finished school. I used to be so embarrassed admitting that I don’t have an ‘A’ Level cert or a university degree. I finished school at 15, 16 years old. I took a different route and that wasn’t easy. But I feel that everything that I’ve learnt in life outside of school has helped me do what I do today.
Your family owns baking supplies empire Phoon Huat. Have they ever helped you financially with regards to your career?
Nope. When I was 18, I moved to Hongkong with S$2,000 in my pocket ’cos my dad wouldn’t give me any money. And he told my mum, “Let her go ’cos she’s going to come back when she’s run out of money.” I went to Hongkong with [former model-actress] Lum May Yee. And it was make it or break it. I ended up signing with May Yee’s modelling agency, and I started to get work. So my parents didn’t pay for my career at all. But at the end of the day, my parents are still my parents. If I fail, I can still come home (laughs).
Last year, you made headlines for speaking out against Harvey Weinstein, where you said that you were treated as not much more than “a meat show” at a dinner with him in Bangkok in 2007. As an actress, how much socialising do you have to do in order to score a role?
Do you mean me, or actresses in general? (Laughs) I’m going to talk about the industry in general. It happens a lot and it happens every day. And I’ve been guilty of it too, which was how I learnt. I’d show up somewhere and realise, “Oh my God, this meeting is not for biz. It’s just to hang out.” It happens in every industry, not just showbiz. And not just in Hollywood; it happens a lot in Asia too. It’s kind of a dirty industry. I’ve gotten a lot of backlash too for talking about [Harvey Weinstein]. Some people might not like it. I’m sure most of them are men. (Laughs)
What sort of backlash?
[I had a publication in China write an article about me] that brought in my family too, which I thought was completely unnecessary. Basically, their whole argument was that I come from a good family, so why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut? And the person that wrote that article was a guy. At the end of the day, people can bash me as much as they want about this, but I can sleep at night.
What’s the wildest proposition you’ve ever gotten?
I’ve been promised a condo, a car, a role in a movie. I’d think, “Why are you promising me these things? You’ve never auditioned me. You don’t know if I can act.” That’s when you know something’s wrong. I’ve been offered almost 200,000 baht (S$8K) just to have dinner with someone. And I want to talk about this ’cos there are many actresses out there who would accept condos and cars, and gifts [from men]. So if there is that percentage of women who are allowing men to do that, [men] will keep doing it and think it’s right. If a woman is going to take 200,000 baht to have dinner with someone, then I’d say that what she’s doing is wrong, and that needs to stop too.
What other shady things go on behind the scenes?
This happens a lot, not so much in Singapore, but there are a lot of managers who sell their artistes to older, rich men, and they take a cut. That’s like prostitution. Also, I don’t know if this is true or a myth, but there are talks of there being a price for every actress in Asia. So there are actresses who are being sold. But it’s a two-way street — the actresses allow it and their management does it.
After Shawn Yue got hitched to Taiwanese model Sarah Wang last Dec, you posted a string of sexy photos of yourself on IG, and many Chinese news outlets ran stories with the headline: “Shawn Yue gets married; his ex-girlfriend flaunts her bikini pics in protest”.
First of all, I didn’t post my bikini pictures with thoughts of trying to get back at an ex. I was on holiday by the beach and thought, “I want to take some pictures.” (Laughs) I think [the Chinese media] looked into [the pics] a bit deeper than that. And I’m not blaming them. They wrote what they needed to. But those pictures were definitely not in any way to ‘punch’ [Shawn] in the face and be like, “Ha ha!” (Laughs) No, not at all! ’Cos we’re still friends. And I’m extremely happy for him. I’ll stand by the fact that Shawn is a lovely guy, and he’s one of the most down-to-earth people that I’ve ever met in showbiz. Sometimes, it’s like he doesn’t even know that he’s famous. He’s a very easy person to be around. People love to say he’s a playboy. But this guy has always been about family and kids. You don’t see that many pictures of him going out and partying. He’s always been the marrying sort.
Did you congratulate Shawn on his marriage?
Yeah! You know, some people were like, “Why weren’t you invited to his wedding?” I’m like, “Why should I be invited to his wedding?” We’re friends, but we’re not super good friends. But he’s a good person, and I’m happy for him that he got married. I’ve very fond memories of him. I’ll always be his friend.
You’re happily attached yourself. Tell us more about your other half.
I’d say this much: He’s a businessman in the tech industry. And he runs restaurants too. Also, he’s mixed.
Any plans to settle down soon?
(Laughs) I don’t know how to answer that question ’cos it’s not like I can propose to myself, right? Our relationship is still in the early stages. So now, I’m just taking it day by day. But of course, I want to get married and have kids. That’s my ultimate goal.
Catch Intercept on Toggle.sg.