Ya Hui is looking swell — literally. But, no, it’s not her food baby. Neither is it the extra holiday weight she's carrying after her recent trip to China. Rather, she’s sporting a slight baby bump as part of her role as a free-spirited surrogate mum in upcoming Ch 8 drama Babies on Board.
Turns out pretending to be preggers is hard work. “Wah, very hot!” Ya Hui complains more than once. She later lifts up her blouse to let us touch her “very thick” full bodysuit, which comes complete with a padded bra that she has to don while in character. For the record, there are baby bumps of varying sizes that she wears to reflect the different stages of pregnancy (refer to photo gallery).
Ya Hui is wearing a yellow tee with the words “It’s a girl!” scrawled across her chest. She also has on shades 'cos of an eye allergy. She's getting fitted at the drama's imaging session when, out of the blue, a stylist casually mentions the words “breast enlargement”. Ya Hui laughs and turns a bright shade of red. “I don’t know how to react to that… Suddenly, so many people turn to look at my breasts, I feel very embarrassed,” she giggles. The drama's EP then chimes in: “When you appear on TV, more people are going to look at them.”
In the upcoming drama, Ya Hui plays a bubbly model who's still grieving from her boyfriend's death. He leaves behind a cancer-stricken sister who Yahui's character struggles to care for. In order to pay for her medical bills, Ya Hui agrees on becoming a surrogate mother for an obstetrician (played by Jesseca Liu) and her surgeon-turned-chef husband (played by Tay Ping Hui) but she eventually comes between the couple...
8 DAYS: How did you prep for your role as a surrogate mum?
YA HUI: I watched a few shows, like The Handmaid’s Tale and Chinese film Be A Mother to see how surrogate mums react to certain circumstances. And I tried putting myself in their shoes, you know, carrying a child for nine months and then, giving the child back to the parents. And I observed a lot of pregnant women on the streets. I also asked all my friends who have given birth before on how the process is like...
The show is called Babies on Board. What are your own experiences taking care of babies?
I’ve been taking care of my nephew and niece since they were babies. So I’d say that I can handle kids pretty well. But it’s quite a hassle to bring them out. There was once I brought my nephew out and he needed to go to the toilet badly. But I couldn’t find a toilet in time so he ended up peeing in his pants. (Laughs) I was like “S***!” I didn’t bring any extra pants. So I had to remove his pants, wash it in the toilet, dry it and then wear it back for him. Wah, it was crazy lah! We were at VivoCity and everyone was staring at me while I was clearing the mess [he made on the floor].
Would you ever be a surrogate mum in real life?
My character gets paid about S$200K. In the US, I think it would cost the couple USD$200K to $300K. So it’s about S$20K per month. That’s a lot of money. But you’ve to go through a lot of trouble, like dealing with the side effects and the aftermath — how to slim down and take care of your body. (Long pause) I cannot do it leh. I develop feelings for kids very easily, even if they aren’t my own. Like when I’m with my nephew or niece and they want to go home, I won’t bear to part with them. What more if it’s a kid that I’ve been pregnant with for nine months?
When talking about babies, naturally, one will talk about relationships and marriage.
Yes. (Resignedly) Okay.
Recently, you posted on IG about your good friend and Xu Bin getting married. Do you feel like getting hitched too?
Yes. But I must find the right person ah! (Laughs)
So how that’s coming along?
No lah, just let nature take its course lah.
Is there anyone chasing you now?
Don’t have leh.
Previously, you mentioned that your celeb pals would try to matchmake you. Do they still do that now?
That was a long time ago. Forget it. Previously, there were quite a few [celebs who would do that]. But that was many years ago.
What about now?
My non-showbiz friends have tried to matchmake me. But you know, I don’t feel like going [to those matchmaking sessions]. So I didn’t [in the end]. They would keep asking me to come out [to meet guys], but I’m busy with work. Where got so much time? I mean, let nature take its course. I think being single is also quite good. A lot of my friends who are attached have relationship problems. And after they get married, they quarrel over money and kids. So I think I’m fortunate.
In 2013, you once tweeted, “Everywhere I go, everyone is asking me to find a boyfriend and get married soon.” Now that you're 30, do you get that question more often?
I think they gave up already. Now, it’s only my mum [who still asks that]. My mum has been nagging me nonstop to get married soon. She’s very traditional. Recently, I’ve been attending quite a few wedding dinners. Then, whenever I come home, she would be like, “Eh, you go for wedding dinner, never see anyone suitable ah?” I tell her, “Mum, that’s enough. I went to attend a wedding dinner, not a matchmaking session.” Then she’d say, “You go for so many wedding dinners, you didn’t meet any handsome guys ah?”
No one caught your fancy?
Most of them [that do] are married already. A lot of my friends are also married already.
Okay, back to the show. How has filming Babies changed your perspective on childbirth?
It’s not easy being a mother. You have to go through a lot even before giving birth, like morning sickness. I’ve heard a lot of stories that some mothers can vomit throughout the nine months. So I think being a mother is really, really tough. So as children, we really should appreciate our parents. And although our dads didn’t give birth, but they had to go out and satisfy our mums' food cravings. It’s not easy leh. That’s why a lot of people say that you only know the pain of parents after giving birth yourself.
Babies on Board debuts in May 2018.
PHOTO CREDIT: EALBERT HO