Zoe Tay felt like an “ugly duckling” when auditioning for Star Search

We were surprised by her statement too

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When you think of celebrities, chances are that you’ll think of a good-looker who fits the typical beauty standard that many seem to have. This is even more so for actors, who have to express all sorts of emotions - even at the expense of their gorgeous looks.

Or so we thought.

As we headed down to the makeup unit at Mediacorp earlier this month to speak to Zoe Tay, we wondered if the Star Search hopefuls of today would be able to relate to any of the advice that she would be sharing.

After all, she’s Ah Jie - someone who commands your attention just by entering a room.

Once we sat down, we asked the 51-year-old about her audition process, and if she had to deal with the very plebeian worries of stage fright and nerves.

“Of course lah!” she said with a laugh. “I was a model at the time, but when I was younger, I was told by my brother that I was an ugly duckling. That’s how I thought of myself at the time, and even now, I still don’t find myself particularly pretty.”

She probably read our expression of disbelief, as she continued with a small chuckle, “What you see today is the Zoe Tay who’s ready to be on TV. Everyone has their insecurities, and when you’re all dolled up, you might not see it that clearly, but trust me, it’s there.”

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The Zoe Tay in 1988, who eventually emerged as the Star Search champion, she shared, wasn’t someone who was particularly talented nor ready for acting at the time.

“Our modelling agency told us to give it a try, and I didn’t even tell my family about it. It was only during the finals that my brother found out, and when he asked me about it, my father’s passing comment that the winner would get a car as part of the prize spurred me to want to win the competition,” she said.

However, that wasn’t to say that she had an arsenal of weapons at her disposal, as she recalled the eliminations passing her with a blur.

One thing she does know after over three decades in showbiz, however, is what she looks out for in budding talent.

“You don’t need to get all the lines right. You don’t need to look a certain way either, although many might think otherwise,” she explained. “When you’re in the contest, what we’re looking out for is potential. We’re not expecting to find someone who can immediately step into a leading role - although that would be nice, but it’s very unlikely.”

She paused for a moment before continuing, “When I was competing, there were so many better looking, outgoing, sociable or charming contestants. I didn’t feel like I stood out, nor did I understand it when I kept moving on to the next round. It’s only in hindsight did I realise that what they were looking at is what they thought I could become after Star Search, and not just for who I was at that moment in time.”

Her advice to those who have made it past the first round auditions is to keep their chin up regardless of what happens.

“Anything can happen during the contest. You might forget your lines when you’re competing, or you might get eliminated out of the blue. It doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, or that you’re no good. It just means that at that point of time, they think that someone else has more potential than you,” she shared.

“What you can do is to work on yourself, go for acting classes or simply experience the world more. If you still have the passion to be an actor, come back again next time. Star Search isn’t the only avenue for you to become an actor. If you really want it, you’ll get there one way or another.”

For more information, check out the Star Search microsite.

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