Zoe Tay gets candid about past malicious rumours

The veteran actress says past experiences have helped turn her heart of “tofu into steel”

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Photos: Lee Wei Lin, Zoe Tay/Instagram

You might have heard about the false rumours of Zoe Tay retiring just before Christmas – an issue that she quickly addressed on her social media platforms.

At the time, the actress was happily vacationing in Japan and was taken aback by the speculation. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated,” she wrote in her Instagram post soon after the rumours started, accompanied with the hashtags “#WhoCreatedThisFakeNews #I’mOnVacation #PleaseDon’tFallForIt #Don’tBeFooled”.

Now, she’s back to reality and working on her next project, a cameo-turned-not-so-cameo role in Taiwan-Singapore drama co-production All Is Well, in which she plays a chicken rice seller married in reel-life to her real-life BFF, Chen Hanwei. She was originally slated to have a cameo role, but the script has grown to include hers and Hanwei’s story arc after discussion with the production team.

In an interview with Toggle during her imaging session, Zoe explained with a shrug that malicious rumours didn’t affect her holiday, and that she’s learned how to deal with them in her own way.

“The first time it happened, it was shortly after I finished filming 1991 drama Pretty Faces. My character in the drama was really materialistic, and maybe because I like buying branded goods, people started gossiping about me. The rumours got more and more ridiculous and this carried on for years,” she shared.

“I was only 19 or 20 when they started saying that I was a kept woman. When it happened, I was really upset. Not only did it affect me, but everyone at home as well. It felt like everyone was looking at me differently and judging me, so I felt very wronged and cried a lot. Even among my good friends, there were some who asked if it was true, and to me, you aren’t a good friend if you believe the rumours at all.”

The second major rumour about her was that she was going through a divorce with her husband. Her manager told her, “Hey, people are saying that you’re getting a divorce”, but this time, instead of crying about it, she took it in her stride and responded, “Okay, let them say what they want.”

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That’s why this time around, when retirement rumours began circulating, she dealt with it with the same mindset. “I got so hurt during the first time that my heart was turned from tofu to steel,” Zoe laughed.

She continued, “These days, I think of it this way – as an actor, you’re always judged by others, but what about it? It’s how you judge yourself that is important. At the same time, you can’t think of yourself too highly. It’s how you deal with negative energy and finding the balance that is important.”

“I was someone who bore grudges and wouldn’t forgive others. In the end, I learned that it wasn’t the way and I had to learn to accept, forgive, and remember,” the 50-year-old added. “Instead of letting others take others take advantage of you, just like my campaign, you can say no to it.”

That isn’t the only thing that she’s picked up over the years, as she’s come to find out that the way she communicates with the people around her is equally important.

“People used to think that I’m very strong-willed because of the way I spoke,” Zoe admitted. “For example, if I don’t want to touch on a sensitive topic during an interview, there are two ways to respond to it. ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ compared to, ‘I don’t want to do an interview’, is very different. The former is asking for your understanding, but the latter is almost as if I’m saying, ‘don’t bother me’.”

And to put the record straight, Ah Jie has no thoughts of going anywhere anytime soon, as she’s still very much in love with her job and doesn’t have any intention of retiring just yet.

She mused, “Of course, sometimes when you’re busy, and even when you’re not, you’ll get thoughts like, ‘Let’s just quit’, but it’s how you deal with this negative energy that is key. You can choose to brood over it, or you can just accept that it’s part and parcel of what you’re doing, and remind yourself why you love what you’re doing.”

The Singapore storyline of All Is Well will screen weekdays on Channel 8 at 9pm from late-August 2019. Viewers can watch its Taiwan-centric counterpart on Channel U at 10pm the same night.

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