Challenges, sorrow and strife… they’ve been flung at her but actress Pan Lingling shows how she rolls with the punches to always come out on top. Read on to find about her story as told by her.
Pan Lingling walks in fresh-faced after a shoot, dressed in a casual striped knit dress after a shoot. She’s come right off the set of Channel 8’s drama series Reach For The Sky, but despite the long filming hours, that sparkle in her eyes is distinct. For a person who has won a coveted Star Award for Best Supporting Actress, there’s no ceremony. Down to earth, she lands in her seat without fanfare.
“I’ve been shooting for the series for almost nine months now,” starts Lingling (the last episode airs this month). “The last 20 days have been exciting for me, because my character goes through a change – I become this brooding and depressed person, which is challenging,” she adds. “My dream is to play the role of a psychotic, but this one’s quite close.”
Nine months is but a dent in a career that spans 30 years. Surprisingly, Lingling reveals acting was not in her plans growing up. “No, this was not my dream,” she says. “During my school years, I wanted to be a flight stewardess, because I loved to travel.” But a trip to accompany a relative to enroll in a drama course at the then-Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) proved destiny changing. Lingling recalls, “The lady at the registration desk suggested I sign up as well, just for fun. I told her I had no thoughts of being a star. Besides, I was only 16.” But the lady insisted and Lingling got selected.
“The lady at the registration desk suggested I sign up as well, just for fun. I told her I had no thoughts of being a star. Besides, I was only 16.” – Lingling
Being the youngest in the group, with neither the desire to act nor knowledge of acting, Lingling shares she was lucky to be surrounded by people who doted on her and guided her like older siblings would. And it kept her busy. “I was in polytechnic at that time. I would give tuition after school, then head for my drama classes. I would be very tired, but also very happy with what I was doing,” she shares. Her “happiness” comes from the fact that she was able to pitch in on the family’s expenses. “I just wanted to earn money so I could help my dad,” she reveals.
That was also the time when deep friendships were formed. Lingling met fellow actors Madeline Chu and Huang Yi Rui, who were also in their late teens then. They’ve stood by her through thick and thin, including her personal battle with breast cancer in 2013.
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Let’s Beat This Together
“It was the most difficult year of my life. In March 2013, I was detected with breast cancer, and then I found out my father had lung cancer!” she says, almost shuddering at the thought.
The eldest child (she has two brothers), and also the closest to her dad, Lingling spent all her time and energy by his bedside – albeit wearing a mask due to her own delicate state of health – motivating him and leading him through his ordeal. “My father said, you are so young and if you can go through the therapies, I can do it too.” They set out to beat the cancer together, she at the age of 44 and her father at 75. Sadly, he succumbed to the disease in 2014, after a brave struggle. The strength he showed helped her battle her own cancer even after he was gone.
Lingling found out she had cancer almost by accident. It started with pain in her breasts, which she put to just being breast tenderness during PMS. She detected a lump, but put it to PMS again as it was painful to the touch. “People always told me that if the lump is very painful, it’s not cancer. So I believed it,” she says. But three months later, she realised the lump had grown. And sure enough, her regular health checkup confirmed the worst. “My advice to all women is this: Regular checkups are a must and if you find anything unusual in your breasts or body, please go have it checked right away. Let the doctor decide!” she says firmly.
She was at a celebrity charity golf tournament at Jurong Country Club when she got the call from her doctor confirming her results and advising her to go for a partial mastectomy. Her cancer was almost at the end of Stage 1.
“I was at Hole 7, and the hole-in-one prize was a Maserati. My only thought was, at least, can I have that? But I couldn’t make it,” she says cheekily. Her husband Huang Shinan, however, did not take the news as lightly.