Every year, we scope out 18 women who are driven by a desire to bring positive change and have achieved success in their chosen field as part of the Great Women Of Our Time awards. Meet 2019’s Arts & Media nominee, Tan Kheng Hua, FLY Entertainment Actress-Director-Producer:
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Meet Tan Kheng Hua – Great Women Of Our Time 2019 Arts & Media Nominee
She made waves as Margaret in the iconic Singapore sitcom Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, a role that won her Best Actress (Comedy) at the 2002 Asian Film Awards.
Tan Kheng Hua then went on to then make history as Kerry Chu in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, the first Hollywood production to feature an all Asian cast in over 25 years.
For the decorated thespian, acting is akin to breathing. “I entered the entertainment industry because it provided a form of expression for me that I just could not turn away from or deny myself,” she explains.
“I remember standing in my first home thinking I should take a chance to experience acting full time for a bit, and if I wanted, I could always return to the corporate world where I was also happy. That was 26 years ago and I never went back.”
She attributes her innate curiosity in people and places to her success as an performer saying being curious about how people think and act allows her to be able to experience and express; and Kheng herself thinks acting and curiosity were made for one another.
“I love how naturally and organically my job as an actor focuses me and makes me give to it so unthinkingly, so happily, so easily. That’s how I know my love for the art forms I have chosen to devote my life to is a true love. It isn’t selfish. It isn’t completely ego-led as I believe to be a good performer, one must have a healthy relationship with ego,” explains Kheng.
“I am the sort of person who 99 per cent isn’t where she doesn’t want to be or doing what she doesn’t want to do or with people she doesn’t want to be with. So when you see me happy at work and with the people I am working with, you know it is because I chose it and that I genuinely feel joy being there and I don’t want to be anywhere else at that moment.”
The only other thing that makes her feel the acting does is her relationship with her family, and in particular, her daughter, Shi-An Lim.
“The only other love I find as easy in my life is the one I share with my daughter!” she reveals candidly. “I really admire her. I admire how youthful but strong and wise and resilient she is. She teaches me to be better version of myself everyday.”
While family has always played a big part in shaping the Kheng we know of today, and helps keep her grounded as a human, she does confess that being an actor isn’t all its made out to be.
“One of the main misconceptions about being an actor is that we are very good at acting in real life. I think often, the opposite is true,” reveals the 56-year-old.
“Because we are playing make-believe characters all day, feeling and working out emotions that are not a part of our real-lives, we really need a real, real life to come home to and surround ourselves with!
“So what I like to do is ensure that I am in touch with who I am truly – this cheapskate clothing-supermarket-wet market-auntie – and allowing that Kheng to surface immediately when I am out of a role. I love that auntie side of me. She is capable, practical, content with very little and gets things done.”
It’s worth noting that since starring in Crazy Rich Asians, the Singaporean actress has been snapped up by three international agencies that will ensure we’ll be seeing Kheng in even more high-value productions. Up next for her include the much-anticipated HBO film adaptation of Tan Twan Eng’s book The Garden of Evening Mists.
Photos: Vee Chin & Tan Wei Te
Fashion Direction: Aaron Kok
Styling Assistants: Juliet Suen & An Lyn Chee
Hair: Jason Wong/Salon Nu, Grego & Ash Loi/Sonder Salon
Makeup: Keith Bryant Lee, Hongling Lim, Rina Sim, Wee Ming & Jyue Huey (for Shann Sok)
Location: 89NR, The Working Capitol, Botanico at The Garage & The Summerhouse
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