NUS graduate spends $8,500 to fix teeth -- so that she can be model

23 April 2014 / 2 years 6 months ago


By Benita Aw Yeong,
The New Paper,
Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

Miss Tan Yi Shiean wants to be a star.

She would like to be on the big screen, billboards, bus ads – the works.

Despite devoting two years to pursuing this goal, it hasn’t quite worked out. She reckons that the only thing standing between her and her childhood dream is her misaligned teeth. But Miss Tan is not discouraged.

The 25-year-old has spent about $8,500 on invisible braces and hopes to get the perfect smile by the end of this year.

The National University of Singapore graduate, who holds a degree in information systems, says: “I’ve always wanted to be a model – be it on the big screen, bus ads or billboards. But I never pursued it. When I graduated from university, I thought, ‘If not now, then when?’”

So while her peers took on full-time corporate jobs upon graduation, Miss Tan, who is 1.7m tall and weighs 49kg, joined talent agency, The People Studio, in 2012.

The studio, which started in 2009, manages about 400 models and actors for projects such as TV commercials and fashion shows.

Operations manager at the studio, Mr Mark Tan, says that most of those who join are looking for new experiences and exposure.

“About 60 to 70 per cent of them adopt a pragmatic attitude. They are keen to see where the opportunities in the industry take them, but don’t usually bank on them as their rice bowl. The remaining few are the dreamers who are really serious about making it big,” he says.

Miss Tan clearly belongs to the second group of talent he manages.

For the past 1½ years, she attended at least two to three casting calls and auditions a week, participated in photo shoots and events and joined pageants.

To pay the bills, she worked as a web designer and developer on a contract basis. Her showbiz assignments brought in only a low four-figure sum, reveals the Malaysian, who is now a permanent resident.

Says Mr Tan: “The amount a talent earns really depends on how passionate the person is, as well as their luck.”

He remembers sending an aspiring actor out to play Santa Claus at a shopping mall, a job which yielded about $12,000 a month.

“But if the person is shy, he or she may not land jobs even if they go for many castings and auditions,” he says.

He reveals that the earnings of such talents – an industry term for people who have yet to make it big – may be as low as several hundreds a month.

One of Miss Tan’s most memorable assignments was as an extra in Chinese singer-actress Angelababy’s TV commercial. She was also a back-up dancer in Hong Kong singer Eason Chan’s world tour concerts, held at Marina Bay Sands in 2012.

These are hardly big roles, but at least they are something for her portfolio, she says earnestly. The road has not been easy. She has been rejected at casting calls and auditions so many times that she has grown a thick hide.

“I was once criticised from head to toe at an audition for a major client, whose identity wasn’t revealed. The casting manager didn’t like my make-up, saying that I did not wear enough lipstick and eyeshadow, and that I did not have fake lashes on. She also said I dressed like I was wearing a curtain, and shot down my teeth,” recounts Miss Tan with a shudder.

Such harsh remarks have often left her feeling discouraged, she admits.

“Sometimes I would look at bus ads and start to compare myself with the model whose face is plastered on the vehicle. I’d ask myself why she’s able to get there, and if there’s really that much difference between her and me,” she says.

And in her mind, the answer is a firm “no”.

At times, her parents have also joined the naysayers.

“They would sometimes slam me, asking me not to ‘fa ming xing meng’ (Mandarin for having dreams of becoming a star),” says Miss Tan.

She works as an IT analyst now, which pays about $3,000 a month. But she continues to attend castings, auditions and events in her free time, hoping to catch her big break. She is determined not to snuff out her dream of strutting high-fashion runways or making it big in the entertainment industry.

“I always think about how awesome it would be to be holding an Oscar, giving a speech, taking a photo with (talk show host) Ellen DeGeneres. I have a gut feeling that once my teeth are fixed, I’ll make it big,” she says with a hopeful grin.

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Photos 1 to 5 show Ms Tan, while the rest show other S'porean models and beauty ageant contestants who dream of making it big.

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