The New Paper
30 Dec 2014
S’porean actress says it is possible to live the Hollywood dream without falling victim to the casting-couch culture.
She’s a Singaporean actress who has made a decent living in Hollywood for the last five years.
Some of the big names she has worked with?
US pop star Taylor Swift, Korean-American actor Daniel Dae Kim and retired basketball star Shaquille O’Neal.
In Los Angeles, where Elena Wang lives, almost every person — waiter, bus driver, taxi driver — she has met is an aspiring actor or singer.
Many who have chased the Hollywood dream eventually return home due to the lack of job opportunities.
Wang, a former student at the Lasalle College of the Arts, said she has survived Tinseltown so far because she has street smarts. This has also helped her avoid falling victim to the casting-couch culture there.
Wang, 28, who is back in Singapore this week for the first time since she left for Los Angeles five years ago, told The New Paper: “To get jobs in Hollywood, you really have to network and I make sure to present myself well at all times.
“For example, I was performing with my band at this beautiful Malibu club where a lot of bands get picked up at open mic night (by scouts).
“I met a famous producer and we became good friends.
“If he had met an actress that was willing to (have sex with him in exchange for work), he wouldn’t say no.
“So it is possible to make it work in Hollywood (sans indecent proposals). You just have to be very careful about the vibe that you send out.”
Wang, who was discovered at her Lasalle graduation performance by local theatre directors Ivan Heng and Glen Goei, got her first local break with the musical Beauty World.
In 2009, after acing an audition for the musical The King And I in London while on vacation, she ended up moving there to star in its two-week run with Kim.
But Wang was then told by industry people there that she had an Americanised air about her and that to make it in London, one had to first speak with a British accent.
So the adventurous babe, who was insistent on pursuing her acting career, wasted no time and applied for the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.
The New York Film Academy is a for-profit school and acting school based in New York City, with one other school in Los Angeles.
It was founded in 1992 by Jerry Sherlock, a former film, television and theatre producer and its most notable alumni are Glee’s Chord Overstreet and Single Ladies’ D.B. Woodside.
Wang said: “The few years that I spent studying there were great as I made a lot of contacts with people already in the entertainment industry.
“The lecturers were actually cast members of popular US TV dramas such as True Blood, CSI and Desperate Housewives.
“These lecturers ended up writing letters of recommendation for me such that I managed to acquire the three-year O-1 Visa (awarded to ‘individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement’), which is
incredibly difficult to get.
“It was in these three years that I worked on music videos, movies and musicals and now I will be applying for my green card so that I can further pursue my career in Hollywood.”
She recalled fondly her experiences of being in Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together music video, an experimental film produced by O’Neal, vampire movie Club Dead, and musicals Miss Saigon and Oz The Musical.
Wang has also produced and starred in her own action movie, tentatively titled Bloodline, which she will pitch to film studios soon.
Wang, whose company Berte’ Productions also provides stunt choreography, said she is currently in Singapore for business meetings on possible collaborations with the entertainment industry here.
“Some people whom I’ve met asked if we would sponsor interns to work for us in Los Angeles and I’m open to the idea.
“After all, Singapore is my home.
“It would be great to welcome more Singaporeans to Hollywood.”
She is also looking forward to meeting up with her good friends from theatre, such as local actors Adrian Pang and Hossan Leong.
When contacted, Pang and Leong had only compliments for Wang.
Said Pang: “I’ve only seen her in one production in Singapore a few years ago.
“My impression was that she’s very talented, has a great singing voice and is very attractive.
“Elena will probably be gainfully employed as an actress no matter where she bases herself.”
Leong added that her talent was why he had cast her in the title role for local musical Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs in 2008.
He said: “I met Elena when she was graduating from Lasalle and was amazed at her amazing voice.
“She was a dream to work with.
“I’m so happy that she’s decided to try it out in Los Angeles.”
To get jobs in Hollywood, you really have to network and I make sure to present myself well at all times.