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Sun, Feb 22, 2009
The New Paper
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Back in the limelight
by Germaine Lim


Modelling, acting, singing, radio DJ – Celest Chonghas done it all.

Once a regular fixture on the local entertainment scene, the leggy 36-year-old seemed to have all but quit Singapore when she left Media Corp in 2005.

Her last major role in Singapore was in Channel U’s GroundZero (2004).

But she’s back.

She returns to local TV in new Channel 5 English drama serial, Red Thread, which startson 7 Apr.

With 40 episodes, Red Thread is the first long-running local English serial in 15 years since Masters Of TheSea (1994).

The latter spawned 26 episodes while its short-lived sequel in 1995 aired 13 episodes.

Red Thread centres on Alex Sung (Adrian Pang) whose investigation into his wife’s death leads to the wealthy Kong family.

Complication sets in when he falls in love with Teoh Li-Ann (Celest), the kind stepdaughter of Kong Wah (Patrick Teoh) who represses her emotions and conforms to everyone’s expectations of her.

Other actors in Red Thread include Aileen Tan as Celest’s mother and Julian Hee as her brother.

So while she retraces her roots in local TV, the looming question remains: Where did she disappear in the last four years?

After leaving MediaCorp in 2005, the self-professed vagabond who “goes wherever work is” dipped her feet into the effervescent Taiwanese entertainment industry.

There, she released her third album, Snowflakes (2005) and played a reporter in C’est La Vie (2006) which also starred Taiwanese actor Lin Youwei.

An animated Celest recounted the venomous remarks she had to put up with when she moved to Taiwan.

The naturally-tanned actress told The New Paper about the reaction there: “All sorts of verbal abuse were hurled at me. I’ve been told things like ‘you’re so dark!’ and ‘you can’t even speak Mandarin well’. It was a real culture shock.


“But you learn how to deal with them. You have to retort with sarcastic remarks like ‘I’m ugly but not as poor as you’. Then you suddenly find yourself a best friend in the person who yelled at you first.

“It was inevitable that I was bullied. Everyone became territorial – they think that a foreigner is vying for a piece of their livelihood.”

After 11/2 years, she packed her bags again, this time for China.

In a stark contrast to the city life she is more used to, she spent months filming Acalea Blossoms (2009) in the mountainous Guiyang province. There, she encountered some of China’s most impoverished.

She recalled: “I asked the village chief if anyone has stolen someone else’s chickens which roam about freely.

He had a bewildered look, like it was something totally unheard of.

“The children are so full of integrity. The film crew took along food and gifts. But the kids who have so little to eat refused to accept them and told me to keep them for myself.”

She added: “Where do you find such selfless attitude in modern society? I think I rediscovered the beauty of humans from them.”

After spending two years in China where she also released her fourth album, Small Happiness (2007), she moved back to Singapore last January due to a family emergency.

Local productions have been knocking on her door, but she prefers to keep a low profile and “alienated myself from local media”.

“I didn’t want to be contactable – blame it on this eccentric personality trait I have.”

Save for a cameo role as a ghost in last year’s Crime Busters x2, which starred Tay Ping Hui and Dawn Yeoh, she decided to lie low until she accepted the Red Thread role.

Post-Red Thread, Celest, who is single and lives with her mother in Bishan, has no plans.

She is no hurry to accept more projects, either.

Although she has been reading Hollywood scripts, the actress does not want to “you know, say two lines and die”, and fade into oblivion.

She said she has been offered a hosting gig on an online Canadian variety show, but she wants to deliberate on it.

Her attitude now is “take it easy”.

Single & happy

But the pink “Single” necklace and love pendant she wore to the photo shoot seemed to say otherwise.

She laughed, saying: “It was purely unintentional! I only wore them because I’ve never had a chance to wear them together. I gotthem from Taiwan.

“It was either going to be a fierce red ‘bitch’ or a sweet pink ‘single’. So I chose the latter. But now that you have mentioned, they are rather suggestive.”

She has had less than five relationships in the past.

She admits there are suitors but she is not ready to settle down.

“Family life and children are big responsibilities.

You must be certain this is what you want. It’s not for me... for now.

“My mum is the coolest. I asked her the other day if she’d be okay with me not getting married. Her response was, ‘As long as you have money, there’s nothing wrong with not being married’.

“I’m happy being single now. I want to remain like this for a while before plunging into another relationship.”

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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