While the Tay siblings Calvert Tay, 18, and Tay Ying, 22, offspring of Mediacorp actors Hong Huifang and Zheng Geping, 54, are used to being in the limelight, nothing could have prepared them for the very eventful few weeks they experienced this July.
Indeed, the entire country was riveted when details of the feud between Huifang, 58, and fellow Channel 8 veteran actress Pan Lingling, 49, broke. Huifang, unhappy with her colleague’s comments regarding her son’s relationship with 25-year-old actress Julie Tan, sent a rant via mobile to some 50 friends announcing that she had cut ties with Lingling. The furore has, of course, died down.
SmartParents’ interview with the Tay siblings ― fledgling actors themselves ― took place before the spat blew up in the media. However, when we followed up with questions on the issue, their 3x Media Production rep turned down our request, describing the row as “an adult matter”.
Still, it's clear that the Tay family is a very tight one. The siblings even took to social media to declare that no one hurts their family ― ever. Tay Ying wrote in a since deleted Instagram post, "No one hurts my family. No one."
“We used to fight a lot and even fought physically many times ― even kicking each other! But as we grew older, we became much closer.”
Recent turmoil aside, the siblings insist that growing up in the Tay household is nothing out of the ordinary. During the chat with the Tay offspring, it’s evident that they are grounded, humble, hardworking and not about easily fazed by negative publicity.
Tay Ying says, “We’re frequently asked what it was like growing up with famous parents, and our answers always shock people. It was very normal and we didn’t feel any different.”
Tay Ying, who joined the entertainment industry last year, is studying for a marketing degree at SIM’s RMIT University. She appears in StarHub Go’s Get it Beauty on the Road series.
Calvert who is now doing his National Service, is considering studying overseas after his stint in the army and is also tapping the China market for acting opportunities.
SmartParents sits down with the siblings as they talk growing up in Singapore, family relationships and what’s inspired them to follow in their parents’ showbiz footsteps.
Hi, Tay Ying and Calvert! Did you get along when you were young?
Tay Ying: We used to fight a lot and even fought physically many times ― even kicking each other! But as we grew older, we became much closer.
Calvert: There was one incident I recall vividly (laughs). We were fighting over my sister’s laptop, and I took it and told my parents that it was mine. She got really mad!
When did you become closer?
Tay Ying: It was probably towards Calvert’s late-Primary to early-Secondary school years. Our parents would scold us when they saw us fighting. They would say things like, “This is your sibling, why are you treating him or her like that!” As the years went by, we both matured and learnt to respect each other. Many older siblings feel they have the authority and the younger sibling has to listen. But in truth, you never know what you may learn from your younger sibling!
Calvert: We also don’t see our four-year age gap as a problem. We’ve found that it’s better for the family as a whole when we put aside our age differences.
Personality-wise, what are you both like?
Tay Ying: We’re both introverted-extroverts, but our mannerisms are very different. I’m definitely more OCD (obsessive-compulsive) about organisation. Our rooms are next to each other, but they are two very different scenarios! Mine is super neat, and his is really messy!
Calvert: I must say that she’s much tidier. Her clothing is colour coordinated! For me, as long as there’s an empty space, I’ll chuck my stuff there.
“I would tell my mum about an upcoming exam, and she would say, “Ok lah, just pass can already!”
I see! Would you say your personalities are similar to that of your parents?
Calvert: For Tai Ying, the OCD-ness come from our mum. As for our dad, Tay Ying takes after his drive to get things done. I guess we both take after our dad’s perseverance ― when we have a goal, we work towards it and don’t waver.
Tay Ying: That’s true! I cannot stand a second being free ― I have to be busy. Calvert has my dad’s patience too. When my OCD-ness kicks in and I tell him to clean up, he’ll just suck it up and do it.
Growing up, what were some of your most memorable childhood moments?
Tay Ying: We grew up in Balestier. We have fond memories of the area, especially the food like bak kut teh and Boon Tong Kee chicken rice.
Calvert: And XO beehoon! The Balestier Shaw cinema was just walking distance from our place. Also, our mum would take us out with our cousins every week, despite her busy schedule ― we are very close to them. She would bring us to Sentosa on a weekly basis. It was literally just my mum and a bunch of kids!
Did you find being a kid in Singapore stressful?
Tay Ying: I would say academics was stressful. Our parents were not very strict in that area. They were more particular about etiquette and manners, like how we’d greet people and carry ourselves. I would tell my mum about an upcoming exam, and she would say, “Ok lah, just pass can already!” But that made me even more stressed!
Would you want to raise your own kids here?
Tay Ying: Why not? I love Singapore! There’s nothing to complain about living here. We have a good education system, we’re safe ― it’s a first world system.
Calvert: Ultimately, I think I would raise my kids here. You realise everything is so controlled and limited in the army ― everything outside (in Singapore) is a luxury that you can’t take for granted.
Speaking of the army, what has enlisting been like for you Calvert? Have you adjusted well?
Calvert: I just completed my basic training course recently and got posted to an army unit. The unit lifestyle is similar to that of basic military training, with fixed sleeping and waking up times. After a few months, you get used to it. The first two weeks were hard. We’re prone to irregular working hours as actors, but in the army, everything is so fixed.
Tay Ying, now that Calvert is in the army, do you miss having him around?
Tay Ying: Yes! We stay in a penthouse, so our rooms are on the first floor. At night when he’s away, the first level is very empty. The first two weeks when Calvert was in confinement, I felt a bit lost. It was so quiet! Cos we would go to each other’s rooms and disturb one another.
When did you guys become interested in acting?
Calvert: For Tay Ying, it was last year. For me, two years ago. From young, we got a lot of industry exposure because our parents are actors. I started out attending variety shows and a couple of events, and that sparked my interest. Auditioning is nerve-wracking, but we just keep our eye on the prize. Like what our parents told us ― when you’re in a role, you are that character, not yourself, so just be immersed in that.
As future parents, what advice would you give to your child who wants to be an actor?
Tay Ying: [Laughs] That’s a long way ahead! But I’ll advise them to work hard and stay humble. If you climb all the way to the top, you still have to remain humble.
Calvert: If my kid wants to go into acting, I’ll tell them to go ahead and do what they love. But to really think carefully as well. It’s not easy work. But if you put in the effort, it’ll show. And yes, staying humble is so important! Our dad always says, “Strong people don’t push other people down, they help them up.”
Who are some of your close friends in the industry?
Tay Ying: I’m particularly close to Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun’s daughter Yi Xin, as we’ve grown up together. It’s nice to have the support of friends in the industry.
Calvert: I’m close to Marcus Guo (son of Guo Liang). We’ve been childhood friends since young, too, and hang out quite a bit.
Whom do you look up to?
Calvert: I guess, our parents ― they work really hard. I really respect actors Eddie Redmayne and Andrew Garfield, too.
Tay Ying: Hugh Jackman ― he’s so multi-talented and can do everything. And Chris Hemsworth. He came here for a Hugo Boss event, and I was fangirling over him!
Please complete these sentences:
One thing people don’t know about my parents is…
Calvert: They snore very loudly! When my dad was watching TV on the couch downstairs, I could hear him snoring from my room ― with the door closed and air-conditioning on!
Tay Ying: Once, my dad snored so loudly that my mum had to go downstairs and sleep!
Describe your family in three words…
Calvert: Very loving family!
Tay Ying: Retarded, random and protective.
The best advice my parents gave me was…
Calvert: Stay humble and have good manners. Do what you love.
Tay Ying: Don’t be pressured by your surroundings.
My dream family holiday would be in……
Calvert: New Zealand! My dad and I are huge Lord of the Rings movie fans.
The family that eats together, chows down on…
My guiltiest pleasure is…
Tay Ying: Chocolate. Anything sweet for me!
Calvert: New York cheesecake.
The one thing I always tell my parents is…
Tay Ying: “What have I done to deserve this?” Our dad is very annoying and likes to disturb us. In the middle of nowhere, he’ll suddenly scare us! Or when we’re in the lift, he’ll come close to nudge us. To my mum, I always say “chill”. She talks a lot and gets hyped up easily.
Calvert: When she has family plans, she gets very excited. So, I have to tell her, “Relax! One thing at a time.”
A good family night is best spent…
Calvert: Watching shows.
When I have 30 minutes to myself, I’ll…
Tay Ying: Pack my room!
Calvert: Either nap or read.
One thing I would never be caught dead doing is…
Tay Ying: Digging my nose in public!
If I could be any other person for a day, it would be…
Calvert: Bill Gates?
Tay Ying: Donald Trump. I want to know what it’s like to be loved and hated at the same time.
Photos: Instagram/Tay Ying (@tayying_) & Calvert Tay (@calverttay.zkj)
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