Celeb Tosh Zhang: YouTube gave me my break

Actor Tosh Zhang wants you to know junior can find success even if he doesn’t have a degree.


Tosh wears jacket and jeans from G-star Raw, T-shirt from Forever 21 paired with his own Necklace.

You probably know him best as second sergeant Alex Ong in the Jack Neo’s three Ah Boys to Men films. But before actor Tosh Zhang, 28, found success on the big screen, he gained fans for his straight-talking YouTube vlogs, or video logs.

Indeed, Tosh, a FLY Entertainment artiste, was not one to shy away from controversy in his vlogs as he wanted to share his thoughts with the world. The affable self-described introvert notes that it also allowed him to put his videography skills to good use.

“At that time, I was doing some Final Cut Pro (film editing software) editing in polytechnic was also working as a videographer, so I had the equipment and the technical knowledge. I also had the fire to say something. So, everything [matched] up well.”

Indeed, Tosh has YouTube to thank for the unconventional start to his successful entertainment career. Does he believe then that not all roads to success start with a university degree?

“A lot of kids, they feel that without a degree, they can’t make it in society.”

Tosh says, “I’m from a neighbourhood school and only have a polytechnic diploma ― a lot of kids feel that without a degree, they can’t make it in society. But I want them to feel empowered. If I can do it, you can do it, too!”

So how did Tosh get his break? He shares his secrets…

What made you start your own YouTube channel?

At first, I was watching a lot of American YouTubers and there were only a few of them at that time, like Nigahiga and Timothy DeLaGhetto. I watched their videos and I felt that maybe I can try this out. I have a lot of opinions and I wanted to share them. So, I started with a small camera in my room, stacked it up on boxes to create a tripod, and recorded whatever I wanted to talk about.

How do you come up with the content for your videos?

I only make videos whenever I felt like I have something to talk about. Sometimes, I will do two videos in a week, sometimes a video in two months. I go by my feelings, because when I feel like talking about something, that’s when I know I can come up with interesting things to say. It is always very random.

How long does it take for you to make a video?

It takes about one whole day. I would have to start in the morning, film for about four to five hours. Because I would say everything I want to say, review the footage, and see if I need to do another take. If everything’s all right, I will take another five to six hours to edit it. So, I will upload it at about 7pm after I’ve finished working on it.

How did your parents react to your YouTube videos?

They chanced upon them on Facebook ― their friends were sharing them or something, then my mum watched them. It took her a while to get used to it, but she started sharing my videos to support me. My cousins found my videos hilarious.

Did you ever think that YouTube was going to lead you to a career?

I always felt like YouTube was something that I will do in my free time. But, when I received the e-mail inviting me to the casting from J Team — director Jack Neo’s film production company — that’s when I felt like, wah, this is really going somewhere and I should go and try it out! It was about a week before I was to fly off to an Australian university to study. Jack Neo said that he was on YouTube, and my videos just kept popping up on his recommended feed. At that time, he was looking for vloggers, YouTubers, online personalities for the film Ah Boys to Men.

When I told my mum about this movie, she said, “You don’t even act. You’re a video editor. I already paid for your first semester and accommodation.” I told her to just let me try and defer one semester. At least after the movie, I will have experience working on a real film set. Plus, I was going to study film, so I managed to psycho her. She agreed and somehow, it worked!

Any concerns that your controversial YouTube videos would hurt your acting career?

No, it shows that I went from a computer screen to the silver screen. In fact, some people have more respect for me because they’ve seen my growth from YouTuber to TV and movie actors.

Tosh’s tips for being a successful YouTuber… Next!