You might have seen former MediaCorp actress Le Yao, 34, in several popular Channel 8 dramas in recent years, but the 2001 Star Search runner-up is also busy handling several projects at a go ― most importantly, being mum to her two cuties, Lucas, 3, and Ethan, 15 months.
The cheerful Shanghai-born lass also has quite the following in China, where she records programmes like her web series, Le Yao’s Baby Diary, for iQiyi, a China-based online video platform.
In 2010, Le Yao wed Ezra Tan, 35, who runs his own property company, and also helps Le Yao out at her enrichment centre A* Speech, where she coaches kids in speech and drama, as well as yoga.
Le Yao shares the ins and outs of her life as a mum with SmartParents.
Hi Le Yao, thanks for talking to us! You have two boys now ― how different are they in personality?
Lucas is now 3½! He has always been a more careful person ― whenever he walks or goes down the stairs, he always makes sure he is safe and has something to hold on to. Ethan, now 15 months, on the other hand, is very daring. He’ll want to jump down, even when there’s no one to catch him! It’s really quite dangerous. He’s so young but he’s quite muscular… I know it’s strange to describe a baby this way, but he is really quite muscular! Lucas is also very talkative. Even at 6 months, he was able to differentiate the buses, cars, and so on. But Ethan is not as vocal, but he started crawling very fast and walked earlier.
“I remember going to the wardrobe and trying on the clothes, and they were all so tight.”
Does Lucas dote on his di di?
They are very close. They fight, and even kick each other at times, but I think that’s normal. Lucas is now bigger, so he tries to sayang Ethan at one moment, then tries to bully him a bit. But I think soon, Ethan won’t let himself be bullied anymore. And I think if Ethan decides to push Lucas next time, Lucas will just fall down! [chuckles]
We understand that Ethan was unplanned ― how surprised were you when you found you were pregnant again?
Yes! I was filming a drama for Channel 8 back then, where I was playing the role of a Tiger mum. We were filming at Thomson Plaza, and I remember thinking, ‘Eh? How come my menses didn’t come?’ My period was late for three days, but I just felt so bloated. I remember going to the wardrobe and trying on the clothes, and they were all so tight. Then, I had the thought – am I pregnant again? I thought it was impossible, but I went to Watsons to buy the pregnancy test anyway.
So, you and your husband were pleased?
We were surprised, of course, but really happy. We had initially planned to have number 2, only after Lucas turned 2, so it was a bit soon, but it’s all good. Ethan is such a loving boy.
Before I found out that I was pregnant again, my mum (who is from Shanghai) was commenting that she was already so busy looking after Lucas. She said that if I had another baby, she would need to bring him to Shanghai. After I tested positive, I told her, I think you really need to bring one back to Shanghai! [laughs]
Were both your pregnancies smooth?
I didn’t have morning sickness for either of my pregnancies, but I craved sour and spicy foods. Since I felt the same way the second time, I felt that it was probably a boy again. With Lucas, I was spotting for the first three months. I was told to lie down for one to two weeks, and I had to take some medication for the safety of the pregnancy. For Ethan, I had no spotting, so I was very happy, and could even exercise a little. But after four or five months, they told me that his position was a bit low, so I couldn’t really exercise and I was told not to work for too long as well.
Were they big babies?
I put on about 15 to 16 kg for each pregnancy…and I regretted it! When I was about 7 months pregnant, I craved durian so much. Durian is so scary…my boys ended up being very big! Lucas was about 4kg and Ethan was 3.95kg.
Wow! Did you have a natural birth or a C-section?
They were both born by C-section. For Lucas, the birth was not progressing. Anyway, he was pretty big, and it would have been quite difficult for him to come out. I had a C-section for Ethan, too, because I couldn’t have a VBAC, as it was only a year and a half since my previous pregnancy.
What was your breastfeeding experience like?
I only breastfed Lucas for two months, and I had to supplement with formula. I didn’t have a confinement nanny then, and my husband was also very tired from waking up and bottle-feeding him. Perhaps it was because I was so tired after giving birth to Lucas that I can hardly remember what happened at the hospital! The first day, I let the nurse feed him with formula as I was so tired. On the second day, I tried to breastfeed him, but there wasn’t a lot of milk.
Were things easier with Ethan?
I had a confinement nanny with Ethan! I feel that when you can rest well, you will have more milk. I also had very good nurses at the hospital who taught me how to feed my baby and how to get enough rest. The nurses would make sure that every mother was confident of latching their baby before discharging you, and it really helped. I breastfed Ethan for six months. I would have continued but I needed to fly to Shanghai to record several programmes.
I would joke that the breastmilk was blocking my brain… I couldn’t think properly.
We read in an 8 DAYS interview that you said breastfeeding made you stupid. What was that about?
[Laughs] It made me not be able to concentrate and I couldn’t remember my script! Back then, I was doing this talk show about having babies, and I had to remember a lot of lines. The director in Shanghai gave me a long script ― in one shot, I had to remember so many lines! It was so difficult. I don’t know what happened, but I couldn’t remember anything. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I felt it could be because I was breastfeeding. I didn’t have my baby with me, but I was still pumping. When I wanted to recall the lines from the script, I would suddenly realise, ‘Oh no! My breast is getting bigger, it’s so hard and uncomfortable, I need to squeeze it out!’ It would just interrupt my train of thought. So, I would joke that the breastmilk was blocking my brain…I couldn’t think properly.
How did you lose the post-baby weight?
I did something called the biscuit diet. It’s amazing! This special diet biscuit replaced my carbs, so I could continue to eat my chicken, beef and veggies and still lose weight. Of course, I would also drink more water, cut down on desserts and fried food and sweet drinks. I lost 7kg in two or three months.
Did you feel the pressure to lose the weight, being in this industry?
My good friends are all just so straightforward with me. They asked me, ‘Le Yao, why you look so fat?’ They said, ‘You gave birth seven or eight months ago, why are you still so fat? You know, last time, your legs look quite nice, very sexy…now ah, look so bloated. Why you don’t exercise? Why did you give up on yourself?’ (Sighs) I said, ‘Thank you very much, and Okay, I need to do something about it.’
Was it easy?
Well, from April to September this year, I really took care of myself. For the first three months, I ate the biscuits and watched my diet. Unfortunately, I had a bad fall in August where I fractured my left arm. It was a rainy day, and I slipped and fell on a marble surface. My whole body weight fell on my left arm and it broke into 4 or 5 pieces. I had to have an operation. So, during that time, I couldn’t exercise and I put a bit of weight back on. Even after the operation, I’m not sure why, but when I ate the biscuit, I had problems moving my bowels. I didn’t dare to go back to the diet plan, so I tried eating just one biscuit a day, and reducing the amount of carbs I ate, since I couldn’t exercise. Slowly, I managed to lose the weight again.
So sorry to hear about your fall! Did it affect your work and your lifestyle?
When the accident happened, I still had four or five days of filming to do. My director was so shocked and also asked me, ‘Like that, how?’ Thankfully, they extended the filming period for me. And even more thankfully, I didn’t hit my head and my tailbone, and I still have the use of my right arm. My arm is better now, and I can move it, but I think it will be another three months before it will fully recover. When it comes to childcare, it’s not so bad. Lucas knows that mummy’s arm is in pain, so he won’t ask me to carry him. I can still carry Ethan with one hand, but he’s very active and strong, so if he moves too much, it can be dangerous. Usually, my helper and husband will help instead.
How busy are you with work these days?
I have a web series called Le Yao’s Baby Diary that is popular in China. We’ve stopped recording for now, but I have another live online show on Fridays from 3 to 4pm, where I talk about about popular beauty and slimming products. For other TV dramas and series, I’m taking a break from now till May, while I wait for my arm to recover. I also have an enrichment company, A* Speech, where we teach things like drama and yoga to kids aged 3 to 6. I still go down and try to be involved with it, though I may now have to do the actions with just one hand!
“I cannot tahan his [Lucas’] Chinese!”
Are you a kiasu mum yourself? Do you feel that kids today need enrichment?
Well, Lucas’ Chinese isn’t very good, even though I try to speak to him in Mandarin. But the rest of the family speaks in English, and my husband ― don’t know what happened ― also speaks in English to him! So, he understands Chinese, but he will reply in English. His preschool doesn’t focus much on Chinese either, so when he turns 5, I will send him to the Wang Learning Centre to improve his Chinese, so that he can prepare better for Primary school. I cannot tahan his Chinese!
Is it hard to balance work and family?
It is. As a working mum, I can just send him to school, then I have to go to the office. I can only see him after school at 5.30pm. And on some days, I can only be home at 7pm but I will keep trying my best.
Are you planning to have any more kids… a girl perhaps?
That’s a good question! Of course, it’s not as if you want, means you can have. But if I do have a third one, I guess my husband will be the most nervous because it’s he who wants a girl. In his family, it’s been mostly boys ― there are only two girls out of around 10 children. If I had a girl, I think she won’t even be able to walk even when she’s 2 years old…she’ll be carried everywhere! [Laughs] But we don’t have any plans for now. We still need to take a rest!
Photos: Le Yao
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