Wong Jinglun’s claim to fame was for his Jeff Chang-like vocals on Taiwan singing reality competition, One Million Star in 2008. He rose to fame overnight, was signed by Warner Music in Taiwan, and released his first solo album a few months later.
He quickly dropped a second album the following year and subsequently landed a meaty role in Taiwanese idol drama series Momo Love in the same year, officially kicking off his acting career. At one point, he even starred in a handful of local shows – web series PK Love and Channel U drama Jump! But the excitement and interest level over his foray in Taiwan and work projects soon fizzled out as quickly as a couple getting over their honeymoon phase in a new relationship.
These days the 35-year-old spends most of his time in Taiwan where he does, admittedly, have a much brighter future, especially after picking up a Golden Bell Award for Best Children’s Show Host last year. But how did he go from singer to host? What struggles did he face switching career tracks, and what can all artistes (be it singers or actors) learn from his stumbles?
Scroll down to watch Dennis Uncovers featuring Wong Jinglun, or read on for a recap of from his heart-to-heart sharing session.
His dad was angry he gave up his degree education for an unknown future
Jinglun was halfway through his university education at SIM (Singapore Institute of Management) when he was offered a chance to participate in Taiwan’s One Million Star. The dream-come-true offer came at an awkward timing as he had examinations when the competition was ongoing in Taiwan and should he skip it, he’d have wasted the money spent on his studies so far, said Jinglun. “My dad was so angry because it was a waste of money, plus there was no guarantee that I could release an album or be signed as an artiste…”
There were only two possibilities on his mind: get kicked out of the competition early so that he could still come home for the exams, or perform well enough to stay on in the competition and halt his studies completely.
“That was probably why I was so focused during the contest and why I really put my heart into it,” he chuckled.
He eventually finished 6th in the competition which is a pretty good ranking considering the career paths that opened up for him after.
WATCH: Jinglun's words were once misappropriated by the media. What happened?
Diverting away from his singing career
Due to his short-lived success as a singer, Jinglun couldn’t help but wonder if he had struck too quickly while the iron was hot in 2008 (he release two back-to-back albums between 2008 and 2009). He lamented about how he wasn’t able to fully comprehend or give the songs emotional depth, and if given the chance he’d gladly record them all over again now.
But when one door closes, another opens. So, when things did not work out for him on the singing front, Jinglun started to dabble in other projects such as acting and hosting variety programmes, and eventually found his footing in showbiz as a host.
“Hosting was something I approached with a just-for-fun mentality. I never thought that someone like me who speaks so slowly could become a host [because] you really cannot afford to be ‘slow’ when you host,” he shared with Dennis on the programme.
(Continued on next page: What did he do to make himself 'relevant' in Taiwan?)
Transforming himself into a ‘variety artiste’
In Taiwan, entertainment personalities who frequent variety shows as guest stars are placed on a lower pedestal as compared to full-time actors and singers, and it was not easy for Jinglun to embrace the change in his portfolio as a ‘variety artiste’.
He couldn’t get over his ‘ego’ as a singer and like other fellow singers, was initially “stressed” by the thought of it as he felt like he was “lowering” his standards too.
“They (singers) think of it as a different ‘class’ but it really depends on how you adjust your mentality. It’s like a chef who sells chicken rice in a hotel suddenly finds himself selling the dish at a hawker centre – how do you change yourself and put your pride aside?
“A lot of people have this burden as idols and cannot bring themselves to do it,” he shared from experience.
He soon realised the folly of his ways after receiving a piece of advice from Kuo Tzu-Chien, veteran theatre actor and host. “He said you can be persistent but don’t be stubborn in your mindset; when you are stubborn you start to hit hard corners ‘cos you’re walking blindfolded. And I thought his words made sense,” he said.
The most important lesson he learned from Marcus Chin
In 2014, Jinglun teamed up with Love 97.2 and Evergreen Veteran Artiste award winner Marcus Chin to host a cable programme called ‘Are You Hokkien?’ This collaboration changed his mentality towards work – for the better – after he saw how Marcus, despite a career spanning more than 40 years, carried himself on set and stayed humble with his “spirit and work attitude”.
Marcus was “always open” to different suggestions and taking on new challenges from the production team,” said Jinglun, “Never once did he shoot down any suggestions. He would always say: ‘Come, let’s try it.’”
It also helped that Jinglun identified with Marcus’ career path: the veteran artiste kicked off his career as a singer but eventually branched into hosting and acting, and has since built a name for himself as a consummate host and all-rounded entertainer.
“I used to be more selective about the kind of jobs I take on, but now I just want to try all sorts of different things and see how far I can go. I take them all as challenges, if you don’t take them on – you definitely have no chance of succeeding. So I don’t set limits for myself now,” he shared.