Kimberly Chia’s turbulent times as an SQ Girl

Getting picked on, being told to “piss off” – being a Singapore Airlines air stewardess wasn’t always so glamorous for the actress

Kimberly Chia
Kimberly Chia
06 Mar 2018

Kimberly Chia

Photos: Tammi Tan, Channel 8

Kimberly Chia’s Instagram might as well be a travel magazine. Just a quick scroll through her page serves up spread-worthy photos of her in iconic and instantly recognisable cities such as London, Paris, New York, San Francisco, Sydney and Shanghai.

We’re going to be honest and admit that our initial thought was something along the lines of, “How come she’s so free? How come she has so much money?” when she started posting these wanderlust-sparking shots. Online speculations on forums that shall not be named are even more scathing, but let’s not get into those.

As it turns out, the 22-year-old was a Singapore Airlines air stewardess – a.k.a. an SQ Girl – for two years, hence the abundant jet-setting opportunities.

“It was a personal dream of mine that I wanted to fulfil while I’m still young,” Kimberly told us of the seemingly sudden temporary career switch. “I wanted to do more and go out to see the world, and at that time, I felt like if I missed the chance, I might never get the opportunity to do it again.”

She reported that she was fortunate enough to go through a “shortened” interview process and that “everything went very smoothly”.

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Additional photos: Kimberly Chia/Instagram

Kimberly Chia
Kimberly Chia
06 Mar 2018

Kimberly Chia

The actual job, however, had a few bumpy encounters along the way. While a majority of her colleagues were very pleasant, there were also a few she deemed “more demanding”, “hard to get along with”, “not as nice” and two-faced. “They would be nice to you in front of higher-ranking staff, but when you’re alone they would keep scolding you.”

In the worst incident she could remember, someone picked on her so badly that she had to run to the washroom to calm herself down. “I was on the verge of tears,” she recalled, adding that she doesn’t think she did anything wrong, or that she was a target because of her status as a public figure.

Then there were the passengers. The most memorable (read: traumatising) incident happened when Kimberly, then only a month or two into the job, had to pacify an unreasonable Caucasian woman who was unhappy about other travellers crossing her aisle to get to the toilet.

“Just as I was walking towards her, a passenger crossed her aisle and she screamed at me, ‘How could you keep letting this happen!?’ I was still very new and didn’t know how to handle it, so I just asked her, ‘I’m so sorry, is there anything else I can do for you?’ and she told me to ‘piss off’ really loudly.

I was shocked and almost wanted to cry because I never expected to get shouted at like that, but everyone else was really nice because they knew it wasn’t my fault.” Yikes.

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Zong Zijie and Kimberly Chia
Zong Zijie and Kimberly Chia
06 Mar 2018

Zong Zijie and Kimberly Chia

But of course at the end of the day, the perks outweighed these occasional little horrors. Besides getting to visit almost every city Singapore Airlines has a direct flight to, Kimberly enjoyed a handsome monthly salary that ranged from S$4,000 to as high as S$6,000. She also got to serve a few celebrities on board, including Tay Ping Hui, Paige Chua, Lee Teng, as well as South Korean actors Seo Kang Joon and Lee Dong Hwi, who were in town to promote their drama Entourage in 2016.

Alas, after two years of flying high, Kimberly has handed in her kebaya to return to her first and biggest love: acting. “I missed acting so much and was really looking forward to coming back,” she said, sharing that she has signed a new three-year contract with NoonTalk Media after leaving them briefly to join SQ.

The doe-eyed lass already has two upcoming dramas in the works: Toggle Originals series Love at Cavenagh Bridge and Channel 8’s Say Cheese (we caught up with her at the imaging session for the latter), in which she plays a model and will be paired up with her label mate Zong Zijie.

When asked if she’s afraid that viewers may have forgotten her due to her long absence from the screen (plus the recent bombardment of new faces on television – hey, even we find it tough to keep up sometimes), Kimberly said that may not necessarily be a bad thing. “I want audiences to see a new, more matured and grown-up me,” she explained.

And our obvious next question: what are her thoughts on giving up an SQ Girl’s lucrative pay, which, frankly speaking, would be hard to match as an actress? “It’s not a problem,” she shrugged. “I didn’t think about my salary decreasing or whatever because that’s not my priority.”

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Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)
Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)
06 Mar 2018

Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)

Romeo Tan wasn’t exactly looking like his usual chipper self when he sauntered into the imaging studio. Not that we blame the actor: he had just returned from a nine-day trip around Central Europe a few days earlier and was jetlagged from forcing his body clock seven hours ahead.

“So obvious, right?” he grinned when we asked him if he was tired. But his condition didn’t stop him from gushing about the “magical” experience he had in Prague (Czech Republic), Budapest (Hungary), Vienna and Hallstatt (Austria) with four friends.

“The trip was awesome! As you can probably tell from my pics, I really enjoyed myself a lot,” he said. The getaway set him back about S$10,000, including flight and accommodation (which consisted of boutique hotels as Romeo is not exactly an Airbnb kind of guy).

Speaking of his pics, the avid shutterbug shared that he took so many “Instagram-worthy” images that he got inspired to compile them into a book. “This is a thought that came to me three days ago while I was editing my pictures,” he said. “For now I have over 40 photos, but I hope to be able to shoot portraits of other celebrities to include as well.”

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Additional photos: Romeo Tan/Instagram

Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)
Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)
06 Mar 2018

Romeo Tan is afraid of fruits (and Joanne Peh?)

To our surprise, Romeo does not play a photographer in Say Cheese, despite a photography studio being one of the settings in the 20-episode drama. Instead, he plays a kind-hearted reporter whose mother, played by Chen Li Ping for the third time after Joys of Life and Life Less Ordinary, is dubbed Durian Aunty thanks to her extreme love of the King of Fruits.

Romeo cannot relate. In fact, it was during this interview that we discovered his unusual fear of not just durians, but all fruits (yes, you read that right).

“I have not eaten fruits since I was young, I have a bit of a phobia,” he sheepishly admitted. “My mum said when I was a kid, I ate a lot of fruits, but one day I puked it all out and ever since, I’ve disliked fruits.” It’s so bad that he will go through the trouble of making a big detour to avoid a fruit shop as he can’t stand the smell.

But the possibility of maybe needing to take a bite of durian in the show isn’t Romeo’s main worry (he said he would just take one mouthful and spit it out). Instead, he’s more concerned about being paired up with Joanne Peh, whom he’s working with for the second time after Dream Coder.

“Joanne is someone I never pictured playing my girlfriend because she has this Ah Jie feel that’s out of my league – she’s way too good for me lah! (laughs)” he explained. “We haven’t had time to discuss our roles so I don’t know what to expect; I was all right with playing her brother but I’m a bit nervous about playing her boyfriend.”

Fortunately for him, there won’t be any intimate scenes as their characters don’t officially get together until the end. “I don’t want to get in trouble with [her husband] Qi Yuwu!”

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Chen Li Ping looks forward to working with Rui En again
Chen Li Ping looks forward to working with Rui En again
06 Mar 2018

Chen Li Ping looks forward to working with Rui En again

Chen Li Ping, who plays a sporty, young-at-heart deliverywoman in Say Cheese, will get to make good use of her contacts when it comes to sourcing for the best durians for the show. After all, since she will likely be eating them a lot, it only makes sense for her to go for what she likes.

With pictures of Rui En’s recent photo shoot for a Star Awards holographic opening footage making the rounds on the web lately, we asked Li Ping, who is her friend and label mate, if we will ever see them together on screen again.

“I look forward to it!” the 52-year-old enthused. “We always have a lot of chemistry when we act together, so I hope to be able to work with her again.” We’re sure she’s not the only one who is counting down to their next collaboration.

Chen Li Ping
Chen Li Ping
06 Mar 2018

Chen Li Ping

Romeo Tan
Romeo Tan
06 Mar 2018

Romeo Tan

Chen Li Ping and Romeo Tan
Chen Li Ping and Romeo Tan
06 Mar 2018

Chen Li Ping and Romeo Tan

The onscreen mother-and-son duo get mushy in the studio.

Ouch! What happened to Romeo's character?
Ouch! What happened to Romeo's character?
06 Mar 2018

Ouch! What happened to Romeo's character?

Guess we'll have to tune into Say Cheese​​​​​​​ to find out how his character ended up in this painful situation.

Chen Li Ping fixes her hair
Chen Li Ping fixes her hair
06 Mar 2018

Chen Li Ping fixes her hair

Say Cheese debuts on August 6, 9pm on Channel 8.

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