Xu Bin and the women who caused him pain

In this week’s Toggle Talk, the duke comes clean about getting beaten up by a gang (and his own mum) and gets candid about his relationships with Aloysius Pang and Dasmond Koh

Toggle Talk Xu Bin

Photos: Lee Lay Na

Fans of Xu Bin have his mother to thank for bringing the duke from Fujian, China to local shores – even if she did so by lying to his face.

15 years ago, when the 27-year-old was just 11, he boarded a Singapore-bound plane with his mum, who told him they were going on a holiday when in actual fact, he was coming over to take a primary school entrance exam.

Thankfully, Xu Bin took the deception quite well. “When I was on the plane, I saw the whole of Singapore and thought, ‘Wow, this place is beautiful’,” he shared during our Toggle Talk session. “Then after I reached, I found it very different from my hometown, and I liked it, so I was okay when my mum told me I was actually here to study.”

Little did he know that six years later, he would be giving celebrity a shot on the second season of Campus SuperStar. Although he was eliminated in the quarter-finals, Xu Bin still managed to find a bit of fame and was approached to audition for Mediacorp dramas. However, his then-girlfriend was not fond of the thought of him becoming an artiste, and he turned down the offers at her behest.

The path to stardom soon opened up for him again in the form of Dasmond Koh, whom he met while competing in Campus SuperStar (Dasmond hosted the programme) and who subsequently became his mentor, boss and friend. Today, Xu Bin is one of the hottest young stars in the country, with three Star Awards Top 10 wins (out of three nominations) and a spot among the 8 dukes. He was also crowned Toggle Outstanding Duke last year, voted Favourite Male Character in 2013 and 2016, and recently filmed his first drama outside of Singapore in Thailand.

He also sports quite a squeaky clean image - “bad boy” isn’t usually a term used to describe the Noon Talk Media artiste. However, as we discovered during our two-hour tête-à-tête, he wasn’t always the angelic lad he gives us the impression of these days. Read on for the juicy details:

He was a troublemaker in school

Remember that primary school entrance test we mentioned earlier? Xu Bin ended up scoring a measly nine points (yes, out of a hundred) in English. However, he was still allowed to enrol as the principal took a liking to him.

Unsurprisingly, Xu Bin faced a lot of hardships when it came to his English lessons. “In China, I had only started learning my ABC’s, and suddenly I found myself having to memorise words,” he said.

Thankfully, he had relatives to turn to for help. “I memorised 30 new words every day, kept a daily journal, and wrote an essay a week, and my aunt and uncle would test me,” he said. It took him a whole year before he finally passed the subject.

Unfortunately, finally passing his English made Xu Bin slip into a relaxed, nonchalant attitude about his education, and when he moved on to secondary school, he started cutting classes to play basketball and hang out with friends who weren’t exactly positive influences.

“I was a typical bad student, and our teachers couldn’t do anything about it,” he said. He even got into fights inside and outside of school simply because he “was not happy” with other parties.

Once, he and a gang of about 10 to 20 other rascals were summoned to the principal’s office, scolded, and asked to provide their parents’ phone numbers. “I gave him my aunt’s number because my mum was not in Singapore at that moment, but I’ve lied about my mum not being around even when she was. (laughs)”

He got a good thrashing by a gang because of an ex-girlfriend

When Xu Bin was around 17 or 18 years old, he had an unpleasant run-in with a gang thanks to his then-girlfriend’s jealous ex-boyfriend (he declined to be specific, but let on that his former squeeze’s name begins with a C and that “most people probably know who she is”, hinting at the fact that he was referring to blogger Celeste Chen).

“The guy kept being difficult but I would always ignore him,” he recounted. “Once, my ex-girlfriend and I met her ex’s gang at Orchard. They asked me to go outside, and when I did, there were a lot of people there waiting for me. They surrounded me and kept beating me up until someone called the police.”

Fortunately, however, his injuries were not too serious, and a hospital check-up confirmed that he did not receive any life-threatening head concussions. There weren’t any visible wounds on his body either, and his own family did not find out about the incident until two years later.

Toggle Talk Xu Bin

His mother’s physical punishments were pretty terrifying

As it turns out, his painful encounter with the gangsters was far from his first experience with physical violence. His mum had a horrible temper when she was younger, and her choice of punishment often involved lots of hitting – but a mere smack with a rattan cane was not enough.

In one example, Xu Bin recalled his mother whacking him on the nose with a chopstick – causing the chopstick to break – after he refused to drink the soup she cooked for him. Another ferocious occurrence took place after he and his younger cousin (who was referred to as his “little brother” during the interview) had a brawl with their neighbours.

“As revenge after a fight, we used a hollow pipe to stab holes all over their house’s fancy front door!” Needless to say, their parents were furious, and Xu Bin’s mother beat him with the same metal tube he used to destroy their neighbour’s property (talk about poetic justice).

That wasn’t the last of Xu Bin’s stories involving his mum’s wrath. After another one of his shenanigans with his neighbours, his mum gave him such a thrashing that he got scared and tried to run away, but: “When she couldn’t catch me, she threw rocks at me!” Ouch.

Now that this is all in the past, Xu Bin is able to look at history through a more positive lens. “If she wasn’t so scary, I might have turned out even more rebellious,” he mused.

He once spent $20,000 in two months

When Xu Bin was 18 years old, a dream for most 18-year-olds came true: his mother, who had been living with him in Singapore, packed up and moved back to China. “I was so happy to be finally on my own!” he said.

The thrill of freedom wore off in a month. “The house was in a mess because I didn’t take care of it,” he recalled with a shudder. But his sloppy abode was the least of his problems: before his mother left, she left him $20,000 for expenses - and he spectacularly blew it all on drinking, shopping, playing and treating his friends... in just two months.

“I had no choice but to tell her, and she got so mad at me, she said she wasn’t going to give me any more money and that I had to find my own way to feed myself,” he recalled.

To make matters worse, his friends were spendthrifts just like him, so he didn’t have anybody to borrow money from. They ended up being on the verge of starvation together. “I remember we would gather as many coins as we could to buy leftover bread from a bakery for cheap to eat,” he said. “When I think back, I really went through a lot!”

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