Yearning for love, fame and recognition: Ian Fang

In this week’s Toggle Talk, the straight-talking actor sets the record straight about being mislabelled as a bad boy, lets in on his insecurities, and–finally–tells us what exactly is going on between him and his “BFF” or “BGB” Rebecca Lim


Photos: Don Lee

I’M NOT A BAD BOY – Stop calling Ian Fang that or, at least, that’s what the actor hopes people will stop doing, as the label has turned him into someone he is not. At the absolutely Instagram-friendly styleXstyle VIBES Café located at the spankin’ new Mediacorp campus in one-north, the actor unleashed his angst and lamented over the misgivings and misinterpretations about being ‘Ian Fang’ during his Toggle Talk interview.

Slightly frustrated, if not perturbed, by his current predicament of being one of the most controversial figures on the hill, Ian self-deprecatingly said, “I feel that I have such a negative image because the media tend to caption: ‘Ian Fang, bad boy’ etc… Maybe that [On The Fringe] character left a really deep impression in people’s minds, but what if the media wrote: ‘Kind-hearted Ian Fang’ and ‘Ian Fang the good boy’ in their captions or titles instead? Maybe it will change the audiences’ perception of me?”

To set the record straight, Ian clarifies he has only acted in one rebellious role to date, but the ‘bad boy’ label has been stuck to his name ever since, like an annoying itch that will never go away.

When the 26-year-old made his official debut in On The Fringe five years ago, he was like a breath of fresh air, adored for his no-filter, no-nonsense and straight-talking mannerisms. But the novelty of being a non-politically-correct celebrity soon wore off as his no-holds-barred and somewhat “cocky” personality started to grate on people’s nerves.

Fans who love him, really love him – and vice versa with the haters.

And this is not the only struggle he faces. For years, Ian has been trying to graduate from boyhood and branch into manlier roles, but with little luck – especially with a baby face like his. “I’m very thankful and a little unhappy that my mum has given me this ‘ah boy’ face,” the optimistic actor joked, “But thanks to Korean dramas, there are a lot of good roles for ‘ah boy’ actors too – just look at Descendants of the Sun.”

Five years on and still no male lead role in sight, but Ian no longer broods over what could have been and is biding his time to show everyone a “reserved” and mellow version of himself. In the same way that he experienced a breakthrough after his hooligan role in On The Fringe, all he needs is one role to change everyone’s opinion of him.

Behind Ian’s self-assured swagger and attitude lies a deeply sensitive soul in need of some tender loving care. Read on and watch the interview videos below as he tells us why mature and older women are his cup of tea and why his mother (no kidding!) has the final say in his love life and marriage.

WATCH: How far will Ian Fang go to showcase his talents?

He just wants to be recognised for his talents – at any cost

Remember when Ian threw a big bash to celebrate his fashion label’s first anniversary, invited the who’s who of showbiz to party with him and released his first music single, First Attempt, last December? Well, he did it with the sole purpose of “proving” his talents and showing people that he’s not afraid of walking the talk and pursuing his dreams of becoming a singer, even if he could barely hold a note after getting his vocal cords damaged in 2014 while filming Meeting The Giant.

“Who does not want fame? We’re all in this line for fame,” he honestly said, quoting a line made famous by former actress and wife of the Chinese President, Peng Liyuan, “If not, what are you doing this for?”

Despite releasing two fashion collections, Ian tells us his fashion label, also named First Attempt, is not a profitable venture yet because the money earned from the collections has been invested in the next fashion project. Profits, says Ian, are not what he is after.

“Money can be earned again,” he rationalised, “Why do I have to spend S$50,000 to earn S$25,000? You need to spend what needs to be spent, the gains will roll in in the future. I don’t want to forcefully do things [just for monetary returns].”

If anything, his biggest takeaway is the show of strong support he received from showbiz colleagues and seniors like Huang Biren, Shaun Chen, Dennis Chew, Zheng Geping and Aileen Tan, which helped prove that he has a pretty good relationship with his colleagues and is not necessarily as “bad” or “disliked” a person as most people make him out to be.

In case you’re wondering where Ian got the money to fund these projects, it was a mixture of his personal savings and loans from friends – he did not take a single cent from his mum and he has his reasons for it.


He had an impoverished past in Singapore

Growing up in a single-parent household (Ian was raised in China by his maternal grandmother for years when his parents travelled abroad to work) meant that he and his mother are exceptionally close and reliant on each other – she is like a mother and father to him, said Ian.

He had a rocky start in Singapore when he first moved to the island-state to study – he even had his fair share of homeless days and had to seek lodging in a 24-hour fast food restaurant because the landlord was in debt and “owed someone money”. At his worst times, he had to bathe at the community centre and spend his nights at different fast food outlets.

Perhaps the unsavoury memory of being a homeless kid has taught him the importance of having a place to call his own, said Ian, and it motivated him to purchase a private apartment, which he co-shares and co-pays with his mum, in 2015. “It then dawned on me that a person can have no money, no car, no friends – nothing, but he cannot not have a roof over his head."

Ian added, “I know the consequences before doing anything now. This is a good habit to have and I’d think about it before executing my plan.

“I don’t ask for great fame; I just want to have a home in Singapore, get a driving license, have a car and have enough income to give my mum an OK life. That’s all I ask for.”

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