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.”
He was never Mr. Swagger growing up
Beneath Ian’s swag and cool cat street cred lies a little boy who yearns for love and affirmation. Here’s a little secret about him: he was ostracised for having “no mother or father” in school and had a very lonely childhood - so much so that he’d end up talking to himself in the mirror.
“My confidence stems from my inferior complex [growing up],” he philosophised.
One particular incident that touched on a sore spot, recalled Ian, was a school sports meet which ended in tears, “Most of my classmates had their parents supporting them at the stands, but there was no one there for me. I finished the race in first position, but people started to gossip that I was a kid with no parents. When I walked out of school, I ran towards my granny who was waiting for me with a flask of drinks and burst into tears,” he shared.
Things changed slightly, when he moved to Singapore, and Ian “was trained to be an independent person” and now he believes that he is capable of doing everything by himself. And that explains why he sees no need in sharing his problems or woes at work with mum. “I’m a strong-willed person who keeps problems to himself… I’m someone who never shares bad news with her, I only share good news. And that is why I’m like a little boy when it comes to romantic relationships.
“I love to be doted on and pampered. But once I’m in a relationship, my male ego starts to show. I’m a little crazy, right?” Ian said, chuckling in disbelief.
Maybe that explains why he has a thing for older women and has only ever dated older women, although his relationships all tend to end on a bad note, which brings us to Ian’s next -- shocking -- reveal.
WATCH: Ian is like a boy who needs to be doted on and pampered in relationships
He has no luck in love. In fact, he was jilted in all his past relationships
Contrary to his ‘bad boy’ vibes, Ian doesn’t womanise or fool around. He even proudly declares himself as a “homebody” (or ‘otaku’, to quote him directly). Crediting his prim and proper ways to his mother’s strict upbringing, Ian revealed that he has only been in four relationships so far (one puppy love and three serious romances), and all his past relationships are May-December romances with women who are three to five years older than him.
“I got ditched for very realistic reasons,” he quipped, manner-of-factly. “What usually happens is they’d tell me they are at the age where they need to settle down and they would ask me: ‘What can you give me?’”
He continued ranting, unleashing a torrent of suppressed emotions, “I worked hard and gave the best of my capabilities [in the relationships]. I may be young but I’d make up for it in other areas – I can give you a lot of advice, I can give you a lot of other things… If you’re my woman, I’d give you happiness, I’d let you know no one can bully you except me. I won’t let my woman get hurt at all.”
Although he has someone in mind now, he’s a little wary of making the first move, especially after getting his heart broken and “burnt” by his past romances.
“You know that you shouldn’t touch some things – you’ve been hurt so much that you don’t want to be in love anymore.”
Touché. And this brings us to an all-important question…
Yes, he has a thing for older women, but he sees Rebecca as a “younger sister” only
Now that we know older women are his cup of tea, what exactly is going on between him and his BFF and/or BGB and fellow actress Rebecca Lim? Is something brewing romantically between them, as alleged in all the news reports about their supposed relationship?
For all the curious cats and detractors who have been lambasting Ian since these rumours got out – sorry, he only considers the 30-year-old as a good friend. For one, Ian admits that he wants to “protect” the friendship they have, “If I take the next step and the relationship becomes contorted, we’d no longer have this BFF-friendship.”
Try as hard as he may, he can’t give an exact answer as to whether they’d end up dating in future, too. “I’m a bit strong-headed and I don’t know... Nobody knows [how far] Rebecca and I will go… I can’t give a good answer on that. No one knows what will happen in future either.”
Although he hemmed, hawed and hesitated when asked to define their relationship, here’s what we gleaned from his interview: they are very good friends and are like family members; he is the older brother in their relationship (despite being three years younger than her); they share their problems with each other; and they are each other’s pillars in life – and one cannot do without the other.
“I’m a quick-tempered person and she’s more soft-spoken, so maybe our personalities complement each other. And that’s how we hit it off well.”
In case you’re wondering, “No ambiguous feelings are involved in this relationship,” Ian reiterated.
WATCH: What does Ian have to say to detractors?
Special thanks to styleXstyle VIBES Café.