Wong Li Lin – I Grew Up In A Kampong And Squatter District
Li Lin waltzes her way through life
Wong Li Lin’s life is very much a fairytale story. Well, almost. Daughter to a Malaysian rubber tapper, life wasn’t always about being in the spotlight. “We grew up in a kampong in Kembangan. I spent an inordinate amount of time with my cousins in a squatter district in Eunos too, so my childhood memories were filled with lots of rustic outdoor fun. Life was simple and certainly friendly.”
Yet humble beginnings as such weren’t at all hindrance to Li Lin’s big dreams. At the mere age of 16, Li Lin obtained the prestigious Loke Cheng Kim scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in England. From kampong and squatters to the glitzy world stage of dance, Li Lin shares, “England was a life-changing experience overall. I yearned for the challenge of professional training from a young age and it was a dream come true for me to live and breathe dance with the best teachers everyday.” Li Lin would later go on to start her own ballet school in Singapore, Forms Ballet & Dance Centre before setting foot for a successful acting career.
Today, wife to actor Allan Wu, mother to daughter Sage and son Jonas, trainer for fitness professionals and actress, Li Lin shares how she juggles a hectic schedule whilst keeping herself successful, trim and fit.
Ezyhealth & Beauty: Please share what you’ve been up to recently.
Wong Li Lin: On the Loopz® Fitness front, I’ve been conducting Instructor Training for fitness professionals and clinicians. We’re also organizing classes for the public, which will take place later this year. It’s all about helping people inject movement into their lives in the easiest manner. And we achieve this by making accessible 2-minute Loopz® Fitness moves that can be done where you are sitting or on the go.
EHB: It is mentioned in your blog that you grew up to a Malaysian rubber tapper dad and lived in kampong. What was growing up years like for you?
Li Lin: My father was a rubber tapper in Malaysia before he moved to Singapore. Life was simple and certainly friendly – we were able to pop in and out of our neighbours’ homes, humble meals were shared freely and there were always lots of children around to play with.
I remember too, meeting people from all walks of life – gamblers, pimps and crooks alongside professionals and academics. It seeded an understanding that one needed different skill sets and communication methods in each microcosm, a valuable lesson learnt from a young age.
EHB: At the age of 16, you obtained the Loke Cheng Kim scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in England. Upon graduation you then came back and started your own ballet school, Forms Ballet & Dance Centre (it has been sold off). What was the entire experience like?
Li Lin: I would have loved to stay on in England after the scholarship – there were many job opportunities and I was already a teaching staff at a professional school. However I had to return to Singapore for personal reasons and was lucky enough to land a job teaching dancers at SBC (through Sylvia McCully) and NAFA. I started FORMS because the opportunity was there and sold it to another teacher a few years later.
EHB: You started off teaching at Television Corporation of Singapore (the MediaCorp of yesteryear), was discovered and went on to star in Singapore’s first English drama, Silent Night. It must have been quite an exciting time for you then!
Li Lin: Everything just happened and I don’t think I fully comprehended the consequence of being on TV! And coming from a family of 3 elder brothers, I was always more excited by sports, adventure and the like… so the route of lights, camera and action took a while to adjust to.
EHB: People still remember your lead role as Elaine Tay in Triple Nine. What were your thoughts on your first lead role?
Li Lin: It remains one of my best experiences in my TV career. The cast and crew were a tight group and we were united in our efforts to build the then budding English channel. It was authentic and sweet. The role was fun and I loved doing the stunts – it was a time when we did everything ourselves including doing 360 spins with cars and jumping from the third floor to the first at Funan Center!
EHB: 1995 was the year your acting career took off. Since then, you have made numerous television appearances. Between acting and hosting, which do you prefer, and why?
Li Lin: I thrive in jobs that are challenging, that fulfill my need to make sense of things and allow me to learn and grow. I thrive in work environments that encourage that. Acting and hosting are only preferable when these elements are in place… else it is easy to become just another job where you’re regurgitating lines in front of the camera.
EHB: How different is today’s Li Lin to the fresh-faced Li Lin who stepped into the acting industry 16 years ago?
Li Lin: Then: Green behind the ears and all over the place. Today: A little savvier and more centered. Better with make-up too! (Laughs)
EHB: You are an actress, businesswoman, mother and wife. How do you find time for everything?
Li Lin: It’s not humanly possible to do everything you want to do and at once. You just do what you need to do when you can, and with a smile. My
approach at this point remains as a full-time mother/wife and part time everything else. When work becomes a more full time commitment, it does so in service of my family and never the other way around.
EHB: You are a proud mom to daughter Sage and son Jonas. How has motherhood changed you?
Li Lin: Enormously. I am far more mindful of the consequences of my thoughts, speech and actions, and try to come from a place where I continue to grow so there is authenticity and clarity in how I live my life and teach my children.
EHB: One parenting tip you live by?
Li Lin: Respect.
EHB: Alright, we don’t think you have aged since your very first television appearance. What are your beauty secrets?
Li Lin: Regular fitness regime, deep breaths and a good beauty therapist! Also I’ve recently discovered a great hydrating and cell repair product called Wonder Power Y. Spray it on your face either in the morning or night, rub it in and let it work its magic.
EHB: You are the face of many health and fitness organizations and events. How do you keep yourself healthy, trim and fit?
Li Lin: We become unhealthy, fat and unfit when we don’t move enough. It is as simple as that. Sadly, the reality is that most of us don’t move enough because we’re either too busy or too lazy. So what I do for myself, and what I teach others, are intentional moves that you can do now and forever, here there and everywhere. Two-minute Loopz® Fitness moves that can work you from top to toe, for rehab or uber athletes. When I’m free, I do a bunch of them at once and when I’m short on time, I just do a prescribed few. Intelligent moves and moderate eating habits (good and bad but never too extreme) are foundations to good physical health.
EHB: You’ve come a long, long way. Any advice to our readers?
Li Lin: “We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.” Carlos Castaneda (anthropologist and author).
In much the same way, I work on what lies within me as I continue on my 16 inches, what Zen teachers say is ‘the longest journey a man ever makes: which is from the heart to the mind’.