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Singaporean Elaine (not Yuki, but more on that later) Wong has spent the past 13 years building her showbiz career in South Korea, and unexpectedly shot to overnight fame after participating in Netflix’s survival series “Physical: 100”.
Speaking to Mothership over the phone, the actress called the entire experience “overwhelming”, as she woke up to an influx Instagram direct messages from those who discovered her through the show, along with a flood of interview requests from the media — both Korean and Singaporean.
“My company was like, what’s going on?” she recounted with a laugh. “None of us expected a reaction of this scale because I had such a small part in the show.”
Wong (spoiler alert!) was eliminated in the first challenge on “Physical: 100”.
Her somewhat meteoric rise to fame has also come with a slight downside — as Wong laid under the radar for most of her career, there wasn’t a lot of information about her online.
And when people couldn’t find the right answers, they started making stuff up.
Setting things straight
Wong shared, “My best friend is from Singapore and she’s been sending me articles where people say this and that about me, and I’m like, what?”
Among the inaccurate information that she’s seen are reports that she was a former member of former K-Pop girl group SKarf — “I trained with the company for about two or three months, but I never debuted with them,” she clarified — along with claims that she’s aged in her mid-20s, all the way to her 40s.
In case you’re wondering, she’s 34.
While she used to refer to herself as “Yuki” in her teens, Wong clarified that she hasn’t gone by the name in over a decade, as it was something that she came up with as a teenager and was never used in her career.
The actress has also seen comments saying that they’ve “never seen her on [local] TV (television)”.
She said with a light chuckle:
“I see where they’re coming from, because it’s true that I’ve never been in Singapore dramas!
But when they see the term ‘Singaporean actress’, I hope that they understand that it means exactly that: an actress from Singapore.”
In the 13 years that Wong has been living in South Korea, her identity as a Singaporean has something that she has worn like a badge of honour.
Being away from home is tough, she admitted, especially during festive periods when all you want is to be with your loved ones.
Encountering Singaporeans on the streets of Seoul has been something she looks forward to, as she explained:
“Sometimes, I see Singaporeans struggling to buy something, or find their way because of the language barrier.
Singlish is so distinctive that you can tell right away that they’re Singaporean too, and I love it when I hear it because it reminds me of home.
I’ll approach them and ask if they need help, because I know what it’s like to be in a foreign country and being frustrated with not being able to get things done because you don’t speak the same language.”
Being proud of being Singaporean has also led her to introduce herself as ‘Elaine from Singapore’ in all the programmes she has filmed over the years.
“I feel a sense of pride when people say that they’ve heard of Singapore,” she chirped. “And if they don’t know where that is, I’m always more than happy to tell them more of my home.”
Top photos from Elaine Wong’s Instagram & Netflix