Dawn Yeoh no longer uses dating apps after getting questions like: 'How much do you earn as an actress?'

Jan Lee
The Straits Times
February 21, 2024

Singaporean actress Dawn Yeoh does not look a day over 30.

But in the new local movie King Of Hawkers, the 37-year-old bachelorette plays the mother of a 20-year-old, portrayed by Mediacorp starlet Gini Chang, 29.

Yeoh tells The Straits Times at the film’s press conference at Sands Expo & Convention Centre on Feb 20: “Yes, since the casting, this has been a bit of a controversial decision and something everyone comments on.”

King Of Hawkers, which opens in Singapore cinemas on Feb 22, stars the actress in the leading role as a divorcee who returns to Singapore with her daughter after years living in Hong Kong. She helps to revive her estranged mother’s (Liu Lingling) bak chor mee stall.

This is Yeoh’s first lead role on the big screen. The Chinese-language drama is directed by local film-maker Kelvin Sng (Taxi! Taxi!, 2013; The Fortune Handbook, 2017).

She says: “I’m definitely not his first choice. I think perhaps his ideal was someone who is already a mother. But technically, I am the age of someone who can be a mother. I was eager to play a mum since that is something I’ve never done before.”

But Sng, 49, is not worried about his casting being seen as unbelievable or distracting.

“In this era of TikTok, where you see mothers do dance challenges with their daughters, being a mum doesn’t mean being an ‘auntie’. We didn’t cast the characters based on the actresses’ real ages and we made it clear that Dawn plays a very young mum. One of our actors, Ryan Lian, has a line of dialogue where he comments on how they look like sisters,” he explains.

Yeoh is also playing a mother in another upcoming series, the star-studded Mediacorp drama Emerald Hill, a spin-off of 2008’s smash hit The Little Nyonya. 

Consecutively getting cast in these roles has not triggered any anxiety about ageing on her part.

She says: “I quite enjoy the process of ageing now. I had age anxiety when I first crossed 30. I was worried that I would lose my freedom because 30 is that age where people expect you to get married and settle down. I cherish my freedom and singlehood.”

Dawn Yeoh (left) and Gini Chang play mother and daughter in King Of Hawkers. PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

The star, who is “single and available”, feels quite ready to be a mother in real life, but is still searching for Mr Right. 

She says: “I’m still going out on dates, but I gave up on dating apps a few years back because I was always meeting guys who asked me silly questions like, ‘How much do you earn as an actress?’”

Yeoh, who made her debut with a leading role in the Channel 8 series The Shining Star (2006), was once named one of the “Seven Princesses” of Mediacorp alongside A-listers such as Jeanette Aw, Joanne Peh and Rui En.

Since 2013, she has been an artiste with Taiwanese artiste management agency Catwalk, which also represents local celebrity couple Fann Wong and Christopher Lee.

But before she ventured into live-stream sales three years ago as co-founder of e-commerce platform Sibay Shiok with local actor Terence Cao in 2021, she went through a period of uncertainty and lull in her career over four to five years, when she did not receive many roles.

“There were many times when the money I had in my bank account inched close to zero. That hit me hard and gave me a lot of financial anxiety,” Yeoh says.

She even went for interviews to become an air stewardess and was hired as a Singapore Girl, but turned it down because a role came calling.

Dawn Yeoh at a press conference for the movie held at Sands Expo & Convention Centre on Feb 20. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

She recalls: “My life has been like a roller coaster. Every time I’ve tried to do something else, the entertainment industry always came calling. So, I’m always at a crossroads. The role I was given then wasn’t a major one and, soon after, the roles depleted again and I was, yet again, in a lull. So, of course, I wondered if I made a wrong choice.”

Her eventual pivot to e-commerce during the pandemic came about because she desperately needed a new income stream.

She says: “It was an opportunity. We didn’t know how long it would last, and I thought there would be no harm trying because everything was put on hold. I needed to survive. Thankfully, it did well.”

The ups and downs of her 30s have humbled Yeoh.

Despite snagging a movie lead and a TV part in Emerald Hill, which is billed as a Channel 8 blockbuster, she says: “I don’t dare to claim that I’m good now because I know life can be a roller coaster. So, I just want to be content and happy, cherish every moment and learn as much as I can.”

King Of Hawkers opens in Singapore cinemas on Feb 22.

The Straits Times

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