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The New Paper
18 June 2017
Local actress Julie Tan may be one of the most popular TV stars right now, winning over hordes of admiring fans over the years.
But filming her latest Channel 8 drama, The Lead, cut too close to home.
On the show, which airs on weekdays at 9pm, she plays an actress sporting buck teeth, unruly eyebrows and messy hair who ends up going for plastic surgery when she is bullied over her looks.
Tan, 24, got a taste of how others treated her because of her appearance in real life, as she would walk around and have lunch without shedding her character's oddly mismatched clothes and unsightly make-up.
She told The New Paper: "I would prank everyone and it's funny when they couldn't recognise me.
Then I could see how other people reacted to me — some even felt disgusted by me, which made me feel sad and you finally realise how superficial some people are."
She added: "All along they say beauty is on the inside and we preach that, but actually people still judge. They really gave me the cold shoulder when I was dressed as my character and in that moment I understood why some people wanted to undergo plastic surgery."
What she experienced and witnessed while filming The Lead also brought her back to when she was 20.
She recalled how she was body-shamed online so badly that she almost went under the knife herself.
Haters called her "flat-chested" and pointed out her "high forehead" and "flat nose", which eventually caused her to have depression and become bulimic, which then led to thyroid problems.
Tan said: "I had very bad anxiety attacks and during that period of time, I couldn't cope with the stress and pressure. As much as I say it didn't affect me, as a young woman, it really did.
"Whenever I looked in the mirror, I actually hated myself and would start slapping and hurting myself, wondering why am I so ugly and alive."
It came to a point when her mother even followed her to consult a plastic surgeon to enhance her breasts and sharpen her nose, but Tan didn't go through with it in the end as she felt she needed to embrace her flaws.
Said Tan: "I fought through that period for two to three years, and these are parts of my life that people don't see. I struggled with it every single day. On normal days, I would be fine and act like I didn't care, but when I got home, it hit me very badly... and I carried (the struggles) by myself.
Fortunately, she's now at a place where she has finally accepted herself, in order to set an example for her fans.
"Especially after working on The Lead, I realised that I am who I am, and I don't need anyone's approval," she said.