I was extremely delighted when Ms Wong Li-Lin (“Li-Lin) decided to have “a-go” at my interview. To be honest, her career has been a delight to watch. After graduating from the Royal Ballet School in the UK, she decided that she was not going to dance professionally but engaged herself with acting, fitness and even pioneered Pilates in Singapore.
I always felt that we had something in common and that was classical ballet. I was trained in classical ballet by Mdm Lim Beng Soon for nine years before I trained under Mrs Hung Yee Skipp for a year. I loved dancing but I did not have much family support. I liked ballet but I never thought I danced well.
It was even more remorseful when you did not have much support because every parent at my age hoped that their children would become a doctor, lawyer or accountant not a ballet dancer. However, my training in ballet gave me my poise and made a more creative person. After dancing for 10 years, I finally gave in to my parents to stop dancing and concentrate on my studies. It was rather regrettable that I did not complete my ballet studies because of ballet, I felt free. Now, I dance every time before my children and they will dance with me too.
I believe that Li-Lin who had completed her ballet training would have felt the same. Ballet gave her strength, poise, grace, creativity, fitness and freedom. No sport in the world would be able to give you what classical ballet could.
“If anything at all, perfection is not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” quoted from Maria Tallchief. Ballet is perfection and it is the only vocation that creates a sculpture that is only visible for a moment in time.
INTERVIEW WITH MS WONG
1) I understand you have been placed in several foster homes when you were a child before living with your ballet teacher, Ms Hung Yee Skipp at the age of fourteen. Has living in foster care and later with your ballet teacher, Ms Hung Yee Skipp, made you a much stronger and resilient person? Were you affected by so many changes at a young age?
WLL: All our experiences in life would have an impact on us. I had the good fortune of being exposed to the colorful spectrums that make up life and human behavior. I love it. Of course as a child it might have been confusing and many times painful. And you deal with it the best you can… as might be a situation with life as an adult too. What is helpful is if we don’t use our conditions or the external factors of our life as a determination of what we are and who we are. It is extremely important to connect with ourselves to see what we want to create. We can design the lives we want. That power lies in our hands solely.
2) Are you estranged from your own family? Do you still keep in touch with them?
WLL: No, I am not estranged from my family. And yes I see them, speak to them, eat with them as most of us might with our families.
3) You won the prestigious Loke Cheng Kim scholarship to study ballet at Royal Ballet School in the United Kingdom (UK), was this opportunity a life-changer for you?
WLL: Yes of course. To live in England and to train at one of the top institutions in the world, with some of the most brilliant dancers ever no less… was a dream come true.
4) You studied ballet from a young age, did you dance professionally?
WLL: I actually started late at age 9. I realized I love the art. And that passion can be manifested in many creative and helpful ways. Dancing professionally was not one of the ways I wanted to pursue. Ballet – being on stage, being near the stage, being with dancers, looking at Instagram accounts of dancers – they excite me and bring me such a joy that I can only say that it is in my blood and whatever I do, I am a ballet dancer foremost.
5) You have been trained in ballet for a long time. Most ballerinas want to have a svelte physique and there are so any stories about ballerinas dealing with bouts of anorexia or bulimia so as to keep their thin-frame. Did you experience such medical conditions before?
6) What made you decide to become an actress and a host?
WLL: It was by accident. I was teaching at the TV station when they asked me to play a part on TV.
7) You made your television debut in 1994 and acted in dramas such as Masters of the Sea, Rising Expectation and became a household name when you acted as Inspector Elaine Tay in Mediacorp’s Channel 5 cop drama series, Triple Nine from 1995 to 1997. After a brief hiatus from acting, you returned to small screen and acted frequently in Channel 8 drams like Love Me, Love Me not, The Challenge and The Reunion. In 2008, you starred in Singapore’s romantic movie, The Leap Years, and gained more popularity. You were nominated as the Best Performer in the Singapore Film Awards in 2009 for the movie The Leap Years. Besides acting, you were also a judge for the reality TV series “The Dance Floor”. With so many years of acting, dancing and hosting experience, which job was your favourite?
WLL: I made my debut in a Christmas special called “Silent Night”. I don’t really have a favourite per se and that is because I think they are all there for good reason. I can say that I feel most intimately connected with dance. It was the kernel to everything else that sprouted from there, including acting and hosting.
8) If you have the chance to change your career, would you still want to be an actress and host?
WLL: The option is there. I have chosen not to be a full time actress and host.
9) Your love for dancing and fitness created a Singapore movement for Pilates. How long were you trained in Pilates and why did you bring Pilates to Singapore?
WLL: I pioneered Pilates in Singapore. I was trained while at the Royal Ballet and then subsequently went to the US to train with the last disciple of Pilates, Eve Gentry as well as her prodigee Michele Larson. When I first tried Pilates I felt instinctively that this would be the future and that it would be helpful for many.
10) We were all quite surprised when you decided uproot and move to Shanghai with your family. Why did you move to Shanghai? Were there more work opportunities in Shanghai? Did you like Shanghai?
WLL: We moved to Shanghai because my ex-husband wanted to explore opportunities there. I was not there for work. Yes I like Shanghai – it is an extremely dynamic place, love the architecture of the older quarters and I really appreciated the physical link to the ancestry that is me as an ethnic Chinese.
11) I understand that you were a stay-at-home mom for nine years after your marriage and now that you are working full-time, do you miss spending quality time with your children?
WLL: I still spend quality time with my kids. They are in school most of the day as I am at work.
12) You created Loopz Fitness; you are consulting for Parkway Pantai Group and also working in a company that manages high-net worth individuals. How do you manage your time with 3 jobs and taking care of your family?
WLL: I have left the high net worth group now to focus on my work with wellness and also media.
13) It seems a light-year ago, but what was your first reaction when you knew you were going to be a mommy?
14) Were you prepared for your pregnancy?
WLL: After the initial surprise, yes, I was very excited.
15) Was your ex-husband supportive during the pregnancy?
WLL: Yes as much as he could be.
16) Were you prepared for your own childbirth?
17) How have things changed since you have become a mother?
WLL: Everything has changed. I am sure all parents feel the same way.
18) What moral values do you want to instill in your children?
WLL: My key responsibility is to provide them with the tools to the amazing resources that they already possess. We talk a lot about love and respect, and honoring these values. Being centered so our words, thoughts and actions might be clear. Moreover, we alone have the power and ability to design the lives we want.
19) How do you cope with the high-profile divorce from fellow media artiste, Allan Wu? Was the divorce mutual?
20) How did you relate to your children that “daddy and mommy” are no longer going to stay together? Did the divorce make them stronger and more understanding?
WLL: Mom and Dad will always be their Mom and Dad. That doesn’t change.
21) Are you satisfied with your children’s current school curriculum?
WLL: It is not a concern for me. The world is a school, not just the physical premise they visit from Monday to Friday.
22) Would you be jumping onto the dating wagon anytime soon?
WLL: I have no qualms meeting people, going on dates. But I am emphatic that I have zero interest in anything serious at the moment. This is MY time to build me.
23) What is the latest family activity or family trip that you have taken with your family?
WLL: The kids and I were in Bali last year. I think it will be Malaysia in CNY next.
24) What kind of advice do you have for mothers who are struggling with their career and family?
WLL: One foot in front of the other. Don’t make it a struggle; instead make what you can do to create what you want. The power is in you, not what is happening external of you.
-END OF INTERVIEW-
Besides being a dancer, fitness pioneer, actress and a host, Li-Lin already has so much on her plate. Above all, she is also a very protective mother to her 10-year-old daughter Sage and 9-year old son Jonas. With her amazing strength and positivity, Li-Lin’s story is one that inspires and motivates. She has shown us that even though the road in front of you may seem trudging and tough, you create your own life with the power within yourself.