Could actress Carrie Wong be the next Ah Jie of Singapore television?
Three years ago, she was an unknown, fresh-faced polytechnic student spotted on campus by eagle-eyed TV host Ben Yeo from student talent scout reality show Hey Gorgeous (2013).
Within a year of placing third on Hey Gorgeous, she left a lasting impression on audiences with her feisty hawker role of Tang Shui Mei in the period drama The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014). It also earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the annual Star Awards last year.
Though acting awards have eluded her so far, she is a winner in the popularity polls. She snagged the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes awards at the Star Awards last year and this year.
The 22-year-old bona fide television star's massive popularity has led to five endorsement deals.
Walk into a personal care store and, chances are, her image is on advertisements placed on racks, brandishing a health drink or showing the effectiveness of a make-up remover.
On the road, commuters may be on a public bus with the likeness of the lanky 1.75m-tall actress plastered on the exterior to promote online marketplace Qoo10.
"My girlfriends would snap a picture of the ad and send it to me with a message saying, 'Guess who I saw on the bus?'
"The other day, actor Xu Bin also sent me a photo of my bus ad with a text saying, 'You are everywhere'," says Wong with a chuckle.
She does not forget her ambassador role during the interview, extolling the benefits of online shopping in a mix of English and Mandarin.
The bilingual bachelorette, who stars in multiple dramas a year, was speaking to The Straits Times earlier this month on the sidelines of a press conference for her upcoming medical drama You Can Be An Angel 2.
The media session, she says, is a rare break from back-to-back filming - by day, the tech drama Dream Coder and, by night, the second season of long-form drama 118.
With a gruelling schedule, it probably made sense to buy a car to cut down travelling time to her film sets.
The bulk of the car's $120,000 price tag was funded by her endorsement earnings.
The filial daughter also dreams of giving her parents a good life with her income.
"I gave my mother a red packet on her birthday. It wasn't even a lot of money, but she was so moved. She said 'Oh my, my little girl is giving me money. The roles are reversed and she is starting to support me'," says the only child of a housewife mother and a father who works in a security firm. They are in their 60s.
"When they are retired, I want them to be able to travel to wherever they want and not worry about finances," says Wong.
1 What qualities do you think make you an advertiser's darling?
I have no idea. Maybe it's my face. For Darlie toothpaste, they wanted someone who dares to be different. I'm game to try new things. Recently, I stepped out of my comfort zone by chopping off my hair for the drama The Gentlemen.
I shop a lot. I think I'm really a good ambassador for Qoo10 because I browse the app every day. You can get everything there. I've bought a phone cover, charger, make-up sponge.
2 In the drama You Can Be An Angel 2, your rookie nurse character is in a love triangle with her colleagues played by actors Aloysius Pang and Xu Bin.
In reality, who would you pick? What are the qualities of your ideal boyfriend?
Both of them are my good friends, but they are not my ideal guy.
Feelings are an important factor. I hope my other half will be goodnatured. I am pretty mature for a 22-year-old, so I hope my other half will be able to educate me. I also hope he has the ability to take care of me.
3 Are you dating?
Do you know what my work schedule is like now? I am filming two dramas concurrently - Dream Coder and 118 Season 2. I've been waking up at 5.45am to make it to the filming of Dream Coder at 7am. It ends at 7pm.
At 7pm, I cross over to the 118 film set. I shoot till midnight. Then the cycle repeats itself. Do you think I have time to date?
4 You received the Social Media Award at this year's Star Awards. If you were not a celebrity, would you be on social media?
I was on social media way before I got into the industry, but it was just that I didn't have as many followers.
I love to share things with my friends. I love posting pictures because a picture says a thousand words. Once time passes, you can never get it back, but the moment can be captured in pictures.
5 How long do you think you could go without using social media?
As long as I am watching a drama that I am interested in, I will forget about my phone and social media. When I started watching the hit Korean drama Descendants Of The Sun earlier this year, my friends could not find me because I did not reply to their messages.
I can sit in front of the television and not move at all, except to take a five-minute break to shower. My water and cup noodles are all placed within my reach.
6 Who is your idol?
I look up to Taiwanese actress Ariel Lin. She is my inspiration. I've been following her dramas and movies since she started acting in the drama It Started With A Kiss (2005).
She is a very intelligent woman. I've learnt a lot from her. Whenever I'm feeling stagnant in my job, I will read her past interviews for inspiration.
Her words often set me thinking. She left a deep impression on me when she said, "Acting is a journey to discover humanity" and "I pour my heart and soul into acting".
7 In show business, one has to withstand the cut-throat competition and envy of rivals. How do you deal with the pressure?
Competition is essential in this industry. Singapore's industry is already a very comfortable place and if you don't even have basic competition, you won't grow.
I'm all for healthy competition.
I am a straightforward person. If you get jealous, it is your problem, it is not my problem.
I will do my own thing and I won't get affected.
8 How would you like to be remembered?
I want to be remembered as the girl who can act. It feels very good to get recognised for doing what I love and for the craft that I put my heart and effort into.
When people say they enjoy watching my show, that is the best response I can get.
I've been filming the second season of 118 at Tiong Bahru market and many aunties and uncles still remember my dessert hawker role of Tang Shui Mei in The Journey: Tumultuous Times.
They say, 'Hey, Tang Shui Mei, I love your acting'.
It feels so awesome to get recognised and to know that they still remember the role.
•You Can Be An Angel 2 premieres on Channel 8 tomorrow at 9pm. It airs on weekdays at 9pm.