Fan-tastic show of support

The sky is the limit for fan club members here - from signing up for tour packages led by their idols to doing charity work with them

On the eve of last Sunday's Star Awards, fan club Carrieteristic camped overnight at the new Mediacorp campus at one-north to secure a good spot on the red carpet to cheer on their idol - Singapore actress Carrie Wong, best known for playing feisty dessert hawker Tang Shui Mei in the period drama, The Journey: Tumultuous Times (2014).

A committee member was glued to her computer at home voting on behalf of fellow fans till the wee hours of the morning to ensure Wong would win a spot in the annual popularity polls.

The committee member was voting based on a compiled list of fans' NRIC numbers, as each voter is entitled to one online vote a day for each category.

Wong, 22, made it to the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes.

"We expected Carrie to win, but we were still happy when her name was announced. We were caught on camera dancing at our seats," says Ms Leow Wen Xin, 24, president of the fan club and a university student.

I almost always look out for them at the airport and I'd be slightly disappointed if I don't see anyone. So far, they've turned up every single time.

ACTOR ELVIN NG on his fans

Stars all over the world have been known to inspire fervent behaviour in their fans.

K-pop fans take out newspaper advertisements to celebrate their idols' birthdays and order buffet spreads to feed their idols and their staff.

In Singapore, dedicated fan clubs also spare no effort to support and get up close to their favourite actors and singers.

Fans sign up for tour packages led by their favourite actor, volunteer at an animal shelter with their dog-lover idol and book venues to celebrate the stars' birthdays.

Actress Rui En's fan club, RBKD - short for rui bu ke dang, a Chinese phrase that plays on Rui En's name and means Unyielding Tenacity - made the news for sending out an e-mail to the media in defence of their idol, who received flak for her alleged arrogant ways after knocking over a parked motorcycle.

RBKD is a well-oiled public relations machine. The club sends reporters handwritten Christmas cards because it "genuinely values the media's role and support in Rui En's career".

They monitor the media for the latest news on her and upload articles about her on their website and social media platforms as soon as they are published .

"It's to provide a convenient one-stop platform for anyone who is interested, to better understand Rui En through her interviews and performances," says RBKD president Peh Xin Yi, 28, who declined to reveal her day job.

How does one spot die-hard fan-club members? It is not difficult, given their blatant show of unity and identity.

They typically don customised T-shirts declaring allegiance to their idol. They travel in packs and go to events armed with banners and LED boards emblazoned with their idols' names and photos.

At a sports event featuring Mediacorp artists last month, home-grown actor Desmond Tan's fan club, Destanation, made a big show of support.

On top of sporting the usual banners and club T-shirts, the fans handed out whistles, snacks and energy drinks plastered with stickers of Tan's face to fellow fans.

The fans pooled together $300 and spent about a month preparing for the project, says Ms Natalie Koh, 23, a committee member of the fan club and a university student.

The fan clubs' activities are not limited to Singapore. RBKD and other fan clubs have travelled abroad in support of their idols.

RBKD visited Rui En while she was filming in Malaysia. In addition to moral support, the club members fed their idol and the 30-plus-strong film crew $300 worth of drinks and snacks, including bak kwa burgers and egg tarts.

The fan club of Singapore singer Sufi Rashid made a day trip to Kuala Lumpur when their idol made it to the finals of Malaysian reality singing show Akademi Fantasia last year. Some of them spent $500 to book an MPV for the journey.

"We try to make it for all his performances. We love hearing him sing live. We wanted to show him our support. We went with our banner and cheered him on," says Ms Hanisah Anniessa, 24, an administrator for the OfficialSRsquad fan club. She is in-between jobs.

Sufi is based in Malaysia, after winning the contest and a three-year contract with Malaysian broadcaster Astro, the television show's organiser.

He is a seasoned competitor in reality TV singing contests, having taken part in Singapore Idol (2009) and The Final 1 (2013). He was the runner-up in Mediacorp Suria's singing contest SG Mania (2014).

Actor Elvin Ng and his "Elves" - as his fans call themselves - have travelled beyond the region together.

Elves of his fan club, Elvinology, paid $7,000 each for a 12-day trip to the United States led by him last year. They have also toured Australia and Japan with him.

When the actor - who is up for his 10th Top 10 Most Popular Male Artiste Award at tonight's Star Awards - goes on work trips without his Elves, the fans make it a point to send him off and welcome him at the airport.

"It's our way of saying that no matter where he goes in the world, there will always be fans waiting for him back home," says Ms Esther Che, 29, leader of Elvinology and a special-education teacher. The actor's manager informs them of his flight details and work trips.

Ng, 35, says: "I almost always look out for them at the airport and I'd be slightly disappointed if I don't see anyone. So far, they've turned up every single time. I've been very pampered."

Joining the fan clubs has its perks. Loyal fans get to interact with their idols in casual but intimate settings, are privy to their idols' schedule through managers and, are likely to have the stars recognise and remember them.

Some lucky fans are even in direct contact with the celebrities.

Destanation members have done charity work with Tan. They have washed dog cages and bathed dogs at Animals as well as prepared food at the Willing Hearts soup kitchen

RBKD members have volunteered with Rui En. Ms Peh recalls how Rui En was willing to get her hands dirty to clean a one-room flat.

"The flat was filled with so many items that the family slept at the lift lobby. Rui En was just like any of us, kneeling to scrub the floor, climbing up to install the curtain rod and scrubbing window grilles.

"When cockroaches appeared, we screamed and ran away together."

Madam Sharifah Lubnah's long-time support for home-grown singer Taufik Batisah earned her an invitation to his wedding last year.

Madam Sharifah, the administrator of fan club Fiknatics, who is in her 40s, has followed Taufik since he won reality TV singing contest Singapore Idol in 2004.

The mother of two teenage children says: "Taufik has done so much to give back to his fans. We were invited to his wedding.

"The privilege was given to 50 fans who always turned up for his performances and celebrations and took part in fan activities."

Singer Sufi, 25, personally hosts fans if they visit him in Kuala Lumpur. They just have to call him at his restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, De'Tulang Merah.

If time permits, he meets them at his restaurant and takes them to a movie. The restaurant is undergoing renovation after a fire broke out there last month.

He says: "Fans bring blessings to an artist. They support us and spread the word about our music. Some of them become like family. Some fans, who like to sing, I give them my personal number. They can text me for advice."

Ms Leow is a telephone call or text message away from Wong.

She says: "Before I turn up for events, I'll ask her if she wants a drink. She usually gets a latte or milk tea without pearls and less sugar."

Wong says: "I really appreciate my fans. I like to show the real me to my fans.

"So, if they like me, they like the real me. I love keeping a healthy, close connection with them as well."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Fan-tastic show of support'. Print Edition | Subscribe