Entrepreneur Kayly Loh welcomes her career change to become an actress and host with MediaCorp Channel 5 after winning its talent contest, The 5 Search, on Sunday.
The 26-year-old, who had been running her own display advertising company, notes that she "was always at the front line", handling everything from taking care of the company's accounts to managing a team of 10.
While she understands that her new job may not offer her that much control, she says: "Running a business can be tiring, so it is a good change to take a back seat than having to steer the front wheel of my career. I trust that the producers will take care of me by providing casting opportunities."
The freshly minted winner of The 5 Search took home a $30,000 cash prize and also signed a two- year artist management contract with MediaCorp.
Among her upcoming projects is a 199-episode Channel 5 drama series called Tanglin, about four middle-class families, which is scheduled to air in June.
Loh, the youngest of three children, will be handing over her five-year-old business to her father, 68, mother, 58, and elder brother, 29, as she embarks on her show business career. Her parents ran a printing company and she has an elder sister, 31, who works as a marketing manager in the finance industry.
Loh admits that she took a month to mull over the possibility of giving up her business, as she initially did not expect to go far in the competition.
"It is a tough decision as the business is my baby. My parents told me that I have done my fair share of slogging out for the company and it is time to pursue my dreams," she says.
"It is a huge transition, but being a business owner has trained me to be independent, allowed me to meet people from all walks of life and taught me the importance of self-branding - all these can be applied to show business."
The 5 Search was a two-month contest that put aspiring stars through a series of hosting, drama and comedy challenges, such as filming high-octane fight sequences and hosting a chat show.
In the grand final on Sunday, Loh beat four other contestants: student Aiken Chia, 25; freelance performer Caryn Cheng, 26; service centre manager Michelle Wong, 23; and full-time national serviceman Shrey Bhargava, 19.
Public votes via SMS and Toggle Now app accounted for 50 per cent of the results. The remaining votes were decided by judges such as actors Tay Ping Hui and Bryan Wong, actress-director Selena Tan, film-maker Eric Khoo and MediaCorp head of celebrity network Georgina Chang. MediaCorp was unable to provide figures for the number of votes cast and the percentage of Loh's win at press time.
Joining The 5 Search was Loh's first foray into acting and hosting, after her friends "dragged" her to auditions, which attracted more than 600 people last year.
The bachelorette enjoys cracking her friends up with "weird impersonations" such as Lulu, a character played by actress Michelle Chong on Channel 5's popular comedy sketch show, The Noose.
She notes that not having a show business background proved a plus. She says: "I came into this competition like a blank sheet of paper. Starting on a fresh slate allowed me to learn and absorb hosting and acting skills and showed the judges how much more I have improved, as compared to more experienced contestants."
A key factor in her win for the judges was having the right balance of acting and hosting skills. Khoo, 49, says: "Kayly is natural in front of the camera. I think she can go far. If she were to come for my auditions, regardless of the role, she would have made an impact and be cast."
Another judge, Tan, 44 recalls that Loh had a bumpy start in the competition.
"Initially, she had an 'auntie' feel and I wanted her to act her age. She has grown and shown that she has true star quality," says the member of the cabaret trio Dim Sum Dollies and owner of theatre production company Dream Academy.
"Kayly has the best of both worlds. As a host, she has sincerity and can pick herself up when she makes mistakes. As an actress, she puts a little bit of herself in her roles and is not scared to be vulnerable, ugly or fierce."
Tan thinks that Loh's diction can be improved and has one other piece of advice for her - work really hard. She adds: "Kayly already has a set of skills, and is clearly talented. With hard work and conscientiousness, she will go far."
Khoo says: "I am going to be a bit naughty here and say maybe she should lose a little weight, then she would be brilliant on camera."
Catch the repeat telecast of The 5 Search Grand Final on Channel 5 on Saturday at 3pm.