Not following in mum's footsteps

Tanis Chalopin is the daughter of Singaporean top model Ethel Fong, but the 22-year-old is eschewing the catwalk for a career in music

Singer Tanis Chalopin had no idea how famous her mother - former Singaporean top model Ethel Fong - was until a stranger pointed it out to her when she was eight.

"When I was a kid, I didn't realise how famous she was. She was just my mum," says the 1.78m Chalopin, who spoke to The Straits Times when she was in Singapore visiting her family last month.

She is based in New York while her mother, 53, splits her time between Singapore, where she cares for her elderly parents, and the Bahamas. Chalopin's father, 66-year-old French writer and private investor Jean Chalopin lives in the Bahamas.

Chalopin first got an inkling of her mother's fame when she was in a store here with her parents. "A lady came up to me and asked if I knew my mum was famous. I was like, 'Really? She is?'"

As the first Singapore model signed to premier American agency Ford Models, Ms Fong was one of the rare Asian faces on global runways in the 1980s, and was the face of an international Armani campaign. Today, she spends most of her time engaged in philanthropy.

Chalopin, 22, says her mother maintained a strict dress code for her when she was a child. "I was very close to my older brother, who is now 25, so I was a little bit of a tomboy. She would put me in dresses and make me wear pink. She wanted me to be feminine."

Singer Tanis Chalopin plays four instruments - piano, cello, guitar and drums. ST PHOTOS: CHEW SENG KIM

Even today, the bachelorette says that she still knows when her mother disapproves of her outfits. "She'll just stare at me and I'll know that I have to go back and change."

But style is not the only thing her mother taught her.

Chalopin says: "Both my parents came from humble backgrounds and though my brother and I have been blessed to have grown up comfortably, they believe we should work hard to get what we want."

The fresh graduate, who studied music composition and film scoring at New York University, is not following in her mother's footsteps. She is clear about what she wants - a career in music.

She started learning piano at the age of five and now plays four instruments - piano, cello, guitar and drums. At 14, she wrote the theme song for the Disney Asia movie Trail Of The Panda (2009) while living in Beijing.

Last year, while she was still in university, she released a single in French, Ce N'est Pas Moi (It's Not Me), a song about having a hard time expressing one's feelings for someone. Earlier this year, she released the English-language environmental anthem Losing My Mind on iTunes. Music videos for both tracks were also released on YouTube.

She is set to launch her international debut EP, Blackout, on Sept 30 under PBC Music and Warner Music. The six-track album features songs in English and French that were written, composed, performed and produced by Chalopin.


    My mum bought this Porter bag for me recently. She chose blue because I was a swimmer until I was 18 and I dive now, so I spend a lot of time in the water. She bought it because all my bags are very small. This one can hold more things.

She describes her music as calm alternative pop, a combination of acoustic piano music and electronic sounds. Having grown up in various countries including the Bahamas, Switzerland and China, she also includes instruments such as Caribbean drums and the Chinese instrument erhu to add another dimension to her music.

She is already working on a full-length album set to be released next year.

"My style is less popular than some of the songs you hear on hit radio stations. But my dad especially has told me to stay true to what I love and I will eventually find my fan base."

Things in her bag


I've had this for about four years. Although it's a men's wallet, the size is convenient. Women's wallets are very big and don't fit into smaller bags.


I think the price is reasonable and they sound great. I don't like earphones that over-accentuate certain parts of music.


I chose this keychain because I do mixed martial arts: a combination of kick-boxing, muay thai and jujitsu. The cards are for various memberships for places in New York, including a pool, a yoga place and an art shop.


My very damaged phone. I've had this for two years but I dropped it once and it smashed. Every time I go to the Apple store, there is a long line of people. So I haven't managed to get mine fixed yet. But it's still functional, so it's okay.


I always carry this around with me because I don't see my brother much.


I have asthma so I carry this everywhere. My condition used to be quite bad, but it's under control now.


I love the shape and the vintage look, and I think they fit my face well.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2016, with the headline Not following in mum's footsteps . Subscribe