Sitting pretty while our hair and makeup artists are fussing over her, Kayly Loh is a picture of serenity. She doesn’t carry the haughty air one might expect from a blossoming TV star. Instead, she’s gracious and thoughtful. “Please eat! Don’t worry about me,” Kayly tells us, gesturing to the trays of finger food on the coffee table beside her.
As I sit across her, biting into an éclair, I can’t help but notice Kayly’s petite face, and how much fitter she’s looking since her debut. Is this what one judge on The 5 Search meant about her looking brilliant on camera?
Just almost two years ago, the 28-year-old took her first leap into the silver screen through MediaCorp Channel 5’s talent competition, The 5 Search. Since a surprisingly flawless win of the The 5 Search’s title (the then-rookie to acting had never once been close to elimination throughout the show), she has been starring in the popular long-form Channel 5 drama, Tanglin, playing the sweet, but naive, Felicia Ng.
Acting, however, was something Kayly had never thought of, nor aspired to be. Prior to discovering her talent in showbiz, she was a successful owner of her display advertising business, which has now been handed over to her family. Kayly has never looked back since. “I’m really enjoying this period of my life right now,” Kayly reflects. She adds that she finally understands what people mean now by saying “do what you love, and you won’t feel like it’s work at all”.
The skies are dull and gloomy outside the suite in Park Hotel Alexandra while I chat with Kayly. It’s troubling weather before a photoshoot, but she’s hardly unnerved. In stark contrast, she’s cheerful and effervescent, with stories bubbling out of her with natural candour and ease.
And those dark clouds? Let’s just say they cleared right on time for the sun to shine through.
Which of the dresses today are closest to your personal style?
It would have to be the one with the illusion bodice and lace details; plus, the tulle skirt. It’s not over-the-top, but you still have the intricate details. I like my dresses casual, simple, and effortless.
How do you usually style yourself for weddings?
For the recent weddings I’d attended, I’ve had to be the emcee! Because of that, I’m always running around, so I’ll be in pants. I love a nice pair of high-waist flared pants, or a good pantsuits – with pockets!
Do you have a dream wedding gown?
I know for sure I would want something simple, modern, intricate and sophisticated: A bohemian style that would look great with the wind breezing by.
Tell us about your dream wedding.
I know for sure that I wouldn’t want a big wedding with a sit-down dinner. One of my close friends had a small buffet-style restaurant wedding; everyone was chatting and dancing, and I really like that kind of setting. I want an intimate and cosy wedding, where we can spend quality time with our guests. If it’s possible, I would love to have a Spring or Autumn destination wedding. I would love for it to be outdoors as well, but of course our weather wouldn’t allow! (Laughs) I’ve seen photos of weddings in Bali and Australia and they look so beautiful. They’re outdoors and they aren’t sweating! I really love the style of the Australian wedding scenes, like in the barn, warehouse or valleys and stuff. On my recent trip to Sydney, I even took up a course in floristry just for fun!
Speaking of which, you’ve prepared a beautiful hand bouquet for the shoot. You’ve even done summer school at Parsons New York. You do have a huge artistic flair in you!
Yes, I really love designing and creating things that are aesthetically pleasing. So, even as a bridesmaid for my friends’ weddings, they usually leave the flowers and decorations planning to me. I love doing all of that.
Tell us about your bridesmaid experiences.
I really enjoy being a bridesmaid, and doing all the preparatory work for my friends. My first experience was as a maid of honour for my best friend, back when we were 24 years old. It was a huge wedding with 80 tables! As she had a wedding planner, all I had to prepare was for the gate-crashing and torturing the groom with the usual games!
Now that you’ve really dipped your feet into showbiz, has your perspective changed since the beginning?
Rejection was one thing I did not expect in the beginning. It’s quite tough trying to not take it personally. There was this one time when I had gotten a role, and even done my fittings and imaging. But after that was done, I was dropped out of it. But over time, I learnt to see it as a glass half-full. It’s not personal, but it’s for the bigger picture. As a newbie and as an artiste, I’ve to learn how to face rejection. We still have to go for casting auditions all the time, and it’s still nerve-wrecking every time! I’ve become a lot happier taking away the pressure on myself, and in turn, I’ve performed better.
Were there any roles you did that pushed you out of your comfort zone?
I’ve had to play a Mainland Chinese character for an upcoming drama, 118 Reunion. When we discussed about my role, we thought it was risky to put on a Mainland Chinese accent. Even through a screen, an audience can tell when an actor is natural or uncomfortable. Initially, my executive producer and writer wanted to play it safe. But instead, I brushed up on the accent, and it turned out really well!
Do you have any dream film genres or roles?
I would really love to be in action. I love the outdoors and I’ve danced my entire life. There was one time during The 5 Search where we had to learn a choreographed fight scene. I really enjoyed that! I hope one day I’ll be able to do some fight sequences. The privilege of being an actor is to be able to be different people. I would really love to play any role that I have the opportunity to!
Since your debut in The 5 Search, I’ve got to say you look even better now. What are your fitness tips?
About a year ago, I started to keep to a strict diet. I cut processed foods, carbohydrates and sugar. The first couple of weeks was tough, but after that my taste buds got used to it. And I really feel healthy and a lot more alert. It also helps to have friends around me who are very supportive. It really trained my self-discipline, but I’m very happy with the results. You don’t even need very long till you can see the difference. For example, by cutting out sugar in your diet, you can see the difference in less than a month! Recently, I had really set out to lose weight at first, but the scale didn’t budge. But, I realise being healthy is more important than shedding pounds. I do pole dancing, yoga, aerial silks – basically anything that has to do with muscle conditioning, and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). It also helps that I’m on a fitness pass, which forces me to go for classes 2-3 times a week.
Having played your character, Felicia, in Tanglin, have you noticed any similarities with her?
Actually, no. Felicia is a complete 180 degrees different from how I am. The Tanglin cast and crew were talking about how many of the cast were starting to grow into their characters, but they said, “Except for Kayly – she’s still a complete different person!”
Is there any trait of Felicia’s that you really like?
I actually really like how she’s so naive. I think that gives her an endearing and vulnerable side to herself, which makes people want to look after her. Sometimes, after reading the script, I’d be rolling my eyes thinking, “Is Felicia really going to do that? Are there really people out there as naive as her?” In fact, there are! That’s what makes Felicia’s character a lot more genuine, too.
Having been a cast with Tanglin for so long now, what is your most memorable moment so far?
The most memorable scene was with Gayle Nerva, who plays Suzanne. We actually got really close in real life through Tanglin. There was a story arc when Suzanne was about to get married to Chris, played by James Seah, whom Felicia had a past relationship with. I remember, it was a scene where Suzanne was thanking Felicia for putting our friendship over the past, and I naturally just teared up. It felt so true at the moment, because I was also preparing Gayle’s wedding in real life. When she was saying thank you, it felt so genuine, like she was really saying it to me in real life. When I watched that scene after filming, I even teared up again just watching ourselves!
Model: Kayly Loh, MediaCorp Artiste Photography: Edwin Tan (Lumina Photography), assisted by Eugene Heng Videography: Teck Lim (Lumina Photography) Styling: Daniel Goh Makeup: Lydia Thong (Makeup Entourage), using YSL Beauty Hair: Eugene Ong (Urban Hair) Jewellery: Niessing & Lee Hwa Jewellery Gowns: Amanda Lee Occasion Wears: ALO (Amanda Lee Online) Story: Nicolette Wong
Shot on location at Park Hotel Alexandra and special thanks to the staff at Park Hotel Alexandra for their warm hospitality.