With social media having made the world a stage, some might say that what sets bona fide acting talent apart is craft. Here, three emerging names with a background in entertainment and modelling who are stealing the spotlight with their star factor and own approach to performance tell us about their artistry – all while dressed in Chanel’s craft-focused Metiers d’Art 2022 collection.
THE TIKTOK SENSATION WITH SERIOUS ACTING CHOPS: DEWY CHOO
Does hamming it up on TikTok count as a form of performing arts? This 20-year-old, who’s racked up a cool 157.6K followers and 8.6 million likes on her namesake account doing precisely that, seems to think so. “Because of social media, anyone can act and have a potential audience, which has helped me and other aspiring creators,” she says. “TikTok is such a fun performative app on which people can get inspired by your content, and you by theirs.”
Choo’s online appeal lies in her colloquial, no-filter brand of humour delivered with almost cartoonish candour. She first went viral in late 2020 with an acerbic commentary on the style of men in Singapore, following up regularly since with more vlog and POV-style videos discussing anything from dating to ageism and her braces.
Offline, she has a “softer side”, she says – evident at this shoot where she spoke thoughtfully and took art direction with grace and professionalism, even though it was her first fashion editorial. (Incidentally her “dream job” has always been to model Chanel because her mother is a fan, she says.)
Dewy wears a Fantasy jersey coat; polyamide top; denim pants; metal earrings with strass; matching necklace with resin; metal, lambskin and calfskin belt; and goatskin Mary Jane pumps. All Chanel
As it turns out, even without TikTok, she knows a thing or two about being in front of the camera. She’s an arts and theatre management graduate from Republic Polytechnic, making the Director’s Roll Of Honour, no less. A self-proclaimed “drama kid”, she even won the best actress prize at the 2021 National Youth Film Awards for her role in Girls, a student film directed by Tamara Tan.
Last year, she checked off her goal of becoming a model when she went for a casting with the local agency Misc Management – a champion of alternative beauty – and got signed. What she hopes to do more of, though, is act the “old-school” way. As a child, she aspired to become an actress-slash-singer, she admits, before adding in true TikTok Dewy fashion: “I’d love to be in an action film and see myself do insane stunts.”
Dewy wears a cashmere cardigan with glitter; wool tweed skirt with silk; metal and strass earrings; metal lavalier necklace with imitation pearls, glass and strass; metal multi-chain necklace with glass pearls and diamantes; metal multi-chain necklace with natural stones, glass pearls and strass; (right hand, top) metal, lambskin and calfskin cuff; (right hand, bottom) metal chain bracelet with natural stones, glass pearls and strass; (left hand, top) metal, lambskin and calfskin cuff; and (left hand, bottom) metal and resin bracelet. All Chanel
You’re known for your eccentric online personality and your wicked sense of humour. What’s the difference between the Dewy that people know on TikTok and the Dewy that your friends and family know?
“The ‘Dewy’ whom people know on TikTok is just crazy. On the contrary, the ‘Dewy’ in real life has a softer side I suppose. I have moments when I’m quieter and introverted, but that’s like 20 per cent of the time. For the most part, I am still pretty wild.”
What comes to your mind when you think of the word “drama”?
“Me! I admit that I dig the drama of life because it keeps it interesting.”
What is your process of coming up with your videos? Is it very organic or dependent on what you hear or see?
“Organic, unless I’m trying to do a thirst trap – I don’t really allow any trends. I allow myself to just sit in silence with my phone until my brain creates something and I just film. Sometimes, I like to incorporate my own personal experiences into my videos so that it’s real and who I really am.”
Now that you’ve reached TikTok-famous status, do you feel any pressure when creating your videos?
“Oh wow! I’ve never really considered myself as ‘TikTok-famous’, but the pressure I feel is from people who have supported me. I always want to make sure that people are laughing or at least feel good from watching my videos. Sometimes, when my view count drops a little, I feel stressed out too because I start to ask myself: ‘Am I still funny? Am I still relevant?’. But these are moments that humble me and what keeps me grounded is when I tell myself, ‘I did not start TikTok to gain clout. I started TikTok because I just found it fun to act and do weird things’.”
Many people were surprised after finding out that you’ve signed to a modelling agency. What made you decide to go into modelling?
“Many people were surprised I was signed and I don’t blame them. I don’t think I would strike anyone as a model type, but I went into modelling because I wanted to be a model at one point in my life too. It was after I watched the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with my friend and we were fangirling over Taylor Hill. Even though I know I am not the tallest, I told myself I’m gonna give myself a chance and cast with (Misc. Management).”
THE CONSUMMATE ARTIST READY FOR ACT TWO: TESS PANG
It – the non-binary Pang’s preferred pronoun – has grown out the buzz cut that made it a favourite face of the fashion circle back home in Malaysia (and which was captured in this magazine three years ago when it was in town to star in the Pangdemonium play This Is What Happens To Pretty Girls). In place are shoulder-length waves kept for a lead role in its first TV series, a Singapore production to be released soon.
Fittingly with the new look has come a mellowness that it attributes to growing older. Here to film the said show, it says: “In my early 20s, everything was just rage and lust. All of it was fun, but these days I’m more curious about building things than tearing them apart.”
Tess wears embroidered Fantasy tweed coat and wool jersey top with pearls. All Chanel
Following the standstill brought on by the pandemic, what this 30-year-old is devoted to is developing its emerging career in the performing arts and entertainment, as well as their communities. Last month, for example, it helped put together Earthshine, a theatrical audiovisual experience in Kuala Lumpur featuring local musicians, movement artists and a projection artist. It also hopes to work more regularly on our side of the border, leading it to sign on with Fly Entertainment (the theatre scene here is smaller and less saturated, which gives it more space to explore and experiment, it says).
It first found fame as a top contemporary dancer, and one gets the sense that it’s finally achieved the freedom and flexibility to let its passion for performance soar. “Theatre’s role is the same as it was: to tell stories, criticise, provide a reflection on society, inspire wonder and joy, be a space for grief, and help us see and understand each other better,” it says. “There’s a big difference between watching someone who has dedicated their life to training their mind and body in an art form, and watching someone do a funny thing on an app one time.”
Tess wears a cashmere jacket; embroidered silk organza vest; denim jeans; metal earrings with diamantes and glass pearls, and matching multi-chain necklace; and goatskin Mary Jane pumps. All Chanel
Tell us something that you wish more people knew about you.
“I wish more people knew that I’m a non-binary person, and that non-binary people can look like me, or really can look like however they want to look like. I wish people didn’t feel the need to use gender to police each other, or to organise bodies into conventional categories.”
What or who, if anyone, inspired you to pursue theatre and dance?
“My mother. She wasn’t allowed to dance when she was younger because her family was very conservative, so she made sure I wasn’t held back in the same way. Even though she was a single mom supporting two kids with two or three jobs, she used whatever available funds she had to put me and my brother in dance, martial arts, and acting classes. She is the reason I started this journey.”
Tess wears cashmere cardigan; organza skirt with feathers and pearls; metal earrings with strass; metal and resin bracelets, and matching choker; metal, lambskin and calfskin belt; and goatskin Mary Jane pumps. All Chanel
How has being in theatre and a model influenced your confidence?
“I know we’re all supposed to feel confident all the time, and we’re supposed to fake it when we’re not – but I can’t operate that way. I might exude confidence, but I’m scared a lot of the time. Acting, modelling, dancing – all of these things remind me to be present in the moment and to be aware of everything that’s happening in my body. There is always fear, and there is usually a bit of courage right behind it. This work teaches me to show up with my fear, to speak from it, and move forward in spite of it.”
What are your thoughts on the world of entertainment in today’s society?
“I think entertainment is a big part of shared culture, and it can be intelligent, provocative, educational or completely vacuous but still fun. Fun is very important. Sometimes we use entertainment to disconnect from the stress of our everyday lives, and sometimes it can serve as a way to connect with others.”
Favourite performance you’ve been a part of?
“To date, it’s Impermanence, a multidisciplinary performance which was staged in KL in December 2020 and January 2021, before the pandemic. We had over a hundred people packed into a warehouse side by side, then we lit things on fire, danced and made it rain indoors. It was an amazing experience.”
THE MUSICAL STAR WITH FASHION AMBITIONS: PRASHEELA RAMESH
With her doll-like features, strong vocals and an eloquence that belies her 19 years, this recent IB graduate and model signed on with Upfront Models would make the perfect Disney princess. In real life, she has taken on far more diverse roles. As an actress, her portfolio includes playing the firecracker Lauren in her school’s production of Kinky Boots, being on 15 Shorts – the acclaimed series of short movies directed by the likes of Eric Khoo and Kirsten Tan – and appearing on the now-defunct children’s channel Okto.
Her musical endeavours are more dazzling: from singing at the 2015 American Protege Winners Recital in New York (the culmination of what’s said to be the biggest global music competition covering vocals and instruments – she was recognised in the classical and Broadway categories that year) to her rousing rendition of Don’t Rain On My Parade on Asia’s Got Talent Season Two.
Prasheela wears a wool tweed coat, wool bermuda shorts, metal earrings, metal and resin choker, metal belt with crystals, and goatskin Mary Jane pumps. All Chanel
In all, Ramesh, who credits Hannah Montana and her Beatles-loving parents as major influences on her artistic pursuits, has been in over 100 performances. It explains the sophistication with which she speaks of the drama and entertainment scene.
A performer, she says, “must understand that she has the power to influence her audience and therefore always exercise authenticity, integrity and responsibility”. Her namesake TikTok account reveals a more playful side, with videos of her lip-syncing to hip-hop tunes or preening about, all while in outfits that take a leaf out of the Dua Lipa style book.
She’s being herself, though: Fashion is her next big love and, come September, she’ll embark on her next act as a fashion business student at the University of the Arts in London. (Fun fact: This marks her first fashion editorial.) So what about life on stage? “It’s been a lifelong dream to play Angelica in the musical Hamilton,” she says. “I hope to achieve that one day.”
Prasheela wears a Fantasy tweed jacket and matching vest; metal necklace with resin and diamantes; lambskin lipstick case with metal chain; and lambskin belt with metal and resin. All Chanel
What comes to your mind when you think of the word ‘drama’?
“Two things come to mind when I think of the word ‘drama’ – the behind-the-scenes effort that the cast and crew painstakingly put in to ensure that the audience leaves fulfilled and wanting more the next time and the exhilarating feeling that envelops the cast and crew when they know that their production has been well-received.”
In your opinion, what is an aspect of theatre that is often overlooked?
“The audience only sees the seamless end-product and the misconception is, therefore, that putting together a production is an easy task. The artistry that most practitioners have comes across as an easy skill to master. This is so far from the truth.”
How has being in theatre, an online personality and a model influenced your confidence?
“I have learned that I am stepping into a zone where I can’t control people’s reactions towards me. Aside from approval and likes, hateful comments are also very real. I have received my fair share of disapproval, but at the end of the day, when I look at myself in the mirror, I know who I am. My self-worth and self-esteem do not lie in the comments that I receive. This gives me the courage to move on to the next day, to be even more confident in my own skin.”
What do you enjoy most about learning theatre?
“The fact that I can be transported to another world while being surrounded by like-minded individuals who engage, inspire, and immerse the audience in the world that we create.”
Has being in theatre shaped the way you dress? How does a costume help you get into character?
“Yes, it has. Being in an appropriate costume helps with characterisation. On stage, the costume designer exposes me to different textures and prints, taking me out of my comfort zone. I usually start off being a little unsure about the options suggested, but most of the time, I tend to grow into the costumes chosen for me. I believe this has made me a lot bolder in my fashion choices. I am, therefore, inspired to source unique pieces that enable me to showcase my style and personality.”
Photography Stefan Khoo Photography Assistant Alif Film Direction Jasper Tan Camera Assistance Isaac Anthony Styling Damian Huang Styling Assistants Tatiyana Emylia & Annalisa Espino Lim Hair Sean Ang Makeup Keith Bryant Lee, using Chanel Models Dewy/Mannequin, Prasheela/Upfront & Tess Pang/Fly Entertainment
A version of this article first appeared in the July 2022 Drama Edition of FEMALE