Fat, lazy and stupid.
That was what Romeo Tan was called throughout his childhood years.
Weighing 92kg and in the Normal (Technical) stream at Ngee Ann Secondary School, Tan, who was 16 then, felt that he had nothing worthwhile going on in his life.
The popular, good-looking local actor - who now weighs 72kg - was speaking to about 1,000 students at ITE College East in Simei yesterday during social outreach programme The Celebrity Stopover, organised by MediaCorp.
He was joined on stage by local actress Jayley Woo, who also shared her experiences of being an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) alumnus. (See other report.)
In an interview after the one-hour sharing session, Tan, 30, told The New Paper: "I mixed around with the bad students in secondary school, took MCs and skipped school all the time to hang out with them."
Even though his parents hired tutors for him, the rebellious boy's aim was to make the tutors so angry that they would resign.
He recalled: "I changed so many tutors that it made my parents disheartened. I was so fat and lazy. I had low self-esteem and I didn't dare to look people in the eye."
After completing his N levels and scoring borderline grades, Tan's life turned around when he studied multimedia technology at ITE MacPherson, a two-year course which he was interested in.
CERTIFICATE OF MERIT
His passion saw him scoring excellent results and he was awarded a certificate of merit, ranking among the top 5 per cent of the graduates from his course.
He then went on to graduate with a diploma in digital media design from Nanyang Polytechnic.
Even though he took a longer route to attain his diploma, Tan said that it was during his time in ITE that he picked himself up and thought about what he wanted to do with his life.
"I was very demoralised as I was always getting scolded for the most part of my childhood. Some teachers even called me Fat Romeo," Tan said.
"However, in ITE, I lost 20kg by running... six times a week and by controlling my diet... I became more chatty and started to study hard."
Tan got into acting after coming in fourth in Star Search 2010 and was offered a contract by MediaCorp shortly after.
Tan's advice to his ITE juniors is to "always pursue something that interests you as you are likely to do better in it".
And it seems like his advice resonated with many of the students, who were listening intently during the sharing session.
Mr Bryan Tan, president of ITE College East's student council, told TNP: "I learnt a lot from Romeo, especially when he shared tips on how to study hard and score good results to go to polytechnic."
The 18-year-old added: "Because he used to be an ITE student, I felt that I could relate to him and what he had been through."
Fellow student Darshan Raj, 18, agreed: "Jayley talked about being bullied in school and Romeo talked about losing a lot of weight. I have experienced both bullying and weight loss, so I was quite inspired by them.
"I think the most important advice they gave us was telling us to follow our passion and our dreams.
This article was first published on September 1, 2015.
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