'It's very cruel, it's a youth industry': Pornsak almost gave up pursuing TCM dream because his showbiz career couldn't wait

PHOTO: Instagram/pornsakp

It's been a great few days for Singapore-based host Pornsak.

First, the 39-year-old snagged a coveted spot in the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artiste category at Star Awards 2021 held on Sunday (April 18). And on Monday, he collected his Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) license and is officially a TCM practitioner.

He shared the exciting news over an Instagram video, where he wrote: "After a decade of working in the day and studying at night, I have finally achieved the #licencetopractise. This is a #dream come true. I hope I can be a worthy and good doctor."

Speaking to AsiaOne over the phone yesterday, Pornsak (or 'Dr Porn', as he has been affectionately referred to) clarified that he actually took the examinations last year and received his results right before Chinese New Year this year. The post was just to announce that he had collected his license, and now, he can actually treat patients.

However, he once thought of giving up on pursuing TCM.

Time management and splitting between work and study was a big challenge for him, he confessed, adding that the biggest struggle came when he had to choose between filming the travelogue Food Source and continuing his studies.

He shared: "The point where I really thought of giving up was when I was in the fifth year of the course. That was when I started hosting Food Source. I had to fly to different places. The minimum level of attendance [for school] was 75 per cent, so that was when I had to make a decision whether to continue with work or to go to school.

"And I chose to continue with work because, you know, the entertainment industry, it's very cruel, it's a youth industry. It's really a youth industry. So I cannot tell the whole team, 'Can you wait for me for another three years? After I graduate then I'll continue the show.' It's not going to happen."

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Pornsak also wasn't sure whether his level of popularity would remain if he took a break from showbiz for three years to complete his studies. Not to mention, he would be three years older as well.

So he decided to take a year off from school and complete Food Source, with every intention of resuming his studies after a year.

But, the show became a huge success and he was approached to do a second season.

He said: "I'm like, 'Okay sure.' Since, you know, this is an opportunity where I can really — to put it very bluntly — hopefully gain more popularity and make some money because I know when I grow old, I might not be able to make that kind of money anymore."

With his mind made up, he applied for yet another year off from school, and was told that he could only be away for a maximum of two years. If he extended his deferment again, he would have to restart the course from the first year.

Alas, his break from school came with a price as he experienced "gigantic inertia" and didn't feel like going back anymore. However, his TCM mentor Dr Chen Mei Er (who introduced him to TCM) 'nagged' at him until he changed his mind.

"I forgot every single thing that I had learnt after two years of flying all over the world. It was very tough," he remarked.

Treating a celebrity with hair loss

Prior to this, in a 2015 interview, he revealed that he tried out acupuncture techniques on his father and jokingly referred to him as his guinea pig. Well, Pornsak did start his TCM journey so he could personally tend to his father's health, after all.

When we checked in on what it was like being his father's primary TCM physician, Pornsak laughed and replied: "I think I'm the primary TCM physician for my dad [but] not by his choice. It's like, 'Hey, I just learnt this new acupoint. It's really good for high blood pressure. Let me try it on you.'"

He added: "And I'm very pleased to announce that my dad survived all my concoctions of different herbs and all my different TCM dishes."

How about his celebrity friends, though? Were any of them game to let Pornsak try out his acupuncture skills before he got his license?

He exclaimed: "There were none! All these friends were hopeless! When I offered my help, they were all so scared... I told Michelle Chong — my boss — and her reaction was like, 'Is there going to be a bruise? You're going to do acupuncture on me?' I was like, 'Try lah.' She said no! I give up."

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A short while later in our interview, he gasped as he suddenly recalled something. He said: "You know what? I actually tried helping one of my colleagues with a hair loss problem. It's my colleague from Mediacorp. He who shall not be named, because he got hair loss problem."

And yes, he is a celebrity. The next important question — did it work?

"Of course it worked," he quipped. "I think after, like, five or six sessions. After about six months [of treatment], he was quite happy with the results."

He added cheekily: "But honestly speaking, I didn't really know what I was doing back then when I was still a student and he was really a guinea pig. I didn't tell him that, of course."

Stepping away from showbiz for a bit

Now that he's a licensed TCM practitioner, will Physician Pornsak be opening his own clinic then?

Unfortunately, that won't be happening soon, at least in the next three to five years.

He replied: "I think I'm just going to be an apprentice with this TCM professor (Dr Chen). So I thought it'll be very good if I have someone guiding me along... I've already started going to her clinic already."

Additionally, he will be co-hosting a livestream with Dr Chen that will also serve as an online clinic where the duo will dish out health tips and advice, and viewers can submit health-related questions for them to answer.

The programme will premiere on April 29 at 9pm, and will be streamed every Thursday on his Facebook and Instagram accounts. Each session is expected to last between 45 minutes and an hour.

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Well, looking at the way things are, one thing is certain — we may not be seeing Pornsak on television as often as we would like. Even if his TCM pursuits don't take up all his time, the go-getter revealed that he may put his Master's degree in Early Childhood Education to good use as well.

But, if his win at this year's Star Awards is any indication, he is a beloved celebrity and he will be missed.

As he wasn't present at the show due to work, we couldn't help but ask if he had anything to say to his fans.

He replied: "I just want to thank them for their undying support for 15 years. 15 years is a long time. If you were watching me when you were 10, you are already 25, a young working adult. And if you were watching me when you were 40, maybe you were a mother back then but now that you're 55, you might have already become a grandmother.

"So I'm very glad that I can be part of your dinner time. I'm so glad I can be a part of your life for the past 15 years. Maybe you won't see me as much on TV next time, but you made me realise that I have been loved."

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bryanlim@asiaone.com