He may be relatively unknown in Singapore but home-grown model Teddy Tang is making headway in the competitive Taiwanese showbiz industry.
The 29-year-old has even been signed to one of Taiwan's top talent agencies Catwalk, the same company that has local celebrity power couple Fann Wong and Christopher Lee and Taiwanese model-actress Lin Chi-ling in its stable of artists.
Tang's modelling portfolio includes gigs such as the Issey Miyake Fashion Show, Timberland Fashion Show, Adidas shows in Taiwan and China, and editorial shoots for Esquire and GQ Taiwan.
He was also a guest on popular Taiwanese variety programmes such as Genius Go Go Go, GTV Delicious and, most recently, Travel Cheering Squad, where he takes part in games and discusses societal issues with other guests.
But Tang, who stands at 1.88m, was struggling initially.
In an e-mail to The New Paper from Taipei where he is based, he shared that he was diagnosed with anxiety and insomnia in April, a month after he joined Catwalk, because he felt pressurised and insecure about his modelling career.
He said: "There were many times when I felt depressed, sad and frustrated.
"It was a dark period of my career and life. I started to question if I was made for this path and if I was good enough.
"I was dejected as I felt that I had to start from ground zero (at a new agency) and nothing seemed promising."
He added: "Every night I would lie in bed and I couldn't sleep until dawn, which was torturous. I sought professional help and my sleep returned to normal after taking the doctor's prescription.
"I pulled myself together, started regaining confidence and slowly walked out of the dark shadows.
"I was on the verge of giving up, but I knew I had come too far to just give up all these years of hard work I had put in, and held back that thought."
Trying to make it big as a model in an overseas market like Taiwan is no easy task.
Tang said that being rejected is common because there are "dozens, or even hundreds of models competing just for a particular role in a show or TV commercial".
He said: "People might think that it's easier to succeed overseas since the demand is greater for a larger market, but it also means more competition because there are more models around.
"You need tenacity to (get) through this arduous journey before you get to see the rainbow."
Tang was also required to go for body measurements at the office weekly to ensure that he did not go out of shape.
In order to look good on camera, he kept to a strict diet of boiled food without oil, sugar and salt, with daily visits to the gym.
He lost 3kg and now weighs 75kg.
"It was very tough. When I ate with my friends, I prepared my own food and my friends kind of pitied me, but I am glad they were understanding," he said
"It was hellish, but I am glad that it's over and done with."
Tang, whose mother is Taiwanese and whose father is Singaporean, feels that Taiwan is a good place to expand his career. He hopes to venture into acting eventually.
He started part-time modelling while studying Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Nanyang Technological University and was given an opportunity to model in Hong Kong after he graduated.
Six months later, he moved to Taiwan because he felt it had a more vibrant entertainment scene, with a larger market for budding actors.
He intends to take up drama and acting classes at Taipei Art School soon.
Tang was asked to do a cameo in a Chinese movie in Shanghai earlier this year, but had to reject the offer as it clashed with his modelling schedule.
He has also had the chance to rub shoulders with A-list celebrities such as Zhou Xun and Fan Bing Bing.
He said: "I was pretty much dumbfounded each time I saw them. It's surreal to me because they are people I could, once, only imagine seeing on TV or the big screen.
"But somehow, they were just in front of me and we were sipping champagne on the same grounds."
But what he really dreams of is of one day collaborating with local veterans Wong and Lee.
Agency upbeat on his potential
It might sound unlikely, but Teddy Tang was signed by Taiwan talent agency Catwalk without an audition.
He had met with the agency's manager over a dinner in January and was offered a five-year contract soon after.
Tang said: "She told me without any hesitation that she was interested in me and she would like to make me part of the Catwalk family.
"The manager was really confident and she told me that Catwalk will train me to be always ready in whichever areas that I might be lacking in."
Tang's Catwalk manager, who wanted to be known only as Miss Ann, told TNP over the phone: "We feel that Teddy has that Pan-Asian look that our company is lacking, which makes him stand out and makes him more special.
"He is also an experienced model in Taiwan and he has a good working attitude.
"We have been sending him for some variety show appearances and if there are opportunities in the future, we will arrange for him to take on acting gigs."
This article was first published on October 12, 2015.
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