No, he can't introduce you to any hot babes. But here's what the uncle from that viral massage commercial has been up to

Viral Video Stars is a biweekly series where we hunt down viral icons. What's it like to be famous? What have they been up to? We catch up with them to find out all about life after viral fame.


He may be known for playing an obtuse masseur in that viral commercial, but Toh Kia Hing, also known as Uncle Toh, is a sensitive soul.

He also sounds nothing like his character — the 62-year-old chats with us in fluent English, only occasionally slipping into some Hokkien and Mandarin.

And instead of griping about massaging bikini-clad women for 12 hours a day, Kia Hing is more concerned with clearing the air.

He tells us candidly that no, he can't introduce any of the ladies. Other rumours the man rubbishes includes speculation that he's gay or impotent.

Believe it or not, these are all comments he's received in the eight years since the ad first aired — and they're a big part of why Kia Hing is of the opinion that fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

The dark side of viral fame

When asked how he came to star in the ad, he tells us it was a case of "right time, right place".

Kia Hing, an audio engineer by trade, had been roped in at the last minute after the actual actor cast for the role didn't turn up.

Just like that, he became the star of a video series by the job search community platform Jobiness, playing a grumpy man who tries to find a new job after his gig where he gets to massage hot models proves too much for him.

He first found out that the video had exploded online when a woman approached him at work and exclaimed, "Oh my god, you're that guy from the video!"

Kia Hing adds, "I didn't even know that it had been released!"

Suddenly catapulted into the spotlight, Kia Hing admits that as someone who's very private, it took some getting used to.

"I was amazed at how a one-and-a-half minute video could just turn your whole life upside down."

Besides the people approaching him on the street, there were the love calls to appear in other videos (some were legitimate, while others were attempts to take advantage of him), and the nasty comments.

Cringing as he recalls the comments, he says one of the most common questions was: "All the girls are throwing themselves at you. How come you're not taking them?"

He scoffs, "I mean, come on, guys. It's a commercial."

The inappropriate comments don't just come from strangers online, though, Kia Hing tells us. He's received calls from friends who he hasn't spoken to in 10 years, only for them to end the conversation by asking to be introduced to the women from the commercial.

"I find that very irrelevant. I mean, you don't treat another human that way," the usually jovial Kia Hing turns serious.

"Some of [the women] are old enough to be my daughter. All I ask is a bit of respect for them. They're also there to make a living."

Less gigs due to the pandemic, but he's keeping busy

Kia Hing has taken on several acting gigs since the viral video, such as POSB's Beep. Beep. Ka-ching! ad in 2018, but he remains committed to his day job as an audio engineer for events and concerts.

PHOTO: Facebook/ POSB

However, his gigs have dried up due to the pandemic, says Kia Hing, who complains that he's practically "out of a job".

Nevertheless, he's been keeping busy by upskilling via YouTube tutorials and has even picked up a new skill during the circuit breaker period to keep himself busy — video editing.

"I can't be doing lighting because I can't be playing with my bathroom toilet light the whole day. So I thought video editing was a new skill to pick up," he jokes.

It's no mean feat to try something new after 41 years of doing audio, Kia Hing tells us, but he's a firm believer in the old Chinese adage "live and learn".

And if there's anything he's learnt from his viral video star experience, it's to work hard for your goals and tune out the noise.

"In life, people can make fun of you. People can comment on you. But as long as you know what you are doing, and you feel that it's right, go for it."

kimberlylim@asiaone.com