Zheng Geping brought son Calvert Tay to gym at 17 after an overweight childhood


Fasiha Nazren | September 12, 2021, 05:46 PM

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"You want [a] cappuccino, right?" Calvert Tay asks his father Zheng Geping while simultaneously adding it to the virtual order.

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that they're a close pair, given how well Tay knows how his old man likes his cup of coffee.

Photo by Fasiha Nazren.

Just when I thought I'd get a straight answer when I asked who the 21-year-old is closer to — mom or dad — he let out a peal of sheepish laughter and gave me a politically correct answer.

"It depends on the situation that we are in," he carefully said.

A safe response, especially since his father was sitting right next to him.

Many shared interests with dad

Zheng, 57, let on that the father-son duo have a shared interest in collecting replica swords and katanas.

"We have a whole collection of 'The Lord of The Rings' swords. That's our prized possession," Tay chimed in.

If you're wondering what his wife, fellow actress Hong Hui Fang, thinks of this hobby, Zheng chuckled as he told me: "My wife will always, 'These two ah...'"

Apart from this, ahem, niche hobby, they also bond over anything related to fitness, martial arts and sports.

In fact, the entire family supports the same football team: Manchester United.

"Yeah, we got Ronaldo!" Zheng exclaimed.

Though Zheng used to be a taekwondo instructor, it was only in 2009 when he took fitness seriously, when one of his projects required him to go shirtless at 45 years old.

"To put it bluntly, either I [decide to] look like sh*t or look good. There's no half-half. I wanted to look good so I started training in 2009," the father of two said.

Based on his recent Instagram posts and current physique, it seems like he has not stopped since then.

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A post shared by zhenggeping-Edmund Tay郑各评 (@zhenggeping)

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A post shared by zhenggeping-Edmund Tay郑各评 (@zhenggeping)

Brought son to the gym

No prizes for guessing who got Tay into the fitness craze.

Being on the chubbier side for most of his childhood, Tay started losing weight in secondary school after joining his school's basketball team.

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A post shared by Calvert Tay 郑凯介 (@calverttay)

When Tay turned 17, it was his father who brought him to the gym for the first time.

"My dad brought me to the gym and advised me to get into a regular routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle. After which, I began to explore a lot of sports including martial arts," he said.

They share more on Channel 5's "Body & Soul" on activities they do together to stay healthy at home.

Staying fit together

In this household, a family that stays fit together sticks together.

When the circuit breaker period happened in 2020, Tay learned that the family could take a break for a short while.

"Wah, we were snacking a lot and watching a lot of Netflix," he recounted.

But it only took two weeks before they started to feel restless from a mostly sedentary lifestyle.

Tay added: "This guy [points to Zheng] started picking up the dumbbells two weeks later. Then my sister and I followed suit, and eventually my mother as well."

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A post shared by Hong Hui Fang (@honghuifang)

The positive influence in the family, Zheng, reasoned that he just got restless after two weeks of being cooped at home.

"It was fun for the family to get together. Never have we had this kind of experience where it was just every day wake up and sleep, no place to go or things to do," he said.

Tay added: "You will feel pain together. When you feel pain together, you'd bond more and push each other more for that last rep."

But it wasn't just a family affair for Tay and his sister, 25-year-old actress Tay Ying.

During that period, he shared that they would do two workout sessions a day.

"It was crazy. We have a big group of friends, about 50 to 100 people, and we'd work out together over Zoom. Each day, someone would lead a workout, it was interesting."

Pursued acting at 16

Hitting the gym isn't the only thing that the family does together.

Just like his parents and sister, Tay decided when he was 16 to pursue a career in acting.

He made his debut in Channel 8 series "While We Are Young" alongside Zoe Tay and other second-generation actors, Chantalle Ng, Chen Yixin and Marcus Guo.

Though he neither encouraged nor discouraged his children to follow in their footsteps, the supportive father said that he will always have his children's back as long as they have passion in their careers.

"From young, they know what the job is like. They know that it's not easy with the long hours on set and in terms of privacy, there isn't [one]. Actually, my wife and I don't encourage or discourage them, it's their choice. It's an industry that they must like and have the passion to pursue it."

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A post shared by Calvert Tay 郑凯介 (@calverttay)

So what's one of the many pieces of advice Tay has received from his father?

"You can't make everybody like you, and you don't have to."

However, if given the opportunity, both of them agreed that they would not want to play the role of father and son.

Zheng quipped: "Maybe we can act as enemies or villains. Father and daughter, father and son... like that not fun. If we can whack or fight each other, that's better."

Venture into music career

Acting is just one of the several spectrums of the entertainment industry that Tay is exploring.

In July 2021, Tay released his first English single "Right Side".

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A post shared by Calvert Tay 郑凯介 (@calverttay)

Even his father was surprised that he got into music.

"All of a sudden, he is very into music. This is a talent that my wife and I, and even his sister, don't have," he said.

Tay explained that he has always enjoyed music but began to question a lot about how music is made during the many pockets of time he had during the circuit breaker.

"I decided to use my diary and write down my feelings and think back about my past experiences to see what I can draft out. Obviously, it wasn't very good at first."

With a lot of hard work and the guidance of music school Academy of Rock, Tay produced "Right Side", with two more songs in the pipeline.

So how did his parents react when they heard his music?

"I looked at him and said 'This is you? This is your voice?' It's something I've never imagined, we were really amazed."

Guess we know who is Tay's number one fan.

Season 9 of "Body and Soul" is now available on MeWatch, with a new episode every Wednesday at 9:30pm.

Top image by Fasiha Nazren and @zhenggeping on Instagram.