These days, Romeo Tan may be deemed a conventionally attractive male specimen, but the 36-year-old actor has gone through more than his fair share of growing pains.
Tan, who was recently in the hot seat for Quan Yi Fong's talkshow "Hear U Out", dug deep into his childhood and weight struggles during the interview.
Weight problems in the family
As a student, Tan was overweight and had little to no confidence in himself.
The weight problems started primary school: at over 170cm, Tan weighed about 92kg.
In comparison, he currently measures 182cm and weighs 75kg.
Weight issues run in his family, Tan said, and he grew even larger in size when he reached his secondary school years.
Tan joked that he was very "scheming" to make friends who are smaller in stature, so that he would look tall next to them.
The actor also acknowledged that he was not actually obese, but just chubby.
However, he struggled with himself for being called Romeo and looking the way he did.
"[...] Imagine someone named Romeo looking like that. How happy could I have been?"
Tan dreaded doing self-introductions in his classes, and would usually be the last to speak up as he sat in the back row.
When he did so, he would utter his name so softly that no one could hear him.
Tan would then be forced to repeat himself and the teacher would amplify it, whereupon everyone else would laugh at his name.
The actor recalled a sea of shaking shoulders from his point of view, as the rest of the class tried to suppress their laughter.
Because of his physical appearance, Tan was severely mocked and teased, and even bullied.
Everyday incidents include finding liquid paper on his chair (an effort to stain the victim's pants) or having rubber bands shot at him.
While a number of incidents stood out to Tan, one episode left a particularly deep impression on the actor.
Another student had pushed Tan off the bicycle, dipped his foot into drain water and smeared it along Tan's thigh while the latter was still on the ground.
Although scared and angry, Tan kept quiet and went home, and never told his parents about it.
When asked why, the actor said that he did not dare to confront the bully for fear of further repercussions.
No one would help him when he was bullied, Tan added.
He would usually be alone during recess time, although he had classmates who were also friends.
Another time, a teacher actually told Tan in front of the whole class, "I've never seen such a fat Romeo before."
Although Tan would feel sad, he tended to get over such incidents quickly as well, with the help of ice cream and gaming.
He was also largely unbothered about making a change, until one year where he was goaded on by a PE (physical education) teacher, who said that Tan and his friend (pictured above) would never pass their NAPFA (National Physical Fitness Award) test.
That was when he made a pact with his friend to run faster and prove themselves to the teacher.
When they successfully passed the test, the two embarked on a weight loss journey together.
Over the course of three years, Tan lost 20kg.
"It made me realise how superficial people are. After I slimmed down, I had more friends, females would come and talk to me.
And women started asking me if I wanted to by their 'steady.'"
But Tan has never thought of exacting vengeance on society.
"It's something I can't change. This is my life. I can only make the best of it."
Top image via meWATCH