Brandon Wong's take-home pay was S$800 when he signed with TCS after Star Search 1995

He couldn't afford to rent a room in Singapore at the time.

Lee Wei Lin | September 16, 2022, 12:24 AM

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Singaporean actor Brandon Wong's iconic win at this year's Star Awards was a bittersweet moment as he waited 27 long years to receive his first award.

The 51-year-old, who was born in Malaysia, signed with TCS (as Mediacorp was known as back then) after making it to the finals of Star Search 1995.

Other notable names in that edition of the talent hunt are Jacelyn Tay, Ix Shen, Christopher Lee and Phyllis Quek.

That's Wong in the bottom row, third from left. Photo from Mediacorp

S$1,000 salary

Despite not making it to the top three in the competition, Wong was offered a contract -- he hypothesised that it could have been because those at TCS saw his passion for acting and "little bit of talent".

He was paid S$1,000 a month -- S$800 after CPF deductions.

Wong shared, "I couldn’t afford to rent a room in Singapore at the time. To save money, I rented a small room in Johor Bahru (JB)."

The room was furnished with a single bed and a collapsible wardrobe -- "the kind that would fall over if you hung stuff that was too heavy on it," he described.

Finances were so tight that he would buy cai png (economical rice) in JB and bring it across the causeway when he travelled here.

Rocky start in life

Wong didn't exactly have a cushy lifestyle when he was growing up.

He started delivering newspapers from 4:30am with his father when he was in Primary 1, after witnessing how difficult it was for his parent to do so on his own.

Back then, the Wongs lived in a town and the older Wong had to navigate hilly terrain in order to get to the city to pick up the papers.

One day, Wong remembered waking up to someone frantically knocking on his front door.

His father was bleeding after driving his car off a small cliff and into a ditch, and had climbed back up and hitched a ride back home.

"I was very distressed because I knew how difficult it was for my dad to earn money," the actor revealed. "I told myself that I would go with my dad to work every day [from then on]."

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