Actor Romeo Tan: I was fat and lazy in my youth
Local celebs Romeo Tan and Jayley Woo share how their days as students in ITE changed their lives for the better
Fat, lazy and stupid.
That was what Romeo Tan was called throughout his childhood years.
Weighing 92kg and in the Normal (Technical) stream at Ngee Ann Secondary School, Tan, who was 16 then, felt that he had nothing worthwhile going on in his life.
The popular, good-looking local actor - who now weighs 72kg - was speaking to about 1,000 students at ITE College East in Simei yesterday during social outreach programme The Celebrity Stopover, organised by MediaCorp.
He was joined on stage by local actress Jayley Woo, who also shared her experiences of being an Institute of Technical Education (ITE) alumnus.
In an interview after the one-hour sharing session, Tan, 30, told The New Paper: "I mixed around with the bad students in secondary school, took MCs and skipped school all the time to hang out with them."
Even though his parents hired tutors for him, the rebellious boy's aim was to make the tutors so angry that they would resign.
He recalled: "I changed so many tutors that it made my parents disheartened. I was so fat and lazy. I had low self-esteem and I didn't dare to look people in the eye."
After completing his N levels and scoring borderline grades, Tan's life turned around when he studied multimedia technology at ITE MacPherson, a two-year course which he was interested in.
CERTIFICATE OF MERIT
His passion saw him scoring excellent results and he was awarded a certificate of merit, ranking among the top 5 per cent of the graduates from his course.
He then went on to graduate with a diploma in digital media design from Nanyang Polytechnic.
Even though he took a longer route to attain his diploma, Tan said that it was during his time in ITE that he picked himself up and thought about what he wanted to do with his life.
"I was very demoralised as I was always getting scolded for the most part of my childhood. Some teachers even called me Fat Romeo," Tan said.
"However, in ITE, I lost 20kg by running... six times a week and by controlling my diet... I became more chatty and started to study hard."
Tan got into acting after coming in fourth in Star Search 2010 and was offered a contract by MediaCorp shortly after.
Tan's advice to his ITE juniors is to "always pursue something that interests you as you are likely to do better in it".
And it seems like his advice resonated with many of the students, who were listening intently during the sharing session.
Mr Bryan Tan, president of ITE College East's student council, told TNP: "I learnt a lot from Romeo, especially when he shared tips on how to study hard and score good results to go to polytechnic."
The 18-year-old added: "Because he used to be an ITE student, I felt that I could relate to him and what he had been through."
Fellow student Darshan Raj, 18, agreed: "Jayley talked about being bullied in school and Romeo talked about losing a lot of weight. I have experienced both bullying and weight loss, so I was quite inspired by them.
"I think the most important advice they gave us was telling us to follow our passion and our dreams."
ITE gave her a fresh start in life
Actress Jayley Woo moped around for days when she failed her Mathematics and Science O level subjects at Tanglin Secondary School and had to go to ITE.
The 24-year-old said: "I cried and was very, very sad when I got my O-level results. I saw my classmates going to polytechnics and junior colleges, and I had to go to ITE even though I was from the Express stream. Back then, I really felt that ITE was the end."
But Woo soon realised that she was wrong, after studying Business Adminstration at ITE Clementi.
"It's a useful course and I felt it was a good choice as I could apply it to many things in real life," she said.
Woo also revealed that she was bullied a lot during secondary school. As the class representative, she said her classmates hated her whenever she told on them to the teachers.
She said: "All I wanted to do every day was to hide in one corner in school."
In ITE, however, Woo made new friends, which saw her opening up and becoming more sociable. She said: "I got a good fresh start in ITE, it was a brand new life for me."
She then went on to get a diploma in Mass Communications from MDIS.
She joined The New Paper New Face in 2011 - she was among the top 20 finalists - and was scouted by MediaCorp the following year.
At the sharing session yesterday at ITE College East, Woo got emotional when recalling her school days and burst into tears, saying: "All the teachers in my ITE really changed my life. I am so grateful and thankful to be here sharing my experience with you."
She added: "Many people say ITE is the end. I see it as a beginning instead."