Kenneth Chia, Young and Fearless Actor, Writer And Makeup Artist

Hi, my name is Kenneth. I’m an actor, writer, makeup artist and all round creative workhorse.

POPSPOKEN: How did you get into your current line of work?

I’ve always loved performing, and wanted to be a full time actor. If you ask my mom, she’ll tell you how I randomly lipsynced Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, standing on a wedding table, at 5 years old. And how I got caned when we got home.

Writing was something I stumbled onto thanks to a former mentor/fellow writer Joel Tan. While I currently do original commissioned work for theatre and film, I’d love to work on more content development, branding and creative copy in 2019.

As for makeup, I’m completely self-taught. On one of my first TV gigs maybe 8 years ago, the makeup artist refused to do my makeup because I was a nobody. So I went on screen bare faced. That day, in a fit of anger, I taught myself how to do makeup. Made tons of mistakes in the first two years, but kept at it. In my earlier days, I’d be at boozy hotel parties and practiced by doing impromptu makeovers for all the girls with whatever they had on hand. It was a whole mood. ​

Fast forward to 2019, here we are.

POPSPOKEN: How does a normal day look like?

If I’m not working, freelancing leaves me either: running around for castings at ulu industrial offices while covered in sweat and anxiety, or enjoying a gin tonic by the pool at 11am getting my glow on.

But every night before I go to bed, I make it a point to reflect on things I’m grateful for, and how I can do better the next day. And It keeps me grounded. While doing my skincare, of course. I hope y’all do your skincare. Very important.

POPSPOKEN: What are the top 3 apps you use in your creative work?

SG NextBus app. So I can get to work on time without wasting money on cabs. InShot video editor so I can upload clips of my upcoming work on Instagram. Spotify, so I feel like I’m in a slo-mo chick flick montage wherever I walk.

But honestly, I’m really just old fashioned – I love a hardcopy planner, pen, pencil because apps just take too much work. Plus it’s a total power move when you snap a planner close with one hand to assert your alpha dominance. Kidding. But not really.

POPSPOKEN: What is the biggest challenge you face as a creative in Singapore?

Making it financially sustainable. Period.

POPSPOKEN: What is your biggest creative pet peeve?

Right now? People who insist on booking you over Whatsapp without a contract. Don’t do it, y’all.

POPSPOKEN: Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?

Choose another career and you’ll be able to afford Le Labo scented candles. They make your room smell like you have your shit together. Try it, it’s amazing.

Half-jokes aside: Prioritise your mental health, build a support system with people who celebrate you for you, and are honest with you. It’s 2019 – Marie Kondo your life up sis. You deserve it.

I’m serious haha. So many young creatives underestimate the hustle and the toll it takes on your own body.

Oh and stay on top of your finances.

POPSPOKEN: Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

Being around people with a point of view; meeting new people outside the context of work. I like taking time off when I feel burnout coming to hang with friends and family. It recharges my system, and I always get inspired.

Recently, I’ve been really into grocery shopping late at night and aspirational trips to homeware stores – it’s very meditative somehow. Or I might be turning into my mom who knows.

POPSPOKEN: Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?

This is What Inequality Looks Like by Teo You Yenn.

If I had my way, it would be a compulsory textbook in all MOE schools and mandatory reading for all Singaporeans.

POPSPOKEN: Favourite travel destination and why.

New York City. The energy, the possibility, the creativity, the stories, the urgency. Everything. Except the food and rent prices.

POPSPOKEN: What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?

I’m just proud of how long I’ve stuck it out so far.

And y’know what, I want to thank companies & people like W!LD Rice, The Necessary Stage, M1 Fringe Festival and Tan Kheng Hua who have supported my growth from the very beginning. ​And Popspoken! You guys have covered so many of my shows over the years – always touched and surprised.

They are one of very few who put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting young creatives. I owe a huge part of my still-brief career to them.

POPSPOKEN: How do you approach getting stakeholders on board?

​Make something people actually want to see, something that adds value. Crunch the numbers, do your research, get a solid producer, bulletproof your deck, punch above your weight, make it look effortless.

Always stand by your work.

And please, please, please only approach stakeholders you genuinely want to work with.

POPSPOKEN: Is there anything you want to promote?

Safe sex, consent and talking about our feelings. All underrated.

And also my upcoming movie Number One, Singapore’s first film about drag queens where I play one, alongside the iconic Mark Lee. It’s dropping in cinemas this year. Am super excited and I think the time is so right.

POPSPOKEN: Where can people find you?

a. Wherever the bar is.
b. @kennerff for DMs
c. for work enquiries
d. POSB Savings 112-60519-3 for angpaos or if you still owe me money for a gig haha.

POPSPOKEN: How would you like to be remembered?

For bringing people together. And for being a great fucking time.


Creatives In The Lion City is a series hosted by Sheryl Teo on Popspoken. Read exclusive interviews with artisan souls in Singapore, as we get behind-the-scenes with the dreamers and doers in various artistic spheres and creative disciplines.

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