How Wonder Woman star from Singapore beat her body image issues
Half-S'porean actress, who won role in Wonder Woman, shares her mantra
Jumping off a cliff and shooting arrows in mid-air while looking like a total badass.
You might have seen this scene of an armour-clad Amazon female warrior in the trailer for upcoming superhero blockbuster Wonder Woman.
She is Orana, played by half-Singaporean actress Mayling Ng.
Ng, whose father is Singaporean and mother is British, has been based in Los Angeles since 2015.
She is in her late 30s, and has played roles in martial arts films such as Lady Bloodfight and Blood Hunters (both 2016).
Her involvement in these films and an impressive weapons showreel eventually landed her the part of Orana.
Opening here on June 1, Wonder Woman is based on the DC Comics heroine and revolves around Amazon princess Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), who leaves her home island of Themyscira in the early 20th century to try and bring an end to World War I.
Ng’s journey to fame didn’t have a smooth start.
The 1.7m-tall Ng told The New Paper when she was in town last week: “I initially had trouble landing roles in Hollywood because I looked too strong or too mixed in ethnicity.
“They just didn’t know where to place me. But that was a perfect fit for Orana.
“I figured that I was more suited to play powerful, feisty women, so I worked with that, instead of trying to fall into the skinny girl typecast.”
While she was unable to share more about her filming experience on Wonder Woman before it opens, she said of her big Hollywood break: “I feel really blessed... It wasn’t easy getting to where I am today but I’m glad I did.”
Born in England and raised in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, she grew up with five brothers and was always a tomboy. She had not worn a dress or high heels until she was 28.
After the six of them were introduced to martial arts as children through gongfu classes, she was hooked for life.
“I was really captivated by Bruce Lee in (the 1973 movie) Enter The Dragon. That made me want to continue learning martial arts,” she recalled.
And so began her dream to join the film industry. In 2003, it led her to Hong Kong, where she dabbled in a few independent films and stage shows.
She opened three protein-based health cafes in Tenerife a few years later, only to sell them in 2010 after the financial crisis hit the island.
Yet, the warrior inside her refused to call it quits.
Ng eventually became a personal trainer based in Singapore, travelling the world, helping clients keep in shape. It’s hard to imagine she was overweight in her younger days.
A foodie by nature, Ng, who now follows a high-protein diet, revealed that her weaknesses have always been chilli and chocolate.
But as she became more self-conscious about her body image, she took it upon herself to shed the fat and gain muscle mass at the gym.
Then it dawned on her: “I’m never going to be Vogue-thin like those Gucci girls, so I’ll just be the best (version of) me and be good at that.”
And she has stuck with this mantra.
Her time spent in Hong Kong saw her playing a Russian psychopathic killer in Lady Bloodfight, in which she suffered cuts, gashes and tailbone injuries among others.
She said: “After spending the whole day training with the cast, the others would go home and chill while I headed for the gym to lift weights and gain more muscle.”
Being an action star comes with a hefty price tag.
“From the time when I’m hired, it’s on! It’s a full-time job and that means head down, blinkers on, with little social life, no drinking and no junk food while I’m training for my roles.
Now, Ng spends 1½ hours in the gym daily, practising her sword- and stick-fighting routines, lifting weights and stretching.
She said: “I may not be the prettiest, youngest or even the most flexible, but I am the most determined.”
She may fly to Thailand to film another action film in the coming months and also a reality show when she is back in Los Angeles.
“You don’t have to be a beauty queen or have a pretty face, you just need to try. If I didn’t try putting myself out there, I wouldn’t be here today. You must try, or you’ll never know,” she said.