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Growing up under the limelight

BABY-FACED: Dennis Chew for Yakult, and more recently as Aunty Lucy. - PICTURES: MEDIACORP, TNP FILE, CATHAY-KERIS FILMS, YAKULT (SINGAPORE)

BABY-FACED: Dennis Chew for Yakult, and more recently as Aunty Lucy (above).

BABY-FACED: Dennis Chew for Yakult (above), and more recently as Aunty Lucy.

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WHO:

Dennis Chew

THEN:

His pixie looks and small stature landed him his first TV gig.

Dennis Chew, also known as Zhou Chongqing, was 14 when fame came his way.

"A talent scout was looking for a kid to star in her Yakult commercial. She thought I was cute," Chew, now 40, says cheekily.

She trailed him for 1km from Plaza Singapura on Orchard Road to his school on Tank Road.

"She spoke to my teachers and I soon became the face of the probiotic drink," he muses.

That commercial launched a career.

"You can say I grew up performing. I actually started acting on stage at the age of three," says Chew, who went on to become an actor, radio DJ and variety show host.

"As a young actor, I thought it was awesome to be recognised. Strangers and schoolmates would come up to ask if I was the boy in the Yakult ad. I was also in videos produced by the Ministry of Education. I felt happy to be acknowledged," Chew says, beaming.

But things changed.

"I was in my late 20s when I suddenly felt that my every action was put under a microscope.

"The way I dressed, the way I spoke. I lost my privacy. I wanted to call it quits," he says.

But he could never leave.

"Acting was and still is my first love. But while being on TV and being popular is transient, radio offers a life-long career - long after you have lost your looks," he says with a smile.

Chew found radio to be an ideal home. Gifted with irreverent wit, he became a household name.

His TV career, at best, was middling, playing small roles in drama serials and hosting a few variety shows.

"I know my limits," he says, adding that he has a face that can only play "someone's younger brother".

"My baby face and slight-built does not make me lead actor material. I'm not tall or handsome enough. If you look at the top 10 most popular actors, nine are cut from similar cloth. And then there is me," he says, laughing.

NOW:

His popularity, he says, was partly because of his Aunty Lucy persona - a curly-haired, bespectacled woman with her trademark hair-tossing and giggles. The character proved so popular it had its own movie in 2009.

"It is a love-hate relationship with her. I have a lot to thank Aunty Lucy for but I was also overshadowed by her."

Chew is letting Aunty Lucy rest for now so that he can show off more of his acting skills.

He is filming 118, a 190-episode drama that could herald a new era for Chew's career.

For more, go to tnp.sg