You may have a lot of thoughts (or complaints) about our entertainment scene, but Tasha Low sure is grateful for it.
The 29-year-old, known for being the one of the first Singaporeans to become a K-pop star, only has good things to say about her experience with local showbiz.
The K-pop industry is notoriously tough, of course, but hearing it from Tasha first-hand really makes for a stark juxtaposition, in how the stars are being treated.
Tasha was part of Korean girl group Skarf (its leader, in fact) with fellow Singaporean Ferlyn Wong from 2012 to 2014, before they were sold to another entertainment company and quietly disbanded.
In a chat with Babelfish, the singer/actress confirms that the various media reports of the K-pop machinery—trainees having their phones taken away, being put on restrictive diets—are all true. For her, at least.
She found it fun at first, a period that lasted a few months in 2011.
Just 17 then, Tasha likens her traineeship as going to a camp, where she got to live away from her family and with friends instead.
There, she trained daily to hone her skills in singing and dancing—things that Tasha are clearly passionate about.
“After we got into the intensive training, it was just life-changing for all of us, I think.
We had to report to the studio like, every morning at 8am. We had to practise till 12 or 1[am]. And there were CCTVs around, at home in the studio. So they actually literally just monitor your every move.”
And they’re not just keeping close tabs on their trainees, either. According to Tasha, the management would also “very critical” of everything that she did.
For them, that meant keeping her to a “very girly, very pure image”.
“So even during training, when I speak, or when I eat, even when I walk, they would just tell me not to do certain stuff, not to walk this way, not to speak this way,” the actress elaborates.
Adding to that is the industry’s unforgiving standards for what constitutes “skinny”, which, unsurprisingly, resulted in a low self-esteem for Tasha.
The self-professed “chubby kid” says that losing weight has always been her “biggest challenge”, but was constantly told to shed more pounds.
“The lighter you are, the better it is. So even for like other members who are really skinny, they will just tell them to just keep losing weight. You know, that’s their beauty standards in Korea, I guess.”
The rationale behind it? One apparently looks better on camera the skinnier they are, attaining that sharp, v-shaped face so desired by the masses, among other things.
“So I guess over time, it did give me a lot—I just had very low self-confidence […]. I always [felt] like I was never enough.”
Grappling with that sort of pressure and the loss of freedom, it was no wonder that she fell homesick.
If you’re wondering how the trainees coped, well, Tasha felt like they didn’t.
“What we did was sneaking out to eat, or like, secretly ordering food. And then really just hiding in the bathroom to eat. Binge-eating, I guess will be one of the ways we coped with that. But it’s very unhealthy.”
Journaling was another outlet that they turned to.
“Because we didn’t have phones, we didn’t have social medias. We couldn’t contact our friends and family. So all we did was just, we journaled every day on how we’re feeling what we should improve as an artiste. “
Even after Skarf disbanded in late 2014, however, the former idol continued to live with the strict, albeit self-imposed expectations.
“I think my mind was wired in a way that we always have to portray the best image of ourselves to people,” she says. “But when I came back to Singapore, I tried to just let go of a lot of things that I’ve learned in the past.”
She’s much more comfortable with herself now, Tasha lets on, even though a little bit of the past still clings on.
The process of letting go was “very tough”, especially when she first got back to Singapore—it got so bad that the actress was afraid to even order food or tap into the bus.
“I was just cooped up in my room. I didn’t even dare to go and buy coffee or take the bus. And it’s not because I’m afraid people will recognise. It’s more of like, I just don’t like the attention (of people looking at her).”
That took Tasha about a year to overcome, and she credits her ex-manager, Sean, for playing a big part in that journey.
The two had met through a mutual friend, and the friendship later evolved into a professional relationship when Tasha signed a contract with him.
“The things he says, he just made me feel that it’s okay to be myself, I don’t really have to put up, you know, a front to people. So that’s when I slowly became less self-conscious, and then starting to put myself more on social media,” she explains.
And that’s the short story of how she found her way into the local entertainment scene, where she snagged her first Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes trophy at Star Awards 2023.
It’s a place that Tasha found much kinder, after her stint in the K-pop industry.
When asked for an example, she points to on-the-set treatment as the biggest difference.
In Korea, she recalls shooting a music video for two days in the winter, but the idols had to wear summer clothes.
“You couldn’t even show a bit of discomfort because the managers will tell you you’re not supposed to feel that way. You know, like, be more grateful that you’re here.”
In Singapore, on the other hand, crew members might bring you umbrellas if you’re shooting under an overbearing sun, without the artiste even expressing their discomfort.
“When you’re standing outside they will bring you chairs and stuff,” Tasha continues. “It’s a very friendly entertainment circle back in Singapore.”
Top photos via @tashaalow/Instagram.
How this 24-year-old NUS student & priest is using TikTok to make Taoism more accessible to Gen Zs
Don't tell him to calm down.
She became a couch potato after dropping out of school at 18, but now walks for London & Paris fashion weeks
Who else who could pull off microbangs like that??
‘I just want to do this first before I regret it’: S’pore teacher quits her job to become an OnlyFans creator
Her mother's death was the 'turning point' in making this decision.
‘We’re not going to give up so easily’: 21-year-old drops out of uni & uses TikTok to save his family’s restaurant
And it's working.
Unable to find jobs, Gen Zs in China are returning home to be ‘full-time children’
Not as cushy as it sounds.
Chinese journalist draws flak on Twitter for happy portrayal of Kashgar, Xinjiang in travelogue
Twitter is officially blocked in China.
A TikToker’s pet cat was allegedly confined for 38 hours without food & water by China Airlines
She plans to take legal action with an international lawyer.