Celebs

We remember Aloysius Pang and 13 other celebrities who died in their prime

Aloysius Pang was in his prime when he passed on Jan 23. Here, we look back at the other celebrities who departed this earth during the peak of their careers
 

celebs who died at their prime feature image

Photos: Instagram/_amy.winehouse, aloypang, marilynmonroe

As we say a sad goodbye to Aloysius Pang, we pay tribute to other celebrities who have also left this world too soon. Many, like Aloysius, were in the prime of their lives, leaving us to mourn over the life and career that could have been. They may not be with us, but they will not be forgotten. We remember some of them here.

 

1. Aloysius Pang

Photo: Instagram/aloypang

The passing of 28-year-old actor Aloysius Pang shook Singaporeans, with many expressing disbelief and heartache. Aloysius was carrying out repair work inside a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer — an artillery gun mounted on an armoured chassis — for reservist while at the Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand, when he “sustained injuries when the gun barrel was lowered”, said the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). Many will hopeful that he would pull through, but after a series of surgeries and despite the efforts of the doctors there, he was placed on life support and eventually succumbed to his injuries. Aloysius was a bright child star, beginning his career at a tender age of nine, before taking a hiatus at 14 and returning to the small screen again at 2012. In 2014, he was named by Mediacorp as one of 8 Dukes of Caldecott and received the Best Newcomer Award at the 2015 Star Awards. He was slated to film an upcoming drama, My One in a Million, after Chinese New Year.

 

2. Bruce Lee

Photo: Instagram/brucelee

Before Jackie Chan (and later Donnie Yen) popularised Chinese martial arts, Bruce Lee was the one to watch. His films sparked an interest in Chinese marital arts in the West, and dramatically influenced the direction and tone of martial arts films in the United States as well as globally. Lee Xiao Long, or little dragon as he was most famously coined, moved from Hong Kong to the United States in 1959, and began teaching martial arts before making it big with films like Fists of Fury (1971), Way of the Dragon (1972) and The Game of Death (released posthumously in 1978). Shortly before his death at the age of 32 in 1973, Bruce was diagnosed with cerebral edema (accumulation of fluids in the brain) after a bout of seizures and headaches. His passing was ruled as a death by misadventure.

 

3. Kim Jong-hyun

Photo: Instagram/jonghyun.948

Main vocalist of popular K-pop boy band SHINee, Jonghyun, as he was better known, died at the age of 27 from carbon monoxide poisoning in his apartment in Seoul on Dec 18, 2017. Although widely regarded as having one of the best vocals in South Korea and applauded for his astuteness to craft his own musicality, Jonghyun struggled with depression and fame. He left a suicide note with a close friend and fellow singer Nine9, where he described his pain and said he was “broken from the inside”. His album, Poet Artist, which was completed before his death, was released by his label SM Entertainment, and all profits from the album went to his family to start a charity foundation to help others. Many believe that his death points to the demands of the South Korean culture, which has one of the highest suicide rates amongst developed nations.

 

4. Emma Yong

Photo: Instagram/bigdimsumdolly

Actress Emma Yong, known for being one-third of popular local musical comedy theatre act Dim Sum Dollies, succumbed to stage 4 stomach cancer (tumours had spread to her spine, uterus, pelvis and kidney) at the age of 36 after a 16-month long battle. The bilingual thespian also starred in Glen Goei’s 2009 film The Blue Mansion where she played Mei-Yi, an oppressed daughter-in-law in a rich family, and was named Best Supporting Actress award at the 2006 Life! Theatre Awards for her role in Chinese-language musical Shanghai Blues. Since her passing, the Emma Yong Fund was created to support local theatre practitioners that suffer from critical illnesses.

 

5. Anita Mui Yim-fong

Photo: Instagram/loveanitamui1010

Known as “Madonna of the East”, Anita Mui was a popular Cantopop idol who died at the age of 40 in 2003 due to cervical cancer. Anita started her career in 1982 with her debut album, Debt Heart, and had sold over 100 million records and performed over 300 concerts. She was famous for her outrageous dance moves and costumes, as well as high-powered vocal performances, which revolutionised the gangtai style of music. Not limited to her singing abilities, Anita was also an esteemed actress, finding success in films like The Heroic Trio (1993) and July Rhapsody (2002). She was also casted in Zhang Yimou’s 2004 film House of Flying Daggers, but had to pull out due to health reasons and passed away shortly.

 

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6. Tiffany Leong

Photo: Instagram/tiffanyleong888_fans

Malaysian-born, Singapore-based actress Tiffany Leong was only 30 when she died after a two year battle in 2015 with multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome, a rare hereditary condition that causes the endocrine glands to grow excessively or develop numerous tumours. The Mediacorp actress, also known by her onscreen moniker Zhuo Qi, acted in television dramas such as La Femme (2009) and Turning Point (2015). After her diagnosis in 2013, she had returned to filming in Malaysia in 2015, but was forced to stop after an infection. Industry veterans such as Xiang Yun and Zheng Geping had also paid tribute to this well-mannered actress, with Xiang Yun saying she was knowledgeable, talented, beautiful, humble, kind and hardworking.

 

7. Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing

Photo: Instagram/a_thousand_dreams_of_u

CNN once placed Leslie Cheung as one of “Asia’s 25 Greatest Actors of All Time.” Not only is he a celebrated actor for his roles in films such as Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Happy Together (1997), Leslie is also known for his Chinese pop music that dominated the airwaves alongside Anita Mui, Alan Tam and Danny Chen. Behind his versatility lied a man plagued with depression brought on by his fame and attacks on his sexuality. It eventually led him to commit suicide by jumping off the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong at the age of 46 in 2003. He had written a suicide note that began with the word ‘Depression’, which was found in his pocket.

 

8. Amy Winehouse

Photo: Instagram/_amy.winehouse

Amy Winehouse, a British singer from London, was known for her soulful vocals and signature beehive up-do and thick cat eyes. Her 2006 album, Back to Black, not only showed off her songwriting prowess, it also showcased her abilities to shine across soul and rhythm and blues musical genres. The album also led her to win five Grammys in 2008, which included Best Pop Vocal Album and Song of the Year for Rehab. But behind her powerful voice and unique take on music, Amy struggled with substance and alcohol abuse, depression, eating disorders, and a toxic relationship with former husband Blake Felder-Civil, who reportedly introduced the singer to drugs. Many artists have credited Winehouse as an influence who helped pave the way for them, including Adele, Duffy, Ellie Goulding and Emeli Sandé.

 

9. Cory Monteith

Photo: Instagram/monteitheternity

Known most famously for his role as a naive quarterback, Finn Hudson, in American musical dramedy Glee, Cory Monteith, 31, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room in July 2013 after consuming a deadly combination of heroin and alcohol. The actor, who was dating fellow Glee actress Lea Michele both on-screen and off, had been struggling with alcohol and substance abuse since he was 13 and had entered rehabilitation twice by the time he was 19. Seven months prior to his death, Cory had checked into rehab for the third time.

 

10. Marilyn Monroe

Photo: Instagram/marilynmonroe

Despite living a short life of 36 years, Marilyn Monroe is still widely remembered for her blonde bombshell characters. From doing raunchy pin-up modelling to singing happy birthday to US President John F. Kennedy, Monroe is most famously remembered for the scene in 1955 romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch, where her white dress famously flew up when she stood on a subway grate.  Her life came to an abrupt end in 1962 when she overdosed on barbiturates, which reflected her struggles with substance abuse, depression and anxiety.

 

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11. Heath Ledger

Photo: Instagram/only.heath

Known for his critically acclaimed roles in Brokeback Mountain (2005) and as Joker in Batman film The Dark Knight (2008), the 28-year-old Australian actor died after accidentally overdosing in 2008. He had posthumously won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Joker. Before his death, Ledger’s former fiancee Michelle Williams had revealed that the actor had insomnia and had to take sleeping pills. Heath himself admitted in an interview that although his body was exhausted, his mind just kept going. In 2011, the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia in Perth named a 575 seat proscenium theatre after the actor.

 

12. Aaliyah 

Photo: Instagram/aaliyah_haughton_official

Aaliyah Dana Haughton, or better known as Aaliyah, was a popular hip-hop and R&B singer before she died in a plane crash in the Bahamas at the age of 22 in 2001. She was in the Bahamas to film the music video for her song, Rock The Boat. A child star who first gained recognition at the age of 10 when she appeared on a television show Star Search, she went on to sign with Jive Records and her uncle Barry Hankerson’s Blackground Records. Having sold over an estimated 24 million albums worldwide, Aaliyah is remembered for her contributions to the music industry that has since influenced fellow artists like Adele and Rihanna.

 

13. James Dean 

Photo: Instagram/jamesdean

Remembered as a ‘bad boy’, James Dean became an icon of social disillusionment and generational differences that teenagers faced after his roles in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). His uniform of denim in these movies is also canonised in the denim history as a pivotal moment that contributed to the widespread popularity of jeans in postwar America. His interest in auto racing perhaps led to his end as he died in a car accident along highway route 466 in Cholame, California at the age of 24 in 1955.

 

14. Elvis Presley 

Photo: Instagram/elvis

Another American cultural icon, the Jailhouse Rock singer Elvis Presley passed away at the age of 42 due to a heart attack. The King of Rock and Roll was reported to have suffered from drug dependency, which might have been the cause of his multiple ailments. Elvis was known for his flamboyant interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style that often courted controversy. Widely regarded as one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century, he was also a prolific actor, with roles in films such as Love Me Tender (1956) and G.I. Blues (1960).

 

If you or a loved one is struggling with issues of mental illness, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse, please seek help at the following:

Suicide prevention: 

Samaritans of Singapore at 1800 221 4444

 

Counselling:

Youth Line at 6336 3434

Touch Line at 1800 377 2252

Tinkle Friend (For primary school students) at 1800 2744 4788

 

Sexual health: 

Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Control (AIDS and STI) Helplines at 1800 252 1324

Action for AIDS Singapore at 6254 0212

 

Mental illness:

Singapore Association for Mental Health at 1800 283 7019

Emergency Helpline (IMH) at 6389 2222

Eating Disorders Helpline, SGH at 1800 283 7019

 

Substance abuse: 

Smoking QuitLine at 1800 438 2000

Alcoholics Anonymous at 6475 0890

SANA Hotline at 1800 733 4444

National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) at 6732 6837 (6-RECOVER)

WE CARE Community Services at 6547 5459

 

AWARE helplines:

Women’s Helpline at 1800 777 5555

Sexual Assault Care Centre (SACC) helpline at 6779 0282

 

These information are taken from Healthhub under the Ministry of Health and AWARE. 

 

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