Actor Shane Pow had lots of time to think in prison.
He served 25 days but spent 21 of them alone in a cell, due to Covid-19 related segregation measures for new inmates. The former Mediacorp star reflected on his mistakes, signed a photo of himself coming out of the district court for a fellow inmate and also read 16 books.
“I read everything the prison staff gave me including Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix in Chinese. I’ve watched the movie previously in English but it was my first time encountering all these names like ‘deng bu li duo’ (Dumbledore), ‘he min’ (Hermione). I was like, who is ‘ma er fu’? And it’s Malfoy. It was quite good, it helped me pass four days,” he says.
The 30-year-old former Mediacorp star was sentenced to five weeks’ jail in July this year for his second conviction – he committed the same offence in 2014 – of drink driving.
He was also fined $6,000 and disqualified from driving for five years. His contract with the broadcaster was terminated in April.
Speaking to local media in Mandarin, he says: “I was alone, without my phone, without anybody to talk to. I’ve always heard the Chinese saying – face the wall and ponder your misdeeds – but I’ve never understood it as viscerally as I did in prison because that was all I could do.
“I kept thinking about the bright future I had and how I single-handedly landed myself in this state, sleeping on the floor in a jail cell. I must have asked myself ‘Why?’ a hundred times.
“I was really at the lowest point in my life, spending all my days with only my own thoughts, going a bit crazy. I would wake up 10 times in the middle of the night and wonder why the sky is still dark.”
But the sun is beginning to rise in Pow’s horizon. The star, who says his passion still lies in acting, has found a new home to pursue his career, under the management agency of veteran actor Li Nanxing.
“I really feel that it’s fate. He’s been my idol since I was a kid and I met him once at a birthday party I had as a child. I even have a photo with him – I was maybe three or five years old. And now he’s my mentor in life.” Comedian Mark Lee was the first to publicly offer to sign Pow under his production company after he was dropped by Mediacorp.
“He was the first to step up and speak out for me publicly, when everyone was avoiding me like the plague so I texted him to thank him. But we didn’t really go into details of discussing contracts or anything like that, he just let me know that I could reach out to him if I needed help.”
Pow also began working for live-stream sales company Mdada in May. He was roped in as a livestreamer by one of Mdada’s founders – host Pornsak, who started the company with fellow host Michelle Chia and celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee.
“I’m really very thankful to Mdada and Pornsak because they threw me a lifebuoy while I was drowning. They gave me a chance to earn money, because I still needed to eat and support my family so at least it eased some of the financial stress I was feeling. And it also gave me the confidence to face audiences again,” says Pow, who will continue live-streaming with Mdada even under Li’s management.
Li, 56, who showed up to support Pow at the interview, says of the newest star in his stable: “Who doesn’t make mistakes? I’ve had my fair share of mistakes, I’ve been at the low point that he was at. But he’s someone with talent.”
He adds: “When he acts, you can tell he’s a very selfless actor. He is willing to share the spotlight with other people and give them emotions to play off.”
Pow was talent-spotted at the Singapore Manhunt finals in 2011 and has acted in series such as Mister Flower (2020) and C.L.I.F. 5 (2019). He received the Top 10 Most Popular Male Artiste award in 2015.
In September 2020, Pow committed his drink driving offence but did not inform Mediacorp, or any of his friends and family about his troubles until he was charged in the district court in April this year.
Asked if he had regrets over the way things ended with Mediacorp, he replies: “Of course I have regrets. But it’s more concentrated on my original mistake (of drink driving). As for how I handled it – a lot of people have asked me why I didn’t tell anyone.
“I knew that it was coming, I knew I would have to go to jail but I didn’t know when. Sometimes the sentencing process takes very long and it did take around eight months before I was charged. I didn’t want to worry my mother in the meantime . I made my decision to keep it to myself and I saved her eight months of anxiety. I don’t want to dwell on that too much.”
He says that he has no hard feelings for his previous employer and made it a point to thank them in his interview.
“Everything I have now is because of them. I understand that they needed to give the public an answer and they couldn’t just let me off easy because I was a celebrity.”
Though forthcoming throughout the interview , Pow declines to reveal the status of his relationship with radio presenter Kimberly Wang. The two went public with their romance in 2016 but rumours of a breakup have been rife.
Gratitude, he says, is what he feels most: for the celebrities who rallied around him, his friends and family, as well as fans and members of the public who reached out to him to encourage him.
“I read the messages of support I got from netizens. It meant a lot to me that there were people who didn’t step on me while I was down.”
As for the future, Pow will strive to be more careful and considered in his actions.
He says: “I hope all the news my mother reads about me in the future is positive.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times.