From The Straits Times    |

#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Tan Kheng Hua’s story…

#HerWorldHerStory: Tan Kheng Hua talks about breaking into Hollywood after CRA

I was the ripe old age of 54 when the role on the Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) movie came to me. Some say landing a role like that is hitting the jackpot, but it never occurred to me that way… I never thought, “I have to achieve this by this time.” When I was offered representation in the United States after the success of CRA two years ago, and was asked to spend more time there to open myself to work out of Singapore, my mortgage was paid, my daughter Shi-An all grown up… so I thought, “Why not?”

#HerWorldHerStory interview with Tan Kheng Hua about breaking into Hollywood after CRA

I jumped into this new adventure with very little expectations, just to see where it would take me. I’m so thankful for some really wonderful work I’ve gotten to do since then and was filming the reboot of Kung Fu for the US network The CW in Vancouver when Covid-19 disrupted production.

Being in Hollywood has been wonderful. It’s a much, much bigger pond, a huge, well-oiled machinery. Being in an environment and industry where everyone is so good at what they do is invigorating rather than intimidating. I get to meet and work with many people in an industry that has such high stakes and works with such rigour! It’s rather different from what I’m used to in Singapore.

There are still many things I don’t know and even more to learn. When I don’t know something, I’ll ask. I seldom have to audition in Singapore, but in the US, I put myself out there a lot because nobody really knows me or what I can do. I’ve gone for so many auditions and have had many more rejections than acceptances! This keeps my ego in check, helps me think on my feet and makes me feel so alive. Each day is new and energised.


In the last two years, I’ve shuttled a lot between Los Angeles and Singapore. I still love working in my home country despite the smaller scene because I’m helping to build something here.

My voice is more “potent” here. I get to build deep and long relationships with my fellow artistes and together we’ve been actively building this industry for so long. There is a special love we share. Even if I spend a lot of time away, I’ll always call Singapore my home.

What keeps me going is simple. You know that feeling of falling in love and being uncontrollably compelled to move in the direction of your love? That’s how I feel about acting. After all these years, it’s still a defined and constant love for me. After so many projects, I still get excited to start a new one! But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When I first started spending so much time overseas, it was hard to be away from family – especially from my mum who’s 84.

I worry about her health. It was hard to find new ways to connect when her language of love is cooking and watching me eat. Thankfully, she has learnt how to video chat on Whatsapp! I want to act into my old age. And I can’t wait for the day I become a grandmother! I’ve a vision of myself as a healthy, 70-something grandma skiing down a slope with my grandkids… and that fills my heart with so much joy!

Photography: Shavonne Wong
This article was first published in Her World’s June issue.