Why Elvin Ng is socially awkward at parties like you: ‘I don’t know why I’m an artiste’
For our latest House Party For 2 podcast, the Singaporean actor talks about growing comfortable in his skin – and recounts how he coped with his father’s sudden death in 2012.
Elvin Ng has a secret strategy that he always employs every time he shows up at a large-scale social event or even a work event such as a brand launch. He makes a beeline from the door to the salad bar.
It’s not because he likes his greens – quite the opposite, in fact.
‘Socially awkward’ Elvin Ng on growing comfortable in his own, sweaty skin
It’s because he isn’t the most comfortable in social situations. And if you’re piling salad onto your plate, that means you’re not standing awkwardly in a corner not knowing what to do with your hands.
He confessed this little trick to me during an intimate conversation we had while recording for CNA Lifestyle’s podcast series House Party For 2 – and said he’s done it so often that it has taught him to eat vegetables.
Some people can hold onto one glass of wine and make it last the entire party, he said, but not him – “I'll just drink it too fast."
What kind of drunk is he? “I am a happy, emo drunk. I say that because I could be laughing and crying at the same time,” he told me. Maybe “my head is telling me to be happy and my heart is sad.”
He also finds it difficult to make small talk, he said, sharing that he has blundered his way into conversations that have quickly turned awkward. “I feel a little socially awkward. And that is me, I would say. I've always felt I'm a bit odd.”
The fact is that he’s always been a “super sensitive” person.
For instance, if the room is warm, “I'll be perspiring. And then people will be like, ‘Are you nervous? What's happening?’” he said.
That’s something that has bothered Elvin since primary school, when he’d be sweating so much from the heat that his uniform would be soaked every morning at assembly. His schoolmates would laugh at him, which affected him so much that he would show up late so he could skip the assembly.
That sensitivity is one of the reasons he muses, “I don’t know why I’m an artiste.” Apart from not enjoying the limelight, “I'm someone who is very honest and wears my heart on my sleeve. I’m very direct… I’m quite raw, not very edited, not very polished.”
If he hadn’t stumbled into the industry by way of a talent search competition show more than 10 years ago, said the 39-year-old who originally wanted to go into academia, “I might just be like, ‘I don’t watch TV. I don’t know about movies. I don’t know any singers.”
And in fact, he revealed, in the initial stages of his acting career, he felt so unsuited to the industry that he wanted to quit the entertainment scene altogether.
What made him stay? “I didn’t want to leave at a point where I hadn’t proven myself,” he said.
Now, after more than a decade in the industry and many Star Awards, he is “more at ease” and “no longer so insecure,” he said. “What you see is what you get – that's about it. Whether it's good or bad.”
We went on to discuss a number of events that had shaped his life, such as the near-death experience of being in a car accident, as well as losing his dad to illness in 2012.
When his father died suddenly, Elvin was in the middle of filming a romantic comedy that was running on a tight production schedule.
“I couldn't even find time to grieve,” he recalled. “I felt like I had to suppress everything… For two or three months, I was like a walking corpse. I just felt numb.” Several months later, when “I was lying on the beach one night and looking at the stars, I thought about my dad, and then the tears just flowed non-stop.”
These days, through all the ups and downs, he’s grown much more comfortable in his own skin. “I have learned to enjoy the attention and also the love that people show me – and of course, all the criticism,” he said.
What’s more, “I see myself doing this hopefully for another 10 years – if the audience wants to see me.” But “I don't see myself doing this until maybe 60 or 70. I think there are other things in life that I would like to explore.”
Listen to the full House Party For 2 podcast to find out what Elvin wants to do after he retires, how his outlook on life has changed and the significance of the ring that’s hanging from his car’s rearview mirror.