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‘I am a tiger mum’: What Star Search contestants can expect from their celebrity mentors

Star Search 2019 mentors Huang Biren, Chen Hanwei and Christopher Lee dish out some advice and a warning or two to the 24 lucky ones whose journey begins now. For starters, they’ll have to put down their handphone when talking to them.

‘I am a tiger mum’: What Star Search contestants can expect from their celebrity mentors

(From left) Star Search 2019 mentors Chen Hanwei, Huang Biren and Christopher Lee. (Photo: Alvin Teo)

The contestants for Star Awards 2019 has just been announced and as their journey to stardom begins, they’re probably itching to know what’s in store for them.

Luckily, the 24 hopefuls – whose ages range from 17 to 32 years old – will have three celebrity mentors to guide them along: Chen Hanwei, Huang Biren and Christopher Lee.

If anyone can spot a future star or two among the contestants, it’s this very experienced trio.

In fact, Chen is already excited to work with these raw talents. “I can already see many diamonds in the rough from this cohort. They truly have the X factor. The entertainment scene will be seeing many sparkling stars,” he told CNA Lifestyle.

I can already see many diamonds in the rough from this cohort.

The six-time Star Awards Best Actor winner has had both on-screen and real-life experiences as a mentor and teacher – he once played the beloved Fang Lao Shi in 1995’s iconic Morning Express and also coached Desmond Tan in the ninth season of Star Search in 2007.

Star Search 2019 mentor Chen Hanwei. (Photo: Alvin Teo)

When asked if he felt any pressure to produce the entertainment industry’s creme de la creme within a short period of four months, before the Grand Finals in November, he shrugged.

READ: Star Search 2019 contestants announced, with Chen Hanwei, Huang Biren and Christopher Lee as mentors

“Not really,” Chen replied. “You either have the talent or you don’t. That’s something that can’t be imparted to them as a mentor. But we can guide them along and help them flesh out the characters in the script. That’s something I hope to do as a mentor.”


Meanwhile, fellow mentor Huang already has some pro tips for the contestants: Put down your handphone.

Actress Huang Biren. (Photo: Alvin Teo)

The three-time Best Actress winner revealed nothing infuriates her more than the lack of eye contact and interaction. “You need to look people in their eyes. That’s how you get the person’s emotions, expressions. Acting is about absorbing those qualities and giving them back. This two-way communication is important to acting,” she said.

Star Search 2019 contestants and their mentors, (Photo: Alvin Teo)

As for what kind of mentor she’ll be, Huang said, with an arched brow: “I am a tiger mum but I’m not scary”. She qualified by saying her strictness is “for their own good”.

“I want them to learn the right things. When they go on set, I want them to do the right thing. I don’t want them to get berated by the director, ‘Why didn’t you read your script? Why are you unprepared?’” she said.

I am a tiger mum but I’m not scary.

For all that toughness, Huang, who is also a returning mentor (she groomed Shanghainese actress Zhou Ying in 2007’s Star Search), is not an inflexible teacher. She admits “this generation is more vocal” and “they may not be so ready to accept what you say”.

“To teach this younger generation, we have to be more flexible. We have to change our own attitude. It’s not about ‘I’m the teacher, you listen’,” she said.

“But as long as they’re willing to learn, I am willing to share my knowledge with them any time, even after Star Search is over, as a big sister, a senior in this industry. I’ve been in this industry for 30 years. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve fallen, I’ve tumbled. What I want is to prevent these contestants from repeating my mistakes. And I’m presenting them a shortcut, a map around those humps.”


The silver-haired Lee certainly looked the part of a venerated mentor at the Star Search reveal, and has the chops to match, too. At the event, the Best Actor winner at Taiwan’s prestigious Golden Bell TV Awards 2014 shared how he felt about making his debut as a mentor.

Star Search 2019 mentor Christopher Lee. (Photo: Alvin Teo)

“The pressure isn’t on me, it’s more on the contestants!” he laughed. “But yes, there is some pressure on us. How much can we impart during this short period? You may need a lifetime to hone your craft.”

Lee’s advice is to go for the long game. “There is still a long way to go after clearing this threshold. The one thing they should learn from the experience is, being relaxed will help them to put on a good show. I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter whether they win the first, second or third prize. 

There is some pressure on us. How much can we impart during this short period? You may need a lifetime to hone your craft.

“If you’re crowned champion in the competition but follow the wrong path, you’ll never be a champion. But staying on the right path even when you’re not a champion can make you a winner.”

As for the kind of mentor he'll make, Lee gave a sneak peek: "It depends. There may be moments when I’ll be stern, serious or humorous. It depends on the topic at hand. But if it’s about making it in this industry, I will tell them that we need to take our work seriously. Otherwise, don’t waste your time."

The list of 24 contestants will be whittled down to 12 contestants vying for the Star Search 2019 champion at the Grand Final held on Nov 3. The top prize consists of an Audi Q2 car and a Mediacorp contract. There will also be a new Samsung Galaxy: Breakthrough Talent award to be given out, courtesy of Samsung Electronics Singapore, which is the presenter of the talent search.

Source: CNA/bk