The birth of new media, such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms, has opened more opportunities for people to showcase their talents and skills to a wider audience. In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of individuals who were successful in building their community and huge followership in these digital landscapes without going through the practices of traditional media–like auditions and workshops.
This then ignites the question: is traditional media still relevant in this digital age? As more and more people are getting inclined with the use of social media, is there still a future for those thriving in the traditional media channels like television and radio?
Here we asked new artists in the limelight to share their ideas on how they are able to navigate and hustle their way through despite the rise of new media. Breathing life and fresh ideas into our screens, they share how they continue to consciously create impact and pursue their individual crafts amidst the challenges of the entertainment scene.
He was the first one among the three artists to arrive at the studio. Quietly, Tyler went straight to the holding area and scrolled through his phone while waiting for the rest to arrive. With his built and appeal, Tyler is undoubtedly the leading man everyone should be anticipating to show up on their screens. His looks have surpassed all the expectations and made us more convinced that he is so deserving to be in the line of the next big stars.
Due to the unfamiliar environment, Tyler remained quiet, observing and waiting patiently for his turn on the make-up chair. He was giving off a mysterious and reserved vibe, yet accessible and warm, someone who seems to be shy to be in the spotlight and does not want to be constantly attended to. In silence, we observed and tried to understand the mystery in him. Still, one thing is sure; there’s a certain sense of familiarity with him that unintentionally lights up the room.
It was when we started the interview that we slowly decoded the mysteries. Tyler, who is more than meets the eye, served us with nothing but genuine stories that put him to the spot where he is right now.
With our increasing interest in knowing more behind this tall, fit, and good-looking guy, we set off our first question to ask who he is off-cam. “I actually like fitness a lot. I’ve been into fitness since I was around 12 years old,” he answers.
Tyler’s good body posture is one of the things you would immediately notice, may it be in person or even on TV screens, but what’s unknown to many is that he was once subjected to bullying because he was very skinny back then. From then on, he got motivated to build on himself, start getting fit, and develop confidence so that he can stand up for himself.
At the age of 15, Tyler entered his first Muay Thai competition, and used to work part-time as an instructor. Aside from doing fitness activities, Tyler had gone modeling before he went into acting. He admitted to not really having any set of skills for acting and having to learn everything from scratch. It was so difficult for him to get emotional because even when watching sad movies, he can’t find himself crying at all. But now that he is an actor, he has to immerse himself into the point of view of the character given to him; so, he’s prompted to feel more and have more emotions along the way.
Despite the challenges of having to find his personality and character as an actor, Tyler is very much driven by his passion for trying out new things, challenging himself, and growing professionally while having fun along the way.
“The greatest challenge for me, I think, is finding my personality and character,” he shares. “Because all of us came out as a group -Star Search, people don’t really know us as an individual. I want people to know me as Tyler. So I’m using that to try new things and challenge myself more,” he adds. He believes that everything that he’s working on will make him a better actor.
Though there are a number of influencers who become more and more famous with the use of new media, Tyler remains faithful to the process of going through traditional media training and workshops. Given how big and broad social media is, if not used well, things could get viral for the wrong reasons – which he thinks is quite dangerous. That’s why influencers have to be very cautious with the platforms that they use. Also, given that more and more of these influencers and YouTubers are getting into acting roles, new media can be maximized as a tool to introduce the younger generation into the professional media and entertainment industry.
Having been attuned to competitions, Tyler finds it interesting to constantly work to be at par with rising new media talents. He finds validation, not in the number of likes he gets but from the feedback provided by people – both good and bad – to improve himself and affirm that he has somehow created an impact on them. “The greatest validation is when people start to notice me and giving me feedback. It means that there is something for me to improve myself on. And them noticing me is a way to tell that I’m somehow creating an impact,” he highlights.
With all that he has been through, Tyler encourages the younger generation to work hard and pursue their passion, to utilize their time and energy to try new things, and maximize all available platforms (YouTube, Instagram, and the like) to discover new things about themselves. “I think if you have something to pursue, just work hard towards it, and follow your passion. Because right now, you’re still young, so you have a lot of time and energy to try new things,” he emphasized.
In his white shirt, denim straight-cut pants, and white sneakers,–– in what we guess is his natural element––he extended his arms to everyone as soon as he arrived, served an enthusiastic smile, and started exchanging banters with his co-artist, Tyler, who is being glammed up by Nicole, the make-up artist.
Zhai Siming’s arrival is definitely one that is hard to ignore as he didn’t fall short in giving warm greetings that set an impression to us who only met him on that day, and effortlessly radiated to everyone in the room. Upon exchanging pleasantries, we started setting things up for the interview and thereafter delved into knowing him better.
Siming is one of the finalists of Star Search 2019. But before he entered the competition, he was already involved in various drama productions like “Muay Thai Girl,” “Lonely Fish,” and “Close Your Eyes.” He admitted that despite his involvement in the industry, he still feels very young with a lot of things to learn. He aspires to improve on his career, fitness, and socials continuously.
“I’m more of a shy person, maybe more shy and not as confident off-cam, but one thing about me is that I’m a basketball lover,” he promptly answered as soon as we fired the opening question, who he is off-cam.
Unlike most people in the league, long waits in production sets and lines at auditions were not his original playground, although later on, her mom knew that he is meant to take on the industry before he even realized it. He was known among his friends (and followers) as the ‘tall basketball guy.’ But contrary to most assumptions, his dream wasn’t actually related to becoming an actor nor becoming a basketball player. What he initially wanted was to become a pilot.
But everything shifted when they saw an audition post in the newspaper looking for a Chinese basketball player who can speak Chinese. It was for a local basketball movie. Before Zhai realized it, people who knew him, including his friends and their parents, came cheering on him to audition. So, he went to try and basically got into the production. But, what really stayed with Siming was the gala premium when he saw his mom supporting him.
“When I saw my mom in the crowd supporting me, I felt that moment; I feel so proud of myself. I feel like this is something that can make her feel proud of me, and that will make her really happy,” reminisced by the 25-year old actor, all smiles, as if that Gala was just yesterday.
Siming continued to share about his mom not being a big fan of him playing basketball because of the physical stuff it involved, like the fights and cuts and how the movie opened more opportunities for Zhai and his mom to bond. In fact, his mom even got a supporting role as a Chinese mom in a film because she was with him during the contract signing.
What started with basketball eventually led to the ‘Hey Gorgeous’ TV Program and several modeling projects to Zhai. These experiences helped him to become more comfortable with the camera and easily understand the instructions provided by directors. However, he still believes that there’s still more that he has to learn. Now, as a newcomer in the industry surrounded by professional actors who are more experienced in the field, he thinks that the most significant challenge for him is how to leave an impression on people’s minds, – more than just being the Star Search guy or Basketball guy.
“Most of the people in the industry and viewers know me as the Star Search guy or the basketball guy or the one that looked like Korean,” he shared matter-of-factly. “People don’t really know me yet and they could have a lot of questions. Is this guy good? Does he speak good Chinese? Does he speak English? So now I’m still like trying to find my way to popularity and leave good impressions and work hard for people to see the other side of me,” he added.
In this aspect, Siming thinks that aside from traditional media, artists can maximize social media platforms, like YouTube, to establish and make themselves more visible to the audience. Especially in this time of the pandemic, he has utilizes his Instagram account to promote his projects and the products he endorses. He finds new media an effective tool for people to get to know him and reach out to those who really support him.
“To become a famous actor is really challenging. It’s hard. But there are also good things in this new media like if we can handle this area well (by being good at social media while doing all the works in traditional media), it will be a good bonus for us as well. We can utilize it to showcase more of our talents and be more visible to our audience,” he explained.
As he is still navigating and hustling through into sealing his spot in the industry, we see someone who doesn’t see himself as a big star, rather someone who is passionate and eager to use every opportunity he has to continue inspiring and creating a good impact on others while honing his craft.
Instead of immediately joining the bandwagon, as an influencer, Siming shares that what he would like to impart to the younger generation is that: you have to work hard, chase and don’t easily give up on your dreams.
“Don’t be afraid of failure. You just keep on trying and don’t give up. I’m sure you will be able to do it. Life in general, to everything – as long as you work hard for your dreams and you have a clear vision and goals, you will achieve what you want.”
Aside from the spot that he’s sharing in the limelight now, Siming finds validation upon seeing himself improve in all areas of his life and from the encouraging words and titles that other people give to him. When asked about what he wants to achieve in the next few years in his career, he is starry-eyed at the endless possibilities.
Herman was scheduled to arrive a little later than the rest, so much of the pleasantries were left out as he was already in his glam-up chair the moment we finished the interview with Tyler. Towering at around 191cm, Keh is undeniably suave and urbane, giving a convincing impression of “he got what it takes.”
It’s no surprise if you find Herman Keh familiar. Aside from his youthful energy and entertaining personality, he has been known to easily attract and win the heart of the audience –“stealing the spotlight from everyone else,” as Hong Kong actress, Carina Lau, puts it. Aside from his viral meme, Herman is best recognized for becoming Star Search 2019’s first runner-up. He went full-time acting with “Jungle Survivor” before earning the genius hacker leading man role in the Mind Jumper series.
Herman’s flamboyant personality opened opportunities for him to host variety shows and earn significant roles on ongoing dramas. He revealed that in order for him to keep his energy, he always allows himself to have some personal time whenever he goes off cam.
Like most, it also came as a surprise to Herman how he ended up in Star Search and landed on numerous projects right after. He shared how he started as a model and how he initially wanted to become a dance instructor. When he started in the competition, the only motivation he had was just to have fun but as he progressed to semi-finals and finals, and when people began to recognize him as a public figure, he then realized how he must have been called for a much bigger roles.
“A lot of things changed because people start to notice, you know,” Keh shared, talking about the adjustments during and post-artist search competition. “When you go onto the street, people will tend to look at you more. And then sometimes people ask you for photos and everything. So I feel that when you’re out there, people look at you. I mean, I’m still not very comfortable with that. But I’m starting to get used to it.”
Likewise, Herman believes that despite the differences in platforms used, artists must impart good values and morals to their audience. With the intersection of traditional and new media these days, he encourages more people to explore and don’t hesitate to go and do new things when opportunities make themselves open. He admitted that he still finds acting challenging because he is required to step into other people’s shoes, think about how his character feels, and understand everything to portray the role he was given.
Herman feels happy upon seeing a new breed of personalities rising from new media. Like all the efforts he put through in building his career, he also believes that these influencers also have their own set of abilities and talents that can entertain and inspire people. “Definitely, it’s not something bad. I mean, I’m sure that they [Social media personalities] are able to bring something to the public, and the public will learn something from them,” he explained. Herman also shared that in his opinion, there’s no competition between artists like him and those influencers because they have each of their communities and supporters believing and learning something from them.
While Herman is best known as an entertaining character in the industry, he hopes to grow professionally and show people that there’s more to him than his funny personality – that he is actually very versatile and that there are so many other things that he can do. He takes inspiration from all the feedback he receives from people, especially from senior actors, and does better to make the audience and himself contented with what he is passionate about.
“Other people remember me as a very funny person, as a dancer, and very entertaining person. But I hope in the future, I will have a chance to show that I can do a lot of stuff, other than just being funny and entertaining. So if an opportunity comes for me to show the other personalities of mine, I’ll definitely do my best so that more people can see and say that ‘this person is very versatile!'” he noted.
When we asked him what is something he wants to tell the current generation: “Do everything that you want to do now. Don’t wait because I don’t think everybody has lots of time. So whenever you have the opportunity or have the chance to do something, you should go and do it. Don’t waste time,” he concluded.
Traditional and New Media: Opening Spaces to Explore Passion and Craft Skills
Instead of competition, now we see how traditional and new media can be utilized to reach out to more people and increase awareness. Herman, Zhai, and Tyler may have different perceptions towards influencers in social media, but all agree that new media can greatly help in reaching both broad and targeted audiences.
With more options to choose from, the younger generations can take on Tyler’s message on making the most of their youth by exploring where their capabilities lie – be it in the traditional media or navigating through social media. While some may have put a wall between the two, take it from Herman, who believes that division is unnecessary as both have their way of influencing people one way or another. While this may not be an easy endeavor with the growing competition in many platforms these days, as Zhai says it: do not be afraid of failures and just keep on trying.
Photographed by: Emerson Baun
Wardrobes by: Paul Smith, Calvin Klein | Club21
Shoes: Onitsuka Tiger | Sandals: Birkenstock
Makeup by Nicole
Hair (Tyler Ten & Zhai Siming): Jenlailai from Shunji Matsuo
Hair (Herman Keh): Ace from Evolve Salon
Video by: Mary Jane Manglicmot
Video Editor: Niccole Mendoza
Styling by: Joy del Rosario
Overall coordination: Juliana Chan
Shot on location at In the Studio SG
Set-up design & overall creative direction by the Gen-Z production team