Culture / Celebrities

Interview: Natalia Tang Ling

Former Singapore national golfer turned banker turned beauty queen turned TV host and model, the multi-talented Natalia Tang is a wearer of many hats.

Jan 22, 2016 | By LUXUO

The first thing you notice about Natalia Tang Ling is her uncanny resemblance to Chinese A-lister Fan Bing Bing. So uncanny, even the latter herself remarked upon it when she first saw a photo of the Malaysian-born model and aspiring singer. The second would be her infectious laughter and bubbly, vivacious personality, both of which made her a fan-favorite and won her the first runner-up position at the Miss Universe Malaysia 2013 pageant. Recently signed on for a career in music, she opened up to our friends at L’Officiel Singapore about her journey from being a child athletic prodigy to a bona fide singer-songwriter.

On becoming a performer…

I always wanted to go into show business, because I would always write my own songs and I enjoyed performing. I used to do drama when I was younger and was always on stage for something, but that was in high school and college. When I started growing up, my dad, who is a typical Chinese dad, told me to  “go do business” instead, so I figured I’d give it a shot and studied finance in Vancouver and went to work in a bank there. That’s when I realised that I still like to perform. So I came back from Canada and joined Miss Universe Malaysia in 2013, and that’s where I actually began my journey. I was told that the quickest way to get some exposure – because I didn’t know anything about the entertainment industry in Malaysia at all – was through a pageant or competitions. There weren’t any English competitions and my Mandarin was non-existent at that time, so I had to participate in something that was in English, so I thought the only platform I could do was pageantry first. And that’s how it all started.


On beauty pageants…

Miss Universe Malaysia was a reality TV series and I was in the second season, and boy was that an eye-opener. It was the first thing I ever did, and it was non-stop filming, so it was pretty tough. There were cameras all the time. They were trying to do it ANTM-style, but it was pretty lame, because they couldn’t put all the drama that really happened in the house – yes, we all stayed in a house for a month, and we filmed inside out for 30 days. For me, it was like an introduction to the industry that was already so hard! Everything I did after that seemed easy by comparison. I remember how bad (doing the pageant) was before, so it was definitely good practice.

On golfing…

I played golf since I was 10, and I had been playing competitively from the time I was 14, all the way through university. I was taught to be really disciplined and the hours were always very long. Growing up, my dad was very strict and he taught me all these values, like always being on time, because if you miss the cut-off time in golf, you’re disqualified. Being in a competition means you have to learn to work under a lot of pressure. These values are exactly what you need to survive in this industry, and it really helped me progress a lot faster – I didn’t have to learn all these lessons when I started show business, they were already in me.

On her upcoming project…

I’m flying to Shanghai and we’ll be recording my EP – three songs, one of them my original work. We’ll also be shooting two music videos, something that I’ve been dreaming of from the day I decided I wanted to join Miss Universe Malaysia. I really hope to release an album, because I like to write songs and play the piano, and it’ll be nice to get something out there that’s mine. I like writing screenplays as well, but I feel like that’s a step I should take later on because I still want to learn more. This EP is like a mini version – I can write a little short story for my music video.


On her music…

The music that I write is based on things that happen to me. I think it’s really easy to write sad songs, but I’m not as depressing as Adele because I haven’t gone through so many bad breakups! But I’ve gone through my fair share, so there’s a lot of, “Why did you cheat on me? Why did you die? Leave me alone!” (she laughs). There’s sad stuff in there because it’s nice to use music as a venue to vent my frustrations so it keeps me a happy person. It’s like I’ve already channelled it away somewhere and all the sadness has gone into my songs and my writing. I feel the same way when I listen to other sad songs when I’m down. And just like how those songs have affected me, I want my songs to affect others as well. Pop music fascinates me. I find it interesting how a single person can produce something that the whole world likes, and I want to capture that.

On her musical inspirations…

I used to listen to a lot of alternative rock when I was growing up. I used to be in a rock band, and I was quite the rocker chick which surprises a lot of people when they find out, since I don’t look like the type who would listen to rock music! I also really like Dashboard Confessional and Yellowcard. I love this Canadian band called Marianas Trench, they write a lot of stuff that doesn’t really make any sense when you first listen, very hipster-ish, but it’s actually very deep and complex. But at the same time, I also really like Taylor Swift! Her music is so straight to the point. Sometimes, when you listen to music, you just don’t want to think so much. She can write songs that millions of people can ‘get’, and you gotta respect that. So she’s also my inspiration.

On her personal interests…

I like to fill my days with sport activities. I picked up Muay Thai, and I love hot yoga, I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to it. I’m also addicted to scuba diving. It keeps me interested in exercise – I can’t make myself run in a gym for hours! I don’t diet but I have to keep my weight in check, so I must exercise, and in order to make it fun for me, I do sports.

On a first date…

I’m actually quite shy in the beginning, but once I get comfortable I won’t stop talking! I’m sure you’ve noticed. I can’t stop. It just keeps going, like word vomit!


Story Credits

By Joie Goh

Photography by Joel Low

Styling by Jing Ni Oh

All outfits and accessories from Balmain x H&M

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