TEDx is back in Hong Kong, this time with TEDxVictoriaHarbour on 18 May. The gathering brings together 13 inspiring speakers from Seattle to Singapore to speak on the topic “Destination Asia”.
One of the standout speakers from the line-up is Singaporean actor Hossan Leong. Affectionately known as “Singapore Boy”, Leong has helped build the city as a cultural destination and has seen first hand how urban centres struggle to move forward while preserving their heritage.
We were able to grab a few minutes Leong to chat about everything from his show "We Are Singaporeans" to the "modern onslaught" of culture he sees around him.
LifestyleAsia (LSA): You've pretty much done it all from acting and hosting to stand-up comedy, radio presenting and motivational speaking. If you had to choose, which role is your favourite?
Hossan Leong (HL): Theatre. Hands down. Acting on stage has always been my first love, now I’m going into directing and I’m loving the process. Control freak? Maybe. But there is so much out there to explore. I would love to do a big budget Hollywood movie so I can do a whole standup routine on it.
LSA: That's the only reason you want to do a Hollywood film?
HL: Actually, I really just want to take pictures of the inside of my trailer and tweet them to everyone.
LSA: Tell us about the musical "Company" that you're directing?
HL: This is Stephen Sondheim musical. It’s about Robert (Bobby) who is 35 years old, single and very available. His friends all want him to get married and settle down, but their own marriages are not in good shape and Bobby sees that. So he asks, “Why get married then?”
It looks at the question of "Are we happier single or satisfied as one half of a team?" It’s very now, very Singapore.
The show has amazing dialogue and wonderful songs like "Being Alive", "Ladies Who Lunch" and "Side by Side". It’s a dream come true to direct this musical.
LSA: Your game show "We Are Singaporeans" is in its second season now. What do you think it is about the show that keeps the audience engaged?
HL: I think it’s the collective memories of Singaporeans that keep people watching. When a question is asked, I can almost here people at home shouting the answers at the TV. It’s a great way to learn more about Singapore, our past and present.
LSA: How do you think you'd do if you were a contestant on your own show?
HL: I’d be extremely competitive. I would need to win. Ask my friends, they hate playing games with me.
LSA: At TedxVictoriaHarbour you’re speaking to the question: “How do Asian countries cope with the onslaught of modern culture?” Can you give us a preview of your answer?
HL: We evolve; we mutate as a society. If we don’t, we get left behind. But it’s a fine balance – evolving yet retaining our heritage. Very tricky.
LSA: How do you see this reflected in the Singapore around you?
HL: In some ways, Singapore has lost something along the way, that’s why my generation is always asking, looking and trying to settle our identity. The problem is that we can’t [find an answer], because Singapore's still changing, even as we speak.
Find out more about what makes Hossan Leong's Singapore tick on the LifestyleAsia Singapore page.
LSA: What made you choose this topic?
HL: The issue of identity is close to my heart. I'm Singaporean Chinese, yet not Chinese, and not particularly western. Who am I?
LSA: Which country do you think has dealt best with this “onslaught”?
HL: Maybe Japan? I've never been to Japan, but from what I hear and see, they are at the forefront of the modern world yet look at their heritage. But like I mentioned, the balance is fragile.
LSA: What lessons can Hong Kong take from Singapore, or Singapore from Hong Kong on this trend?
HL: We learn from each other, take what is good and build on it. I think both cities are struggling to hang on to our heritage, Singapore more so.
LSA: How do you see that struggle manifest in yourself?
HL: I'm embarrassed to have so little knowledge of my Chinese heritage, yet somehow I roll along everyday, trying to keep up with the changing world, with life, that the past doesn’t seem to matter. Then, one day, I realise that I have no idea who I am or why I am the person I am today.
Hossan Leong will be at TedxVictoriaHarbour, 18 May, 10am-6pm, Hong Kong Arts Centre, 2 Harbour Road, Wanchai, www.tedxvictoriaharbour.com/ticketing.html