Denise Camillia Tan. A lovely name for a beautiful princess who loves fashion design and grew up to become a beauty queen.
But Tan dreamed of being more than that.
Her childhood ambition was to become a female action star. “As a child, I always secretly imagined myself as an actress. I remember watching Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider and was instantly mesmerised by her performance,” she said in an interview.
Born and bred in Selangor, Tan was an active child who was big on sport. She played squash during her school days and nurtured her dreams by getting involved in martial arts. As president of the Taekwondo club, she attended training sessions every week after school for five consecutive years, developing the skills required to take her another step closer to her dream.
“We learnt some self defence moves and also did lots of sparring. I had a very strict coach, and sometimes he would make it really tough for us,” said Tan, who says her passion for action was sparked by those “gruelling-yet-enjoyable” training sessions.
Well, her dream of becoming an action star finally became a reality when she landed a very physical role as a killer in the 20-episode Hong Kong spy thriller series The Hiddens.
Tan, who turned 24 on Nov 6, has had a busy year. She has filmed two TV dramas this year – The Hiddens and Singaporean drama Legal Eagles. Her colourful hosting gigs included the dance reality show Astro Battleground 2016, which she co-hosted with Dennis Yin; an amusing food program titled We Are An “Ordinary” Cooking Show; and a star-studded travelogue for the Hong Kong Tourism Board with her co-stars from The Hiddens.
Tan was only 19 when she won the 2012 Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant, also snagging the Best Talent & Miss Photogenic Awards along the way. She went on to become the first runner up at the Miss Chinese International Pageant 2013 in Hong Kong.
“Since then, more doors of opportunities have opened up for me. I’m doing challenging things that I’ve never done before, such as travelling to different parts of the world for hosting gigs, working on overseas productions, acting with established actors and actresses, and performing, singing, and dancing in front of a large audience,” she said. “Sometimes when I’m out, people would recognise me and approach me. Having people recognise me for my work really motivates me and pushes me to do better.”
Apart from acting in television serials, Tan has also proved her versatility through her varied hosting projects, which include travelogues, cooking and foodie programmes, as well as the occasional dance and kids’ talent shows.
Tan, who lists travelling as one of her hobbies, says she is fortunate to be part of travel shows that have taken her to Okinawa in Japan (2013), Taichung in Taiwan (2014), and most recently Hong Kong.
Tan has also just wrapped the shooting of a music video and the recording of a festive song for the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations.
With her love for fashion styling, she was most stoked about being hired by Astro to coach the contestants for this year’s Miss Astro Chinese International Pageant 2016.
“Fashion has always been something that I have a passion for. It all started when I watched Project Runway and was blown away by the designs that the contestants had created,” she recalled. “It’s just amazing how everything begins from an idea, which we sketch out, and work on until we finally get to see the end product.”
Tan went on to take up Fashion Design And Technology during her college days. She even worked backstage for some fashion shows back then to rack up some practical experience.
“Audiences only see the glitz and glamour on stage but the amount of hard work and chaos behind the scene backstage is indescribable!” she said.
Tan professes a love for fashion styling as well. “The mixing and matching for different clothing styles… it’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, and is therapeutic to me in some ways. Sometimes my friends and family would ask me for fashion advice as well!” shared Tan, who has been invited to serve as a fashion stylist for some of the Astro’s programmes and photoshoots, and even as guest stylist for some local magazines!
For the coming year, Tan’s wish-list includes more roles in TV dramas, and movies as well.
“I hope to try out more diverse and challenging roles, or be involved in more action-oriented films. But overall, this year has been a really fruitful and productive year for me and I’m really grateful for the opportunities given to me.”