By Kwok Kar Peng
FULFILLING a decade-old dream is costing TV actress-host Michelle Chong hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The 34-year-old had to liquidate many investments - including selling a condominium apartment - to come up with the six-figure sum to finance her debut movie, Already Famous.
Yet, it's no skin off her nose.
Chong told The New Paper: "The money was profits from my earlier property investments and stocks. I felt it was okay to channel it to my movie because the money was a bonus.
"The movie is not just an investment, but also a passion. If I didn't do this, I would have put the money in more property or stocks."
The MediaCorp artiste is on no-pay leave for the next seven months to film Already Famous, of which she is the writer, producer, director and lead actress.
This means losing an estimated low six-figure sum comprising her monthly salaries and the bigger earnings from hosting private events.
The film, which has a production budget of $899,000, is about a small-town Malaysian, Ah Kiao (Chong), who comes to Singapore to be a local TV star.
Taiwanese singer-host Alien Huang plays her love interest. Local actors such as Chua Enlai, Alaric Tay and Kumar, and celebrity hairstylist David Gan co-star.
Filming is expected to continue till mid July.
The movie is scheduled for release here at the end of the year.
Personal care store Watsons is a main sponsor.
Chong said there are other private investors, but didn't want to name them. She firmly declined to say exactly how much she has invested in the film.
Condo and car
Chong, who owns a two-bedroom condo apartment in Thomson Road and drives a Porsche Cayman, added that it would take her three years to save up the amount that she had invested.
"I don't feel insecure without the money because I can earn it back. What's more important is that I have a story to tell," she said.
Chong is already famous in the local showbiz scene for being a super-earner - and not just in stocks.
Radio DJ Vernetta Lopez said Chong follows the stock market so closely, she even took her laptop to their radio interview to check the market movements.
Since appearing on Channel 5's hit satirical comedy The Noose, Chong's popularity and pay cheques have increased tremendously.
She plays many characters in the series; air-headed newscaster Adrianna Wow, Sarong Party Girl Barbarella, Filipino domestic helper Leticia Bongnino and Chinese KTV hostess Lulu.
But it is Barbarella who is the money magnet, even more so than Chong herself, netting endorsements with mouthwash brand Listerine and department store Tangs.
She told Lianhe Wanbao in a recent interview that her income has increased 50 per cent because of Barbarella.
Chong, who takes on around five private events a month, said: "Barbarella is invited to do stand-up comedy at company dinners and dances more than Michelle Chong.
"But that's fine because there's so much more that I can say as Barbarella and no one gets mad."
Her alter ego also charges more than Chong, though she's unable to give us figures because of confidentiality issues with her employer, MediaCorp.
But the woman herself managed to pocket a six-figure sum last year, thanks to endorsements with Beijing 101 Hair Consultants and Singapore Tourism Board.
This article was first published in The New Paper.