Emma Yong Oi-Mun (b. 20 January 1975, Malaysia–d. 2 May 2012, Singapore) was a well-loved stage performer. The versatile bilingual actress performed in a wide range of shows: from pantomimes and comedies to dramas and musicals to experimental theatre. She was a member of the Dim Sum Dollies, a comedy cabaret trio. After a 16-month battle with stomach cancer, she passed away in 2012 at the age of 37.
Yong attended Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) and Raffles Junior College. She was a conscientious student who sang in the school choir and was also a school prefect. When Yong was 13, she won her school’s Talentime competition. Her first stage role was as Tuptim in a RGS choir production of The King and I.1
In 1994, Yong won the Angus Ross prize, an award given to the student with the highest A-level English Literature score outside of the United Kingdom. She was the seventh Singaporean to receive the award.2 Yong went on to read English Literature at University College London.3
Yong worked in the Singapore theatre scene for several years after she graduated. She then embarked on a post-graduate degree in musical theatre at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London in 2000.4
Yong made her stage debut shortly after her A-levels. While waiting to be admitted into university, she acted in the musical Bugis Street by Pacific Theatrical in 1994 and in Mortal Sins by TheatreWorks in 1995. After graduating from university, she went on to star in many other productions.5
Some of her most memorable characters include the Electric Geisha in Action Theatre’s Ka-Ra-you-OK? (1996) and Sally Bowles in Toy Factory’s Cabaret (2006). Yong was well known for her princess roles in year-end pantomimes by Wild Rice, such as Cinderel-LAH! (2003, 2010), Aladdin (2004) and Beauty and the Beast (2009).6
Yong, together with actresses Pam Oei and Selena Tan, made up the Dim Sum Dollies, a comedy cabaret group. In 2002, the trio made their first appearance in Cabaret: A Single Woman at the Esplanade Studio.7 They went on to produce colourful and entertaining large-scale productions that dealt with Singapore society, current affairs and local history. Their shows included Steaming! (2003), The Revenge of the Dim Sum Dollies (2004), Singapore’s Most Wanted (2005) and The History of Singapore (2007).8
Yong was a talented singer, famed for her silky and clear vocals. She staged her first solo concert in 2005 at the Esplanade Recital Studio, From Bjork to Broadway with Emma Yong.9 In 2007, Yong was one of eight singers who performed Will You?, the National Day song for that year.
Yong starred in The Blue Mansion (2009), a film by Glen Goei. She played Mei-Yi, a wealthy tycoon’s oppressed daughter-in-law. She appeared in a nude scene in the film – the first professional actress to do so in a locally-made film. Yong had previously appeared topless in Goei’s theatre production of The Magic Fundoshi in 2006.10
In 2010, the Dim Sum Dollies were appointed as ambassadors for Love Your Ride, a campaign to encourage graciousness and courtesy on public transport, where several jingles by the trio were played on Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) trains.11
Illness and death
Yong was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer in early 2011. The cancer went into remission but Yong suffered a relapse in September 2011.
Her last performance was in Into The Woods (2011) by Dream Academy Productions. Yong was scheduled to perform in the 2011 edition of A Crazy Christmas, Dream Academy Productions’s annual Christmas show, but had to pull out at the last minute as her condition worsened. She was replaced by deejay and actress Denise Tan.12
Yong’s death on 2 May 2012 was greatly mourned by the theatre community. In keeping with one of her last wishes, the Emma Yong Fund was set up to help critically ill theatre practitioners.13
In June 2012, Yong’s friends and associates organised We Heart Emma, a memorial concert, at the Esplanade Concert Hall. The event, which saw the Esplanade sponsoring the venue, SISTIC waiving their handling fee and performers and crew working for free, raised S$275,000 for the Emma Yong Fund. An additional S$71,000 was raised through an online donation portal.14
1996: Ka-Ra-you-OK?, acted as the Electric Geisha.
2002: Cabaret: A Single Woman, performed with Pam Oei and Selena Tan.
2003: Steaming! (a Dim Sum Dollies production).
2004: Revenge of the Dim Sum Dollies (a Dim Sum Dollies production).
2005: Singapore’s Most Wanted! (a Dim Sum Dollies production).
2005: From Bjork to Broadway with Emma Yong, her first solo concert.
2006: Cabaret, acted as Sally Bowles.
2006: The Magic Fundoshi.
2006: Little Shop of Horrors (as part of the Dim Sum Dollies).
2007: The History of Singapore (a Dim Sum Dollies production).
2007: Crazy Christmas (as part of the Dim Sum Dollies).
2008: Shanghai Blues, a Mandarin musical by Toy Factory.
2009: Beauty and the Beast.
2009: The Blue Mansion, a film.
2009: SING Dollar!, a musical by Dream Academy Productions.
2010: Superwomen in Concert, in aid of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) (as part of the Dim Sum Dollies).
2011: Into The Woods.
1994: Angus Ross award for the highest score in A-Level English Literature outside the United Kingdom.
2009: Life! Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Shanghai Blues.15
2010: Life! Theatre Award for Best Ensemble for SING Dollar!.16
Father: Chris Yong, a retired engineer.
Mother: Mei, a housewife.
Husband: Jerry Lim, an interior designer, who she married in 2012 after a six-year courtship.17 She was previously married to Gerald Chew, an actor, for about nine months in 2003.18
Siblings: Two older sisters, Elsie and Emily.
1. Tay, M. (2007, September 24). Hello, Dolly grows up. The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. RJC student wins UK award for English literature. (1994, March 9). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chew, D. (2005, January 12). Ready to bare. Today, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chia, A. (2012, May 4). Goodnight, sweet princess. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Tay, M. (2007, September 24). Hello, Dolly grows up. The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Chia, A. (2011, December 15). Emma’s year of ups and downs. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Oon, C. (2004, July 24). Welcome to Dollywood. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chia, A. (2012, May 4). Goodnight, sweet princess. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Chew, D. (2005, January 12). Ready to bare. Today, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Lim, G. (2009, October 22). Nude, not lewd. The New Paper, pp. 22-23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Neo, C. C. (2010, September 6). Spreading graciousness, Dim Sum Dolly-style. Today, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Chia, A. (2011, December 15). Emma’s year of ups and downs. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Chia, A. (2012, June 18). To Emma, with love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chia, A. (2012, June 18). To Emma, with love. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Chia, A. (2012, May 4). Goodnight, sweet princess. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chia, A. (2010, March 31). Sweet dreams made of these. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Chia, A. (2011, December 15). Emma’s year of ups and downs. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tay, M. (2007, September 24). Hello, Dolly grows up. The Straits Times, p. 49. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 20 January 2014 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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