Ma Tianyu (馬天宇) seems to have it all. Ever since placing sixth in singing competition My Hero <加油好男兒> and voted the most popular contestant by online viewers, the 32-year-old has gradually risen in popularity, particularly following the dramas Swords of Legends <古劍奇譚> and Ice Fantasy <幻城>. Starring in his latest drama Secret of the Three Kingdoms <三國機密之潛龍在淵>, Tianyu is now considered to be as popular as Lu Han (鹿唅), Kris Wu (吳亦凡) and Li Yifeng (李易峰) in Mainland China. While it seems to be a smooth road for the successful actor and singer, there is in fact a much darker tale behind his boyish façade.
Tianyu lost his mother at the young age of five, during the Mid-Autumn festival. His mother had been ill and asked him to help her buy some medicine, but unfortunately passed away the following day. Her death was of no insignificance – it meant that each year during the Mid-Autumn festival, Tianyu would be sweeping his mother’s grave, while others celebrated with their families and loved ones. Later, an older Tianyu would also wonder whether it was the medicine that he had bought that had caused his mother’s death as part of her suicide plan.
Tianyu’s father was also absent for much of his childhood, having left the family after incurring one too many debts. Although they were reunited recently, this happiness did not last long, as his father passed away earlier this year from illness.
Tianyu and his two elder sisters were largely brought up by their aging grandfather. They also had a younger brother, but he was kidnapped by debt-collectors and was never seen again.
As the family was quite poor, Tianyu’s older sister gave up her opportunity to go to school to allow him to attend instead. Despite this, however, they could not afford the 3 RMB in school fees, and Tianyu eventually had to drop out too. Instead of studying, he did various manual labor jobs including working on a farm and digging sewerage ditches. When he was 16, he followed his uncle to Beijing with 70 cents and helped to sell food products, as well as working in bars. It was at this time that he came across a customer who suggested that he enter My Hero.
So what of the Ma Tianyu of today? It seems that despite discovering fame, Tianyu still demonstrates the same level of hard work and endurance now as he did when he was much younger and struggling financially. Having been in the entertainment industry for 10 years, he has saved around 200 million yuan, but he still rents his home and drives an affordable car. Instead of spending on himself, he has bought homes for both his older sisters. There may be many rumors floating around about him (be it his relationship status or his lack of friends in the industry), but one thing is for sure – he has worked hard to get to where he is and his dedication towards his family is something to be admired.
This article is written by Jen for JayneStars.com.