Natalie Tong On How She Finally Learned to Let Go of Judgment

Natalie Tong (唐詩詠), a model turned actress turned TV Queen, has never received formal acting training in the 20 years since her debut. Reaching a plateau in her career, Natalie decided to try out a drama class held by French theatre professor Philippe Gaulier in Malaysia. Not only did the class give Natalie newfound wisdom about her craft, it also changed Natalie as a person.

The 39-year-old grew up as a timid child. Because of her social anxiety, she developed a fear of embarrassment and judgment. “I had braces during a time when braces on a kid was not common,” said Natalie. “I grew very concerned about how people saw me. And because of that, I didn’t talk a lot, so I didn’t know how to communicate with people.”

Ironically, Natalie chose a career where she had to be constantly on-screen, constantly be the center of attention, and constantly be an open model judgment. “I think it’s the Heavens telling me that I have to overcome this barrier in my life,” she said. “My first few years in the industry were definitely very difficult time for me. I met a lot of different people where I had to use different methods to communicate. It was very challenging.”

In 2017, Natalie won Best Actress for her performance as Cherry in My Unfair Lady <不懂撒嬌的女人>. While fans celebrated her win, many netizens had expressed their disappointment, as they felt Natalie was unqualified to win. That night, paparazzi also had a field day pitting Natalie against her TV Queen competitors, especially Sisley Choi (蔡思貝).

On the night of her win, paparazzi labeled Natalie as being “black faced” while watching her other colleagues accept trophies, also calling her egotistic and arrogant. Natalie explained, “Through these experiences I’ve learned the importance of knowing how to express myself. When people say I’m being misunderstood, it’s probably not that. I feel, in many cases, it’s just me not knowing how to handle certain situations.”

Natalie described herself as a “switch.” When she’s on work mode, she’s switched on. When she feels like she’s done, she turns off the switch completely.

“On the latter half of the awards night, I was already switching off,” she said. “I wasn’t in my best state that night. I had to go to a surgery the next day, so I wasn’t in my best shape. When the reports said I was black facing Sisley, it was really because I was already shutting off. I was trying to listen to her speech, but I was physically incapable. That’s why I looked so dark.”

2017’s My Unfair Lady was a turning point for Natalie, who went from flatlining on a valley to reaching a peak. On how she completed her “Natalie Tong 2.0” transition, she credited French theatre professor Philippe Gaulier.

“There was a period of time when I had no drama work for nine months. My friend recommended me to try out a class held by Philippe Gaulier in Malaysia. I managed to take the last spot. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”

Philippe Gaulier did not hold back in his criticism. Once Natalie stepped foot on the stage, he shouted, “You’re trash! Get out! What are you doing? My sister can act better than you!”

When Gaulier asked Natalie if she felt pleasure while acting, it made Natalie realize that she had been carrying a heavy burden her whole life. “I’ve learned to let go of my own face, my own judgment. He saw how much fear I had for the stage. No matter what kind of role you play, your job is to be the jester and make people smile. No matter how ugly you look on the outside, it is the inside that matters. It is the inside that is meant to be beautiful.”


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. There are less of ladies who can lead a drama in TVB.

    Nancy Ali Alice Mandy
    They can!

    Nathalie is getting closer. Her chicken voice is gone and she finaly can portrayed her character in full potential in BWD.
    I also like her playing bad guy in Tiger Cubs 1. So she definitely make me wanna watch her drama.

    Moon Priscilla Sisley are the 3 with potential. Moon is outstanding. Gave her more chance to shine.
    Priscilla last drama was Nice. Also her role in Two steps from heaven. Was nice to watch.
    Sisley has improved. All credits to all the veterans who has helped her and also she want to improve. Looking forward to see her in legal Mavericks.

    Then the upcoming 3
    Katy Kung.
    Gloria Tang
    Samantha Ko

    Love Katy her role in DBZ*
    Gloria and Samantha still need to improved a lot.

    *Death by Zero not Dragonball Z

    1. @siro112233 Agree that Nancy, Ali, Alice, and Mandy can all lead. Natalie was pretty good in BWD. She gets typecasted into boring roles, that’s all.

      Moon & Priscilla are OK. They still have a lot of room for improvement. I know Sisley has improved, but she is still unwatchable for me. I think she has a resting face and the way she speaks her lines bother me.

      I do not really like Katy’s role in DBZ, but that’s not her fault, as the character is poorly written. She is the best actress of the above, though.

  2. She has basically defined the gist of the problem: no formal acting training.

    I blame this on TVB which was so blinded by profits and refused to invest in nurturing the artistes and just push them to the frontlines with zero training.

    1. @rika
      I agree and TVB used to have an acting training class back then but they cut it out now sadly. However, I must say that some actresses and actors even with training and years of experience are still not good actors and actresses. I guess acting is a skill that you sort of either have or you do not. Education and experience helps but in order to reach a very professional level, I feel you need to kind of be born with it. I think that is why many still complain about the actors and actresses in China who get lots of training and education but are still not that great at acting, but are decent compared to many of the tvb actors and actresses.

      1. @hetieshou Having passed training schools seem to give you more Cred, especially China and Hollywood. Sean Xiao didnt graduate from acting school and got slated alot.
        A chunk of Brit actors who have taken up Hollywood roles (much to displeasure of local American actors) have been through training school.

      2. @hetieshou If the artistes still suck despite training, then they can only blame it on a lack of talent. However, I think no matter how untalented they could be, they could still at least make it to become supporting actors or actresses. It is truly a pity where a company whose industry depends so much on talents ended up deviating so far from its core mission.

      3. @hetieshou TVB actually still does have the acting classes, but in a very different format from before. In the old days (70s/early 80s), you actually had to fill out a lengthy application (and in some cases even have to interview) and TVB would decide from there whether they will accept you or not – the whole process was a bit like applying to college…hundreds (sometimes thousands) of people would apply, but they would only accept a dozen or so per class. And it was truly like going to class – classroom setting, formal instructors, homework, and final project that you need to pass in order to graduate. Not only that, the newbies actually got hands-on practice through bit roles in various series (watch any of the TVB series from the 70s to mid-80s and you will see a plethora of today’s big stars in “kelefe” roles) – it was actually part of their training, which is significant because, unlike today, they didn’t go from “off the street with no experience” to main lead. In the mid-80s, they changed it to a recruitment initiative based on discipline (drama, dance, stunt work, hosting, singing, etc.) but the format still worked (though looking back now, it was partly because there was tremendous talent in the 80s). It was heading into the 90s when TVB changed the format significantly in that they shortened the course to an accelerated version and mostly did away with the application process – it became more of a training ground for hand-picked artists whom TVB management felt had potential…and later (post 2000s), with the significant drain in talent, the acting classes were shortened even more drastically (3 month course or less if they couldn’t get instructors to teach)…now the classes are basically a multi-class “fast-track” course that TVB puts all of their pageant people (and anyone they want to promote) through to learn the “basics” (though if you ask me, TVB might as well stop the classes because they are essentially useless – a waste of time and resources).

        I actually disagree with most people here in that I don’t want TVB to resurrect the classes again because with the current resources that TVB has, they are entirely incapable of doing it correctly. I would rather TVB leave the training up to the “pros” (i.e. HKAPA) and work with those organizations to provide opportunities for those graduates who do have formal training. But of course, I’m beating a dead horse with this one, as that sentiment has been pushed for years (ever since HKAPA was created back in the 80s) but TVB’s “superiority complex” will never allow them to collaborate with the pros in that manner because it means they would have to admit their own training program is not good enough (yes, we all know TVB’s training sucks nowadays, but knowing and admitting it are two different things). Basically, if you’re looking for good acting training, look elsewhere because TVB definitely won’t have it.

  3. Shes recommending this Philippe Gaulier when he called her trash?! I guess she prefers hard love.

    1. @megamiaow Perhaps, it is the first time she was getting REAL feedback. Most people could have just gloss things over or merely entertained her with frivolous opinions when she asked them how her acting was.

      1. @rika I will tell her it’s bad LOL

        I think she’s just not talented, you would have thought someone who’s been around Long enough would have hone her skills in some way. Nancy been around as Long as her and Nancy’s acting is better than hers

  4. Interesting article. I think this was discussed before, but essentially tvb just keeps typecast their actresses once they become more promoted. In their supporting role days, Nancy and Natalie definitely had more memorable roles. Once they reach lead, their acting gets restrained by this girl girl image. Ali is the only one able to reinvent herself every role.
    I remember Natalie in The Seventh Day very well and though she was really fun to watch, but she got so freakin boring in recent years. Tavia is like the last ones who went through their acting course and voila she has won every acting award at tvb. They need to restart these courses instead of recruiting glory seeking girls through Miss HK.
    I still think Natalie was def upset Sisley won my fav actress instead. I doubt she thought she would win BA.

    1. @bubbles23 Agreed. Typecasting is real with BA winners. And Natalie is going through that right now. She can act, just never really given an exciting, versatile role enough in recent years to showcase that talent, IMO.

  5. I liked her as supporting but find her characters so dull as lead. Probably mostly the script’s fault but she also doesn’t seem to give the roles much nuances. Hopefully this Messenger series she is taping will be better since it sounds like a comedy.

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