1) Share with us the activities you took part in while studying business management (marketing and communications) at SMU.
I was from SMU Broadcast & Entertainment (SMUBE). There are four main wings of activities in SMUBE, mainly the events and backstage (E&B), the Campus TV, Campus Radio and Artiste Management Team (AMT).
As President of SMUBE, I was managing all four wings of the club. I was from AMT and hosted quite a few of my school events like the annual convocation ceremony, patron’s day, and even hosted my own commencement ceremony. In addition, I organised the popular hosting competition in SMU, which is a Voice Personality Hunt held annually for freshman and year 2s. It was through this competition that I found my passion for hosting and the entertainment industry.
I took part in the hosting competition during my freshman year and this kickstarted my hosting journey. I had no prior experience in hosting before the competition. However, we had much help from the seniors and previous contestants and finalists.
There were many rounds of competition, and I made it into the Grand Finals. I remember feeling extremely nervous and uneasy, so much so that one of the stage managers had to literally push me up the stage when it was my turn to perform.
The competition took place during the first semester of my freshman year and that was where I had to learn to juggle between studies and this competition. I remember being quite competitive and I was a perfectionist. I did not want to risk any chance of screwing up during the showcase.
Although I did not win the hosting competition, in the end, I thought that I would not have worked as hard as I am now if I had indeed won the competition.
I always believe that you never know what you want until you try it. I am a hardcore trier. It was only because I went to the competition that I discovered what I wanted to do in life. It was a really big motivation for me as people will get to know who you are (in a tightly-knitted community in SMU) when you host one major school event where you get maximum exposure. Everyone will know who you are. Initially, I get called names such as, “mushroom-head emcee” because of my bangs during freshman year.
I also strongly believe that everyone needs a trademark so that people will remember you.
I just want to be myself and learn from successful seniors like Pornsak. I am not trying to be the next Pornsak as I subscribe to the fact that we should stay true to ourselves. It is his route to success that I want to emulate.
I really look up to Pornsak, he’s really at the top of his game. He is so talented and charismatic. To top it off, he is also multi-lingual. He has my utmost respect. With such high calibre you see in Pornsak, you seriously can’t ask for more. Being bilingual is so important, just like Michelle Chong too! Every opportunity to learn from them is a precious moment to me.
I want to learn what they have done right.
In the media industry, you must be well-known to add value to your clients. You should also work on asking a set of dynamic and impressive questions as a host. That is what an interviewer should strive for during a variety show or hosting any other gigs. Try to make it interesting and engaging. We should always keep the conversation meaningful and refreshing.
When I was in SMU, I also went to Vietnam during the winter break as part of the overseas community service component and taught the children English, Mathematics and Arts in Ho Chi Minh. It was a really nice three-week experience where we gave back to society in a meaningful way and I learnt how to communicate with others who are not using the same form of communication as myself. Communication is indeed truly important to me, both as a student and a host. Always remember that non-verbal communication is the one creating the most impact in any conversations. Overall, it was a purposeful experience.
It is always good to step outside of your comfort zone to explore the outside world. Don’t live under a rock.
2) What was the greatest takeaway from your educational years?
Don’t be afraid to make friends.
I am blessed that I met very good seniors, who taught me that grades are just one part and there is so much more to life than just getting first class honours, even if you have first class honours you might not get the best job. Other school activities enriched my learning journey. I will always try to expand my portfolio and joined CCAs to get the most out of student life.
3) Why are you so passionate about being a host and in the media industry? Why do you enjoy being in the limelight so much? (Where did the passion for hosting come from?)
I wanted to be a star when I was younger. I even wrote it in my essay. I was this kid who was brimming with energy and was not afraid of being in the limelight. It is in me that I will always strive my hardest in all that I do. Don’t forget why you started out your journey.
When luck happens, you must be ready for it. While we can wait for luck to happen, we also have to be ready when the opportunity comes. You must be ready to embrace it.
4) What are your hobbies?
I am a total foodie, I always go to new places and enjoy exploring new delicacies and treats.
I always want to be the first to watch new movies, and I hate spoilers,and I must be the first few to watch the latest movies. I like giving movie reviews. I love to sing and travel too.
I enjoy experiencing new things and local cultures. I enjoy interacting with the locals as well. It’s fascinating that every culture has its teachable moments. We can learn from each other and exchange knowledge.
I enjoy watching musicals as well. My favourite musical is Wicked. I like it when the characters take ownership, have their own style and bring out their own brand. I am a big musical buff.
5) What is your favourite hosting show to date?
It was in 2015, where I hosted SEA games in Singapore, and I was assigned to the sports -floorball. I was the sports announcer and I had to engage the crowd and play games. I also had to announce who won during the Finals between Singapore and Thailand in the women’s floorball. As the host, I had to stay neutral but there was a tie and during the penalty shoot, the whole audience just stood up and cheered hysterically when Singapore won. And I was the one who shouted, “and the winner is team Singapore!” I announced the victory with goosebumps. That was truly the most memorable gig! I could still vividly remember the adrenaline rush back then!
6) Is there one quote you live by?
Yes, definitely! I thought of it myself. The quote is, “you can never be too chocolatey” as my name makes people think of the chocolate brand, “Royce”. You should always strive to be yourself. Be genuine and sincere. You can never be too much of yourself, so just be the real you!
7) What is one thing you will tell your future self and your past self?
Past self: Be a trier. Try out new things, only then you know what you want. Always have a direction in life. The more you think of it, the more you act on it, the more it will happen!
Future self: Be a fighter. Nothing should take you down other than yourself, you should be your greatest enemy. Never give up. If you believe in something, build your armour and be tough to fight for what you want. You are pursuing something you are passionate about. You have come this far because you’re pursuing your passion. Don’t forget why you started the whole journey because you’re passionate about it. Give yourself a break whenever you can, you deserve it.
8) What advice do you have for young undergraduates who are still looking for their meaning, purpose and passion in life?
There is still a chance for everyone as long as you believe in yourself.
Don’t be afraid to try. Because you only live once!
Be on the lookout for opportunities, hone your skills and your own game.
You really got to empower yourself and be the person you want to be.
When luck happens, you got to be ready for it and show up and perform your best. Luck is a big factor, you can’t be inadequate. You got to be ready when it happens. When the chance comes you are ready to embrace it and take it on.
Never let complacency set in. You must always grow. Push yourself more. We must learn to grow in adversity. Go out in the real world to learn. You need to have hard knocks, learning journeys and be not afraid of testing water, hitting walls and getting rejections. All these are just part and parcel of life. Know that there are a lot of circumstances that are not within your control. Always treat learning opportunities as constant feedback for yourself and take it from there.
When the stage is yours, own it!
More about Royce Lee