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Yes 933 DJ Hazelle Teo talks about being inspired by Rainie Yang and the worst hate comments she got

It’s noon on an unbearably hot day in early September, and 8days.sg is with Hazelle Teo at the rooftop garden of Design Orchard to snap photos for this story.

To say the 29-year-old Yes 933 jock is a total pro is an understatement. With the flick of a switch, she turns her game face on, never whines about the heat, and gets on with work. She even suggests spots and poses to best show off her profile.

She’s wearing a brown bodycon off-shoulder dress, which she says she “specially got from Taobao for our shoot”.

She met her go-to beauty person Louise Luan earlier to get her hair and make-up done, and let’s just say with her smokey eyes and elaborate beach curls, she definitely stands out from the OL lunch crowd.

She’s not bothered by the attention. In fact, one might say she even revels in it. It fuels her and she nails shot after shot, her energy level never letting up. 

After the shoot, when we suggest sitting down at a nearby cafe for our chat, her eyes light up and she enthusiastically chimed: “Let’s go! I could use a cup of coffee.”

Hazelle is a self-professed “extreme extrovert”. You just need one conversation with her to see why it’s an apt description.

With barely any prompting, she gives us the whole low-down of the Teo family history within the first 10 minutes of our chat. Not that we’re complaining. We did say we wanted to get to know her better.

“My parents were not stay-at-home parents. They’ve been working for as long as I remember, making ends meet, and for that, I’m always grateful,” she told us.

Her mother used to work in a book production company. “But the business didn’t make it when the digital space took over, so she’s hopping into other jobs and trying new things, which I think is great!” she said.

Her father is a machine operator in a plastic manufacturing company and has been in the same job since Hazelle was four.

“I don’t know how he does that. People of their generation really think in a different way. His working hours are like 8am to 8pm, since 30 years ago, but he’s never complained. I’m sure he’s learnt all he has to, and there’s no progression in his role, but his bond with his colleagues makes him want to stay,” she said, her voice brimming with admiration for her father.

Hazelle is a middle child and has a younger brother and an older sister. If you follow her on Instagram, you would know she’s a doting aunt to her brother’s two-year-old daughter, Keira, whom she describes as her “forever baby”. 

“My brother was the first to get married even though he’s the youngest. He’s been with his childhood sweetheart for 14 years – they met in secondary school. Sometimes I look at them and I think of my own relationships. Like, ‘What the hell have I been doing wrong, man’,” she laughed.

She added: “My elder sister is getting married soon and I’m very happy for her. She’s a gamer, both my siblings are. Sometimes, I feel like the odd one out, because the only game I have on my phone is Sudoku. They roll their eyes at me, but yeah, they like to play Mobile Legends and games like that, and I guess that’s how they bond.”

What about her own dating life? Do her parents rush her to settle down?

Hazelle, who tells us she’s fresh out of a relationship with someone who is not in showbiz, said: “Honestly, I don’t think my parents have ever been worried about my dating life. My bro has only been with one girl his whole life, and my sis has always been the ‘loyal type’ – her previous relationships usually lasted five to seven years. For me, I feel like if I haven’t found the right one, there’s no point dragging it out or delaying things. I think my parents know that I like to take things (into) my own hands and in my own time.”

HOW DID YOUR DREAM OF BEING AN ACTRESS COME ABOUT?

I had a role model I looked up to: Rainie Yang. When I was 14, Taiwanese dramas were huge, and I watched a lot of Rainie Yang dramas and I really wanted to be like her.

Back then, I was working at McDonald’s. One day, I was just cooking fries, when I told my colleague, “I want to be an actress one day and be like Rainie Yang.” She took a good look at me and said, “I’ve had dreams of being a star too. It won’t happen”, and she walked away.

There’s some truth in what she said. In an environment like Singapore, how can you make that work? I chewed on her words and decided to find any openings to make my dream come true. I joined this Facebook group called ‘Casting Calls Singapore’. Basically, production companies that require extras would post their requirements, and interested parties can apply. Out of 50 resumes you send, you would be lucky to even land one.

My most memorable experience was when I starred in SG 50 movie Seven Letters. It’s an anthology film and I was in GPS, the short story directed by Kelvin Tong. Guess who my parents were? Hong Huifang and Zheng Geping! That was the first time I acted with them. It’s so funny ‘cause now I’m such good friends with (their children) Tay Ying and Calvert. I think I landed that role because of my limited ability to speak Hokkien. I’m not very good at it but I can speak a little Hokkien ‘cause I grew up with my grandma. But yes, fate works in funny ways.

That was a good experience. It gave me a good look into what acting is like. I realised ‘Wah, actors have to wait so long on set one ah?’ (Laughs)

IS THAT WHY YOU GAVE UP WANTING TO BE AN ACTRESS? 

I actually held on to that dream for a long, long time. I tried to look for avenues to join Mediacorp, and eventually I joined Yes 933 as an intern because I’m also a huge fan of Chinese music. I thought to myself, “Whatever gets me one foot into Mediacorp”. 

I tried to become a DJ but my then-boss didn’t feel my abilities were up to par. And I totally agree with her. When my internship ended, me being so thick-skinned joined the DJ search (The Sound Makers) in 2016.

I remember it was held at OneKM mall (now known as Kinex) at Paya Lebar, and there were so many people looking at me. I was reading the news, my tone was calm and composed, but my shaking hands totally gave me away! I was so nervous, but thankfully I made it to Top 12 and that’s how my radio career started. Of all the contestants, I was luckier ‘cause I was about to graduate from university. I didn’t have a job or any other commitments, and I could start right away. My boss back then gave me the opportunity to follow the evening belt with veteran DJs (Xie) Jiafa and (Nico) Weibin. I learnt so much from them. Maybe my boss saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself.

Following that, I was lucky enough to host my own belt together with Henry (Law) and then Qijia, and then alone. Then Ze Liang came along. He was the overall champion of the competition I was in, but because he had to serve NS and attend uni, he only joined radio five years later. Like I said, I was lucky.

Two years into my radio career, my boss asked me “Do you want to act or do radio?” She said if I wanted to act, she would call TCA for me. I knew she meant it, so I told her: “Boss, can you give me one day to think about it?”

I compared my feelings on set to being a host. I may not have wanted to admit it, but I felt happier being a host. It gave me a bigger sense of achievement and made me feel more fulfilled. I went back to my boss and told her I wanted to stick to being a radio DJ.

I’m thankful for the question she posed to me because it really changed my mindset. From then on, I really worked on honing my skills as a host. Outdoor events, live events, radio broadcasts. I wanted to do everything well. Back then, my goal was a bit far-fetched, but I wanted to host the National Day Parade (grins).

YOU MENTIONED ZE LIANG EARLIER ON, MANY OF YOUR LISTENERS ‘SHIP’ THE TWO OF YOU.

(Chuckles) People come up to me with two questions: Is Ze Liang gay? To which I say no. Then, they follow up with: Are you guys together?

It’s so funny ‘cause I think we share a very special chemistry on air though we only worked together for three months. We are friends outside of work and we speak to each other about our work worries, our relationship woes, our families, tattoos… you name it. We share such a special bond that people often ask if we’re together, but you know when a friendship is so important to you, there’s nothing you would want to do to break it, especially if you work in the same place. I think it’s a line we’ve drawn clearly between us, but it doesn’t stop us from sharing secrets and being close to each other. We’re station besties, I’ll put it that way.

YOU’VE BEEN VERY BUSY, FROM FULFILLING YOUR DREAM OF BEING AN NDP HOST, TO BEING AN AMBASSADOR FOR BRANDS SUCH AS SKECHERS, AND HOSTING EVENTS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING SO IN DEMAND?

I’ve never felt like I was suddenly in demand, or everyone suddenly noticing me. I think I’m lucky and blessed that people see the hard work I’ve put into my career. I’m really thankful for that.

I grew up being on the extreme end of the extroverted spectrum, and talking to people is a way for me to be ‘charged’. That’s why I always tell my mum I’ve found the right job. I get to speak to so many listeners every day, that’s so my thing! When I host events and speak to clients, (I hope that) I make a bit of an impact so they think of me the next time they need someone. 

HAS YOUR INCOME GROWN BY A LOT?

I mean… a lot differs from person to person, but the change I’ve made in my income is something I’m proud of. Compared to when I was only fetching my basic salary, I now have brands that trust me and clients that are willing to work with me and give me opportunities. I like this change, and I feel fulfilled. It may not be as high as what other established people in the industry earn, but it makes me happy. 

DO YOU HAVE TIME FOR YOURSELF?

Many people think I’m doing so many things throughout the day, but you know what I save time on? I don’t game, I don’t party, I don’t club. That’s a lot of time saved. When I go home, I sleep, then I wake up and go to work. 

While some might think it’s not healthy, work-life balance to me is more like life-life balance. My work has been so integrated into my life that I’m just playing and working at the same time. Like now! I feel like this is a casual chit-chat between two girlfriends but we’re also working. 

Xiang Yun’s son, Chen Xi, once told me something I would never forget. He said to make sure the heart and the body are on par ‘cause one day (if your) body cannot catch up with what your heart wants to do, you will fall into a very dark space. I’ve always remembered his advice and I always remind myself to make time for my body and my wellbeing. I actually get six to eight hours of sleep every day!

DO YOU HAVE TIME FOR YOUR FAMILY THEN?

Hmm, I would say I grew up in a very low-maintenance family. We don’t even eat together more than 10 times in a year. This is the way it has been since I was a little girl. These days, I (take away my) food or go to a restaurant or coffee shop with my friends. 

The way my family bonds is not by sitting down and eating together. My dad always sends me ‘boomer photos’, you know the kind with lotus flowers that say good morning? (Laughs) That’s his way of showing love for me. My mum’s way of showing me love is to ask me if I need help with washing my clothes or doing household chores ‘cause I’ve moved out. 

WHEN DID YOU MOVE OUT FROM YOUR FAMILY HOME?

Back in July 2021, my house was undergoing renovations under a home improvement programme by the government. We couldn’t use our bathrooms, so they set up portable toilets for us to use at the void deck. I was still on the night belt then, and my mum said it was too dangerous for me to get back at midnight and shower downstairs alone. 

So I decided to find a place and move out. It was only going to be for two months but until now I’m still there (grins). I really enjoy the freedom, and I think it also improved my relationship with my mum! Some space and time apart helps because when you actually meet again, you will feel closer to each other.

I’m staying in a rented room by myself. I only have a fridge, a table, a bed, a wardrobe, and a toilet. That’s it. It’s a small space. My home is like a hotel, I just sleep and leave (chuckles).

DO YOUR BOSSES EVER FROWN UPON YOUR MORE REVEALING OUTFITS?

I’m gonna be very honest, the answer is yes. Earlier this year, Blackpink came to Singapore and I went to the concert in this outfit by Moschino. I thought it was very cute. It’s this short black cropped top with an inflated heart at the front. I was happy to wear it there, and I felt happy in my own skin.

Days later, I received a text from my boss saying “Maybe you should reconsider your choices of outfit next time”. I asked: “May I know the reason you said this? Is it because of how the outfit is? Or the way I shot my photos and videos while at the concert?”

She said I should consider my station’s image as well, and I was like “Oh okay, I’m sorry I overlooked that”. Sometimes, when I go out for personal reasons, like attending a concert, I tend to forget that I have other things to think about. If it was a 933 event, I would never have worn that. I apologised and promised to take note next time.

DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL RESTRICTED?

(Pauses to think) No, not really. I can see where she’s coming from. Yes 933 is a second home that all 12 DJs work hard to contribute to, so I don’t want to pull down everyone’s efforts by being that one uncooperative DJ. 

WHAT’S THE WORST CRITICISM YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?

I’ve received all sorts of hate comments. People in the industry will inevitably face this, especially if you’re on TikTok where the comments can be really nasty. They will say things like “You’re so flat, you’re like the aeroplane runway”, or “You’re so ugly, you should be behind the microphone, not in front of the camera”. I don’t care about all of these. One thing about me is that I’m very comfortable with how I look. I don’t care about comments regarding my appearance.

What I do care about is when people text me at the station telling me like “OMG, your command of Mandarin is still not on par, you still have to work hard”. Now, that’s not a personal attack, but it’s something that will make me reflect very hard on myself. It is a form of criticism, but it is actually constructive. It makes me think about the things I said on air to make them leave that comment. I’m hard on myself when it comes to performing well.

It’s like someone telling an actress she’s not pretty versus she can’t act. I think she will be more affected by the latter, and the same goes for me.

DO YOU READ HATE COMMENTS ABOUT YOURSELF?

I do see them. (Hollywood star) Tom Holland once said something that really struck a chord with me. “If you have a problem with me, text me and tell me about it. If you don’t have my number, then you don’t know me well enough to have a problem with me.”

Hate comments are one thing, but how you take it is another. I’m thankful I was born positive and happy, and things like that don’t get to me. If people think this piece of news (about me) is not worth the while, or think I’m attention-seeking, isn’t it easier to swipe away than crafting and typing out a message?

Catch Hazelle on The Shuang and Kunz Show on Yes 933 weekdays 5pm to 8pm.

This story was originally published in 8Days. 

For more 8Days stories, visit https://www.8days.sg/

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