Feature
No Egos, Just Alter-egos
Sounds Like a Perfect 10
By Wang Meng Meng
PHOTO: SAM CHIN

It is the easiest job in the world. Not.

The joke goes that a deejay popped a CD into the player and said: “Here is Beethoven’s ninth symphony. I’ll be back in an hour and a half.”

Try telling that to Kimberly Haley Wang, NTU student by day and pilot of the airways on weekends. Even if she has a job filled with glamour and glitz as a voice on 987FM, she says life at the station is anything but a Perfect 10.

For four hours every Saturday, from 10am to 2pm, this third-year undergraduate from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information takes over the console. Reality and escape blurs somewhere along the way as school and studio collide.

Chirpy, cheerful and confident, Kimberly has the personality of the archetypal deejay.

“Chicken feet” this gig is, some might say. But according to the 21-year-old, it is more like duck’s feet. At the radio station’s studio at *SCAPE along Orchard Road, she is cool and slick on the surface, showing little sign of the furious paddling underwater as she thinks of what to say on air while performing mental gymnastics to manage the timing of her playlist.

“I may sound calm but I’m still not 100% confident,” she sighs.

“There are so many things to factor in. The timing is critical. If there is a slot for an advertisement, I cannot let the songs underrun or overrun.”

Apart from managing the playlist, there is also the “talk set”, a break between songs where a deejay speaks on air, to handle.

She explains: “I can talk about anything, from current affairs to entertainment news to guy-girl issues. It’s tricky to have a balanced talk set.”

As the radio rookie intones, in this business, one can quickly turn from hot property into someone given the cold shoulder for a slip of the tongue.

“You have to be an entertainer and a mediator, a clown and a public relations expert,” she muses.

“It’s not that easy to phrase your content on the spot, and a whole lot of thinking goes into the process. The last thing you want is to say something stupid and hurt people. You’ll always be judged after that.”

That’s where her NTU training comes in handy. As a public relations major, she has learnt to activate an imaginary filter between her brain and her mouth to sift out any incendiary comments in her talk set before she goes on air.

But accidents do happen.

“Twice, in my first month on air, I forgot to turn off the microphone,” she says sheepishly.

Kimberly first came to the attention of the national broadcaster when it celebrated its diamond jubilee with a talent search for its platoon of stations called So You Wanna Be a DJ last September.

Auditioned and tested on various skills such as delivering a talk set, taking a phone call and voice acting, the chatty lass beat 400 other hopefuls to be crowned 987FM’s winner despite having zilch on-air experience. Her prize was a cool S$5,000 in cash and a one-year contract with the station.

Kimberly actually got her head start in showbiz when she was nine years old. Her parents had enrolled her in a Chinese drama class to help her improve her command of her Mother Tongue. It was then that she was talent-spotted by Channel 8, which cast her in several drama series.

Her most notable role was that of the spoilt brat Lana in the 2004 serial Double Happiness, which starred Xie Shaoguang and Ivy Lee. She has also hosted children’s variety shows and reported on the School Nationals and Youth Olympic Games after leaving the small screen in 2009.

Despite her insistence that she is still a beginner on radio, MediaCorp will be renewing her contract for another year, which means she’ll continue spinning. “I can definitely see a career for myself in radio deejaying,” Kimberly says.

But first, there is her quest to complete her PR studies.

She reasons: “I’m doing six modules this semester. That’s equivalent to 22 Academic Units and it is heavy enough to kill me. But I’m a conventional person. I don’t think I have the discipline to come back to complete my degree.”

And while she’s on campus, she puts her newfound knowledge on radio to good use – as the new manager of Radio Fusion, the student-run campus station.

She says: “I hope to share my knowledge with my university mates by helping them with their voice training and techniques to produce station liners. Perhaps, I can get them access to more press conferences and interviews with celebrities too!”

Sounds good, no?