When life gave her lemons, she made jugs of lemonade. Leng Yein, shows how tenacity and grit, helped her survive and rise to fame.
Leng Yein has long been a household name in this part of the world — not just for her bombshell status, but also for her fearlessness to speak her mind.
Not one to mince her words, Leng Yein is spunky to say the least. She is a classically trained pianist since she was five years old, a model, an actress, an entrepreneur, and now, ranked number eight on the World’s Top 100 Female DJ list.
“I may not be the best in what I do, but I am better than most,” says the busty beauty, who always has her eyes set on the prize.
Hailing from Kuantan, Pahang, Leng Yein has always been making waves from young. She was an outstanding straight A student, infamous for being different, she has no problem being thrust into the limelight, and has learned to roll with the punches.
When she was a teenager, her father lost his battle with colon cancer, leaving the family in dire financial straits from the exorbitant medical expenses that the insurance company failed to pay.
Being the eldest daughter, she rolled up her sleeves and skipped her tertiary education to support her family.
In 2010, she had a fairy tale wedding, but it all ended two years later. She decided to rejoin the entertainment industry but had a hard time finding a footing. However, she picked herself up and charged on to built something even better.
Leng Yein reveals everything to iMoney’s editor, Iris Lee — from her challenging years after her father’s death to the painful months after her divorce.
Have you always aspired to be where you are now?
Not really. Just like the average person who dreams of becoming rich and famous, I dreamed of that too, but I didn’t actively plan for it. I realised that by just daring to be different and honest (regardless of the backlash that may come your way), you will automatically be in the limelight.
I am popular because I say and do things that people usually don’t dare to. I say things that are true but most people do not dare to say because it may get them into trouble.
Your independence is what inspired most people. Have you always been like this, or is it because of circumstance?
When I was in school, I was a straight A student. Nobody likes an outstanding student, except for the teachers. Everybody was harsh on me since I was young, and I just learned to not care about what other people think.
Being a straight A student, do you regret not pursuing your studies after Form 5?
I don’t have many regrets in life. If I went to college, I would be working a nine to five job now, earning a fixed salary — not out traveling the world.
I was not (and I still don’t think I am) an ambitious person. When I was 17, I didn’t think I’d have the ambition to become a career woman or anything like that. I thought that being a girl, I would just eventually marry someone, stay at home and have kids (laughs). Look at me now!
Life has a funny way of showing you who is the boss. What was your first job after Form 5?
I was working in a printing company. It was a menial job binding the 365-day calendars the company printed.
Wow! That’s a far cry from being a glamourous DJ. Coming from a well-off family, was that tough to adapt?
No. I am not the type who cries over spilt milk and I don’t believe in wallowing in self-pity. I feel like my life has always been easy for me, because I don’t have high demands. I just go with the flow. If I have RM10, I will buy food with RM1. If I have RM100, I will buy food with RM10.
My dad had just passed away from colon cancer at that time, and our family didn’t have any money after paying off his medical bills. So I didn’t go to college and had to start working. I’m not picky, as long as it’s not against the law. If I needed to find RM2,000, I don’t mind working every day for RM200. Some people may think that’s too low a salary, but if I just waited for a job that paid RM1,000, I may end up with JUST RM1,000, at the end of the day. I’m a realist.
You are one of the most financially savvy female personalities in Malaysia. Even before you were married you were already financially independent. What drove your determination to achieve that?
I’ve always been into entrepreneurship. By age 20, I already had five shops in Kuantan – from accessories, clothing, shoes and bags to a nail parlour. When I got married in 2010, I closed everything and moved to Kuala Lumpur.
And then, I opened a mamak restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. It was doing well for six years, then I decided to close it after my divorce. I wanted to start afresh.
After your very public divorce, and closing your restaurant, what was your plan?
I didn’t have a plan. Whatever happens, I face it, I embrace it, and I just go for it. People who plan every single thing in their lives will find that 99% of the time, life won’t turn out the way they planned. So, I just took the plunge.
Not planning for your life can be dangerous financially. What is your financial plan for yourself and family?
I’m a cash person and I spend within my means. I don’t have any retirement plans.
I don’t trust insurance because of what happened to my dad. My dad’s insurance policy did not pay out and we ended spending most of our money on his medical expenses. Our family went from being well-off to broke as a result.
I have to admit. I’m not a smart person but I’m a hardworking person. Whatever I earn, I keep by a certain percentage. That’s all.
That’s a very bold move. How did you and your family manage to pull through that financial disaster?
My dad passed away six months after his diagnosis. He had always lived a very healthy life. He jogged and exercised every day, he didn’t take MSG in his food. We had a fruit orchard back then, and he would take fruit juice every day.
It was shocking to see him fall so sick. When he was 50 years old, he finally decided to slow down. He had saved enough money and he wanted to enjoy life with his wife. And then, he was hit by cancer. His cancer wiped out the family’s wealth. We sold everything just to pay his medical bills.
Because of that, I learned that you can plan for your life all you want, but things don’t always go according to plan. That’s why I stopped planning and I don’t expect anything from life.
If something untoward were to happen to you, how will your family cope since you are the sole breadwinner?
All my money will go to them. I have some money saved for them but I don’t invest my money in the next trendy investment because they are unknown to me. In that sense, I’m not a risk taker and I don’t trust people and the system with my money. However, I am a risk taker when it comes to adventures.
Being in the entertainment industry, it can be quite risky financially. You can be the hottest thing one day, and a has-been the next. How do you mitigate the risk of being in this fleeting industry?
Though my pay is higher than working a nine-to-five office job, I take on a lot more risks too. A stable job gives you a fixed salary for the next 10, 20 or even 30 years. For me, I may only be able to do this for the next three years, but I could be earning what they would earn in 10 years. That is the risk I am willing to take.
You have your fair share of negative comments and criticism. How do you deal with that?
I don’t care. These haters are not paying my bills. If they say that I’m earning my money in unsavoury ways, well, at least I’m earning my own money. I don’t depend on anyone else. I’m supporting myself and my family. I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation on how I choose to earn my money, as long as it is not against the law.
I know where I stand. I know what I’m doing. I won’t let anyone inconsequential put me down. I do what I do to survive.
You have a very strong survival instinct. How do you pick yourself up after your divorce and rise to become one of the most popular personalities in the country?
After my divorce, I couldn’t find a job for nine months. There were a lot of rumours and gossips surrounding my divorce, and the haters started to crawl out from the woodwork.
I put down my ego (I never really had one to begin with), and I went around begging people for a job. And I survived!
How did you manage your finances after your divorce?
The first thing that I did was to sell my car to buy a house for myself. I didn’t have much money then, so I sold my pink Hummer and bought a property in Puchong. Now I am renovating my house so my grandmother can move to Kuala Lumpur with my mother and sister.
One thing most people frequently talk about is your love for cosmetic surgery. How much have you spent on that?
I’ve spent about RM20,000 to RM30,000 of my own money. The rest of the RM200,000 to RM300,000 are all sponsored by different cosmetic surgery companies.
What makes you go back for more? Is it because of the demand, or is it a personal choice?
No woman is ugly — we just have to spend the time to make ourselves look good. We put on make up, maintain and take care of our skin. I don’t have time for all that.
What I do is: I go for surgery, so I can save myself time for more important things. Now, I can just get up, brush my teeth, draw some eyeliner and go out! For me, it’s an investment in exchange for time.
Have you ever thought of stopping? Is there a point where you would say “enough”?
I don’t plan for anything in the future. If people decided to stop paying me for it, or sponsoring me to do it, then maybe I will stop. My life is an open book, whenever I want to draw on it, I will. At this point, I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.
If life gives me chances, I will take it. If not I will continue to stick to what I’ve been doing all along.
That’s a smart thing to do. What is the most expensive purchase you have ever made?
I bought my pink Hummer for RM400,000 in cash. It’s my worst financial decision.
What’s your best financial decision?
Buying a home. I know there is a place I can go back to no matter where I am in the world.
Are you a saver or spender?
I’m both. It’s about balance. I don’t keep so much money to myself, but I keep enough and spend what I want to.
Do you know how much you have in your account?
I know all the time.