SINGAPORE - Surprise! I'm married!
It turns out that up-and-coming Malaysian actress Chris Tong, who has never mentioned to the local media that she has a husband, has been married for more than three years.
But here is the bigger, more bizarre shocker: Although the couple live together in Kuala Lumpur, the MediaCorp artist lives the life of a swinging single.
She admits she's being selfish, that it's not fair that she hardly contributes to the marriage, but she doesn't want to say if they even share a bed.
The surprises kept coming during her recent interview with The New Paper.
Tong, 28, said she and her husband have agreed that she will switch her focus from her career to her marriage in seven years, when she's 35.
She said: "I sacrifice a lot of my time, around 90 per cent, on my career, and I don't even have time to sleep...
"I want to focus on my career and I won't sacrifice my life for a relationship. Maybe I'm more selfish. I know it's not fair to him and myself." Her husband is a 32-year-old Malaysian who works in marketing and wants to be known only as Mr Kee.
Tong, a former beauty queen in Malaysia, is a rising star here and in her home country.
Her marital status came under the spotlight last week after a Malaysian news report revealed her unusual marital arrangement - and called the marriage an open secret in Malaysian show business.
Tong said that mentally, she feels married, and she turns down attention from other men.
Her work schedule is so hectic, there are times she doesn't go home for a few days. Yet, in her free time, she goes out with her friends.
She registered her marriage in Malaysia in 2008, but does not remember in which month. She was 24 then and had just started acting.
Tong said they have been friends since she was 22. Over the years, he has seen her get drunk over her ex-boyfriend, and grow up, she said.
He declined to be interviewed for this report.
So is the marriage just an empty shell?
"Sometimes it feels that way. I don't have time to even sleep, so we rarely date," replied Tong, who regards Mr Kee as family rather than a lover.
"But it's not that pathetic, too. We have an emotional connection and we understand and care for each other."
She admitted that Mr Kee loves and accepts her more than she does him.
But their marriage hit a rough patch in 2010. She was juggling a few dramas in the same month and he was upset that even though he has a wife, it was like not having one at all.
He also wanted her to sign a contract with MediaCorp and to stop thinking about going overseas to act.
Impossible to sacrifice
Tong wondered if she got married too early.
The couple eventually settled their differences after she came to Singapore in January last year to film the Channel 8 drama serial C.L.I.F.
Said Tong: "I told my husband it's impossible for me to sacrifice job opportunities for our marriage.
"I don't plan on becoming extremely famous. I just want to give it a shot.
"My husband chose to accept my decision and we know now how to continue our relationship... He may not enjoy this type of marriage, but he chooses to accept it so he can enjoy it."
She said the couple take it that they are still "dating".
Tong is aware that the arrangement is unfair to Mr Kee, who she says jokes that he regrets marrying her.
But she feels very fortunate she gets to choose both career and relationship.
While she feels she may not be ready for marriage, she wants theirs to work out.
"You won't know how a marriage will turn out until you embark on it. If all is good, then great. If something's wrong, then I'll try to make it all right," Tong said.
"I'll try hard to avoid a divorce, but I cannot accept infidelity. I've told him, I won't forgive if he has an affair.
"But I won't blame him too because I didn't put in effort into our marriage. I can only blame myself."
Tong claimed she never hid her marriage from drama production crews in Malaysia and Singapore. Some of her fans also know that she is married, she said.
She stressed that she has not lied to the media about her marital status, although a closer look at her answer suggests some evasion of the truth.
"I don't remember anyone ever asking me if I'm married. I didn't want to lie. So if anyone asked, I would either keep quiet or smile in reply. The most I would say is that I have a stable partner."
An entertainment reporter based in Kuala Lumpur, who declined to be named, confirmed to The New Paper that journalists there already know that Tong is married.
He said: "I heard about it in 2009 when I (became a reporter) and her marriage isn't big news here."
Tong also said that she doesn't usually talk about her marriage to the media because she doesn't want Mr Kee to be in the limelight because he's not from showbiz.
"If people (know about him and start to) compare our incomes and status, it will affect our relationship," she said.
She added: "If I dine with a male friend, or if I'm close friends with one, it could become a talking point and restrict my freedom to have friends. Or people will think my marriage is on the rocks."
The actress said that she sometimes doesn't know how to explain to people about her decision to marry.
So she simply tells them that she married on the spur of the moment.
Tong also said that her agent in China does not want her to talk about the marriage because if it ends, she would have to explain it to the public .
But Tong's Singapore agent, Miss Nelly Poa, of talent management agency Popstar Media, told The New Paper that she was aware of the marriage when she signed Tong last year.
And she does not think Tong's career will be affected because the actress is recognised for her acting skills rather than as an idol.
This article was first published in The New Paper.