Dr Jiajia: Singapore’s YouTube sensation, child inspiration and… movie star?

Elizabeth Soh
Elizabeth Soh
Singapore Showbiz

Dr Jiajia and Big Brother (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)

They are only six and 12, but together, Chua Jin Sen and Chua Jin Chou have amassed a following of over 16,000 fans on Facebook and 10,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel.

Better known as Dr Jiajia and Big Brother, these two boys are the stars of a series of "Singlish" videos that have gone viral here, amassing over 3.6 million views for their hilarious take on Singapore's unofficial national language.

Their videos have attracted so much attention that Dr Jiajia's crinkly-eyed smiling face has now become synonymous with the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS), and his signature "Kee Chiew!" (Raise your hand) move has become a talking point on forums and on the streets here.

Now, Dr Jiajia is on his way to becoming a bona fide local movie star.

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore from their home in the East of Singapore yesterday, Dr Jiajia's parents revealed that their son will be acting in an upcoming local movie as the cheeky son of a taxi-driver "Ah Beng", popular slang for Singapore-Chinese ruffian.

"We decided to allow Jiajia to participate in this movie because they were willing to accomodate his schoolwork schedule and they were also very sincere in their approach." said Jiajia's home-maker mother, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Chua.

At the moment, a confidentiality agreement prevents his parents from disclosing the name of the company he will be working with but Mr Chua was able to say that it was "not Jack Neo", but a smaller production company.

The family has also been approached by Member of Parliament Tin Pei Ling, management companies, musical production units, and the team behind this year's National Day Parade.

In person, Dr Jiajia and Big Brother are tinier than this reporter imagined them to be, but despite the interview being late in the evening, were balls of energy, twisting their faces into all manner of expressions and jumping in with candid replies to questions, much to their parents' amused exasperation.

Mr and Mrs Chua have two other younger daughters who make occasional guest appearances in the videos, which are directed, scripted, and edited by Mr Chua.

So how has this sudden rise to fame affected the close-knit Buddhist and vegetarian family and how are they dealing with it?

On getting started ..

"Funnily, it started with us filming a video for my school project on speaking good english two years ago... we decided to make one on Singlish and uploaded it, it got quite a lot of hits, and then we filmed Singlish Minister, and.. boom!" said Big Brother, waving his hands.

"These videos help them develop their innovation and creativity, something we feel the education system lacks. Its training they will never get in school." said their father, who works in the IT industry.

Each video is scripted by Mr Chua and Big Brother, and takes them only about an hour to film in their living room at home.

Their "Singlish Minister" (below), is their most popular video to date, chalking up almost 600,000 hits since it was uploaded in March.  It rode on the wave of frustrations from the SMRT train breakdowns, and was shared thousands of times on Facebook.

On fans and detractors ...

Mrs Chua says that at least 95 per cent of the feedback they get are positive and encouraging, but they have also received a fair share of criticism.

"They say things like, how can you teach your kids to speak Singlish, what kind of parents are you?" said Big Brother, "They say that Singlish is the reason why we are not doing well in school."

"I guess they don't know that we speak mostly Mandarin at home, Singlish is just for the videos. Also, Big Brother does pretty well in school. For Jiajia, he is dyslexic, and he is already doing very well considering." said Mrs Chua.

She added that when Jiajia received his last report card, he called back saying he had "got two wrong only" and it turned out that he had failed two out of his three subjects, but they were still very happy.

"He passed his Mandarin, and that's already very encouraging. He has abacus, taekwondo, piano, reading lessons, he already works so hard, how can we push him more?" said Mr Chua, "So we don't let it affect us."

Most of the time, however, they get comments from fans saying that their videos have brightened their days, helped them cope with stress and kill their Monday blues.

Big Brother and Dr Jiajia at home (Yahoo! Photos/ Elizabeth Soh)


Has fame changed them?

"They say I cannot scold them in public anymore." joked Mrs Chua, who added that the pair get recognised so often by neighbours and strangers that they cannot discipline the active boys if they misbehave.

On their recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan, they were recognised by 5 different groups of Singaporean tourists in Taoyuan airport, who came up to ask to take a photo with them.

"They will exclaim, hey, its Dr Jiajia! Or, our neighbours will say, is that the newspaper boy." said Big Brother.

Big Brother also prefers to leave the cheeky grins and antics to his younger sibling, as he doesn't want to look foolish in front of his friends.

As for Jiajia, his parents say he remains very much just a little boy with an extremely over-active imagination and who loves eating vegetarian hot dogs.

In his spare time, he plays with his Lego bricks or has sword fights, talking to himself and pretending to be a superhero fighting invisible monsters with his younger sister, affectionately nicknamed "Hello Kitty".

Their parents also keep them grounded by getting them involved in charity work. All of their red packet money from Chinese New Year every year goes to supporting a Mongolian child that they decided to sponsor a year ago.

They are also collaborating with DAS to raise funds through the sale of a red National Day Parade shirt with seven designs. Click here to find out more.

What do they want to be when they grow up?

When asked who was his idol by his mother, Jiajia immediately patted her hand and said "You, mummy!" but later grabbed his elder brother and said in Mandarin "Of course, my Kor kor, lah!"

In turn, Big Brother considers his father to be his role model.

And what does Jiajia want to be when he grows up?

"I want to be a doctor, and then, a PM (Prime Minister)!" he said

But wouldn't that be a lot of work and stress?

"Oh, I mean MP (Member of Parliament)!!" he quips back.

Why?

"Because I want to kee chiew!!"

Big Brother and Dr Jiajia Kee Chiew! (Yahoo! Photos / Elizabeth Soh)