Real Deal: PR guru Real Ting on life, philosophy and fitness regime

Real Ting is the co-founder and director of Collaboration Group, a public relations and marketing firm.

How did you go from boy band singer to PR professional?

I moved to Shanghai when I was 16 because my dad runs a garment manufacturing business there. I studied at an international school for a year and then moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where I spent the next five years. I won a singing contest in Auckland and went on to participate in a regional singing competition in Asia. That’s how I met my agent, who helped me land a three-year contract with Warner Music Hong Kong. I ended up joining a boy band called VRF with three other guys. It was a good experience, but the reality didn’t live up to my expectations.

In the entertainment industry, you’re always waiting for your agent to give you opportunities. I hate when things are out of my control – I’m a typical Leo in that sense – so I quit the band and moved back to Shanghai to work for my dad’s business. That lasted a year because it wasn’t the right fit for me. I set out to find a job in Hong Kong, and I sent my CV to about 40 companies in entertainment, advertising and public relations. Finally, a company called IPS offered me a position, and I spent seven years there.


What sparked your interest in singing?

I started singing when I was six years old. My dad, mom, aunt and uncle – pretty much my whole family – would sing and dance every time we got together. I competed in many singing contests in Hong Kong and in New Zealand while studying at the University of Auckland. I spent a lot of time trying to improve myself, because when you’re an artist or singer you always have to be prepared. I built relationships with many people in the entertainment industry, which has been an advantage in the PR world.


How did you end up co-founding Collaboration Group?

In 2010, new opportunities arose. At the time, my now-business partner Conrad Ng was working at an advertising firm called DDB. The company wanted to build a PR and marketing department, so he invited me to join the team. The contract ended after two years, and Conrad and I formed our own company called Collaboration Group. We provide a one-stop service for PR, event management, advertising, branding and digital marketing. Our core clients include Maxim’s Group, Watsons China, Melco Crown, Givenchy Beauty, Kiehl’s and some other luxury brands.

Your wife, Miriam Yeung, is quite an accomplished singer and actress. How did you meet?

I met my wife in 2007. I owned a karaoke bar at the time, and a movie star decided to host his birthday party there. It was 2am when Miriam walked in with her agent. The agent approached me and said, ‘I can only stay for 15 minutes. Can you look after her?’ I agreed, and I’ve been taking care of her ever since. Every time I see that guy, I say, ‘Look, I kept my promise!’


You got married in Las Vegas in 2009, to the surprise of many. What prompted such a spontaneous decision?

I’m always arranging surprises for my close friends and for Miriam. In February 2009, I organised a surprise birthday party for her in Seoul. I invited our friends and families to a restaurant, and after dinner I brought out a birthday cake and proposed to her in front of everyone. When I knelt down, I realised that I was the one crying – not her.

That same year we took a trip to Los Angeles and spent a day at Universal Studios riding roller-coasters. I ended up taking care of her after she hurt her neck.

When we got back to the car, I asked her, ‘Should I take care of you for the rest of your life?’ Then I said, ‘Let’s go to Vegas.’ She agreed, and we drove straight there. We went to the famous Little White Wedding Chapel and said our vows. For her, it was an impulsive decision. But for me, it was actually a plan I had in mind. I even brought my suit along with me, but Miriam had to buy a dress in Vegas.

Did you do anything special to celebrate your wedding anniversary this year?

Our anniversary was last month, but because we’re constantly surprising each other, we wanted to simply enjoy each other’s company this year. Her birthday is 3 February, and at the end of January we went to Phuket. We stayed at a villa with 20 friends, and I surprised her by turning out the lights and bringing out a birthday cake. I arranged for fireworks to go off the second she started blowing out the candles. That’s why I thought we needed a quiet celebration for our anniversary this year.


How does it feel being in the public eye all the time?

Being in the public eye is part of my job, and I respect that the paparazzi have a job to do as well. Of course it’s human nature to want privacy, so at times it’s frustrating to be photographed while I’m trying to eat dinner with my family. Aside from paparazzi, regular people will take out their phones and start taking pictures of us in secret. When that happens, I go up to their table and ask, ‘Do you want to take a picture with us?’ and invite them to take a selfie. Sometimes they’re just too shy to ask.

What are you most proud of?

While I’m very excited about what we’ve built at Collaboration Group, my family is by far my proudest accomplishment. My wife is amazing, and to see her become a mother to our son is unbelievable. I couldn’t be more proud of my family.

What are your favourite things to do with your son, Torres?

I like to get him outdoors as much as possible. He’s a Hong Kong kid so he’s always indoors playing on his iPad with the air conditioner running, and that’s not me. Recently I started bringing him hiking. We live in Parkview near The Twins trail, so we brought him there. It’s quite hard for a 5-year-old kid, but we did half and turned back. I want him to grow up strong.


When you’re not working, what do you do to unwind?

I like to spend time with my close friends, but sometimes I want to be alone. I like jogging because it’s a kind of meditation for me. It allows me to empty my mind. I jog 10km each time, which adds up to about 150km a month.

I also have a personal trainer and we do circuit training twice a week. I’m quite busy with work, family, friends and exercise. That’s my life.

You’re a bit of a philosopher on social media. What inspires you?

I’m not a big follower of Buddhism but I love the philosophy of it. In 2007 I joined a beginner class on Buddhism and learned how to achieve balance in my life. I meditate and read a lot, and on social media I always try to share some positive words. The first book on Buddhism I read was The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, which really changed my life. I’m always giving thanks for everything, whether I’m jogging, talking to my best friend, having dinner with my family or doing business. I give thanks because I’m very lucky. I have everything I want in life.

Thank you.


Text: Emily Petsko
Photos: Neville Lee
Art Direction: San Wong


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