Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals and More

Here, the multi-hyphenate shares her love for Singapore and her dreams of showing the world that not all Asians are alike.
Published: March 7, 2024

Chen Yixin didn’t have a typical Singaporean childhood. She is, after all, the daughter of veteran A-list actors Edmund Chen and Xiang Yun, whose faces filled small screens across Singapore for three decades since the ‘80s. While regular kids spent their days running riot at the neighbourhood playground, Chen and her brother Chen Xi, mucked about on set, watching their parents confront commanding directors, bossy stylists, blinding lights, and a flurry of costume changes.

Her close relationship with film production aside, Yixin is very much a Singapore girl in all other aspects—and she’s proud of it. Ask her what her favourite local dishes and top hangout spots are, and she immediately lights up gamely listing affordable eats like Sing Swee Kee Chicken Rice and Blanco Court Prawn Mee. “What I love about Singapore is that it’s not impossible to find affordable things like $1 coffee and $3 chicken rice,” shares the 23-year-old actress who made her debut in the local Mandarin drama While We Are Young (2017).

Related article: Chen Yixin Is Our March 2024 Cover Star

Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Knitted cape and denim jeans, LOEWE. Mules, BOTTEGA VENETA

She also enjoys taking leisurely walks at Marina Bay Sands’ promenade and East Coast Parkway. You will often find her there with her dad, who makes it a point to organise father-daughter outings every other week. When the weather is good, she plans picnics at the open field along Canterbury Road. And when she’s in a pensive mood or in need of some peace and quiet, you’ll find her by the water’s edge at Marina Barrage. “As much as it’s wonderful to go up to the top to see the kites flying, I absolutely love the car park there, because it’s right by the water. I park there and whip out the foldable tables and chairs. The scenery is beautiful, it’s very windy, clean, safe and has direct access to toilets, which is very important,” she quips.

According to her, our native language Singlish is what makes us uniquely Singapore. “The lazy way we speak, in run-on sentences without so much as breathing, is definitely Singaporean, and something only locals can understand. As much as I’m very comfortable expressing myself in English, there’s always a certain expression that can only be best said with a Hokkien or Chinese word. Sometimes, I feel like an imposter when I’m speaking to my overseas friends because I have to slow down and articulate better.”


Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Double wool jacket; lace and cotton shirt; double wool miniskirt; leather boots, CELINE

Life under the public gaze is never easy, especially for the young and fragile. But, having never known life outside of it, Yixin takes it in her stride as it has helped her mature faster than her peers, while providing her with a better understanding of the delicate nature of human relationships. “People say I’m a nepo-baby, and there’s no way around it. I am who I am, and I am grateful for that. What is within my control is to not disappoint the people who have given me this leg-up. I know it’s harder for the public to root for me because I was born into privilege. It’s my responsibility to let them know that I appreciate what I have and not let anyone down.” She continues: “Being a public figure is a double-edged sword; it has its pros and cons. I constantly remind myself of how blessed I am that I get invited to parties and trips, receive gifts, and create whatever we want to create.”

Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Crochet cotton and silk dress; and brass and pearl Triomphe bracelet, CELINE

In comparison to most other celebrities, Chen is more public and candid about her personal circumstances, such as her break-up with long-time boyfriend and actor, Gavin Teo, or her being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “I feel like everyone can be more open about issues like this. ADHD is not a bad thing; it’s just a characteristic trait. It doesn’t necessarily make you dysfunctional. I’m just a quirky person with a short attention span,” she laughs. “For so long, I didn’t understand why I had such a hard time focusing in class. I thought maybe I was just a rebel who refused to follow the rules. It was only much later, during my psychology course, that I became that person who tries to diagnose herself. I hit the jackpot after a medical professional confirmed it was ADHD. You can imagine the immense relief I felt knowing that I wasn’t actually rebellious!”

Controlling her condition with medication gave Chen the clarity to function more efficiently and the focus she needed to get her driving licence—something she had been holding off for so long. As of last year, she’s been confidently cruising around the island in her cute white Volkswagen Beetle.


Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Embellished tweed jacket and skirt, CHANEL. Bralette, stylist’s own

Known as a multi-hyphenate who sings, dances, acts and models, she never gave the term much thought until now. Although it perfectly encapsulates who she is—a person blessed to have the opportunity to dabble in different art forms—she does wonder if she’s deserving of that title. “There’s so much hard work put into being an actor, a model, a dancer, and so on. Sometimes I do feel like I have imposter syndrome because I don’t feel like I’ve made it yet. I’m still a work in progress. I try to consciously remind myself that as much as it’s good to try everything, it’s also important to figure out what I truly want at the end of the day.”

Chen has starred in several Chinese dramas, as well as English breakout roles in Teenage Textbook: The Series (2021), Titoudao (2021), as well as the Netflix series Mr Midnight: Beware the Monsters (2022). Her hope for her acting career is to take on international roles that educate viewers on the diversity and richness of Asian culture. “My goal as an actor is to be able to be a good vessel for filmmakers and scriptwriters to share the intended message and touch the hearts of people. As an individual, I do wish that I could represent East Asians more, and show that not all Asians have fair skin. There are many different types of Asians out there.”

Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Silk organza corset top; denim shorts; brass and pearl Triomphe bracelet; brass Triomphe necklaces; leather belt and leather boots, CELINE

These days, Chen regards herself as more of a content creator who enjoys the freedom of having full control over what she puts out into the world. “I think if I weren’t an actor first, people wouldn’t be so curious about my life,” she notes.

Aside from posting about travel and photography on her secondary Instagram account (@xineries), she routinely collaborates with numerous noted fashion brands like Louis Vuitton, Celine, Loewe, Valentino, Prada, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Miu Miu on her main Instagram account (@chxnyixin).

“I think it’s natural for people of my generation to leverage social media. It’s given me a platform for me to build my own voice, image and brand. It may be dangerous and potentially harmful to our mental health, but when used wisely, it becomes a platform to chase after our dreams—something my parents’ generation never had. Just put yourself out there; you never know what you’ll get,” she says.

Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Technical silk mesh bralette and leather skirt, HERMÈS

Still, she’s quick to correct anyone who calls her an influencer. “An influencer knows how to connect emotionally with their audience. I don’t feel I’m there yet. I’m still learning how to be more vulnerable. Having been exposed to the public since young, I learnt very quickly to put my guard up and be more closed off. It didn’t help that I was scrutinised for my looks because I wasn’t the typical Asian beauty. It definitely affected me.”


Chen Yixin on Growing up in the Spotlight, Overcoming ADHD, Her Acting Goals And More
Double wool playsuit; and brass and crystal hair clip, CELINE Technical silk mesh bralette and leather skirt, HERMÈS

Today, Yixin uses her platform not just as an online journal, but as a means to connect with like-minded people going through similar situations. “We try our best to be as relatable and personable as we can on social media, but the line definitely gets a bit blurry. The boldest move for me was announcing my break-up and knowing the feedback would be polarising. This was something significant that I had to do for myself, like starting a new chapter,” she shares.

Radiating positive energy—one that she maintained consistently throughout our long day with her for the shoot—Chen admits that she was mighty chuffed to be on the cover of ELLE Singapore. Dressed in the season’s latest designs from Celine, Chanel, Loewe and Hermès, she poses with a naturalness that can only come from someone who’s used to being constantly in front of a camera.

For the everyday, Chen lives on a basic rotation of tank tops and cute bottoms—which makes her appreciate the chance to be more experimental with looks at photoshoots. “I’ve always toggled between being very bold and colourful, or classic and simple like a basic T-shirt and jeans. Personally, I really like prints, eccentric patterns and lots of summery colours,” she reveals. “I love being on shoots—it’s my favourite place to be because I get to play dress up and get to wear fancy expensive clothes!” Hear, hear.

Watch our digital-exclusive interview with Chen Yixin below.

Editor-in-Chief CHARMAINE HO
Photographed by GAN
Make-up artist SHAUN LEE, using ARMANI BEAUTY
Hairstylist JUNZ LOKE/35A Salon

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