Irene Ng is a woman of many talents. Some may recognize her as a Nickelodeon child star, but she has also been a successful international economist and the founder of an educational institution.
This successful woman has had an impressive career that dates back to the ‘90s, when she was a spunky, mystery-solving high schooler.
Born Sze Irene Ng, Irene was born to Chinese immigrants Ai-Jee and Tek-Song in Penang, Malaysia, where she spent the first five years of her life being raised by her grandparents.
At 15, her parents emigrated both Irene and her brother to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her mother worked as a registered nurse at Lehigh Valley Hospital and her father was the general manager for a Chinese company.
Irene never intended to get into acting. Her career was handed to her when Irene was 16 years old. She won the local beauty contest (in which she claimed she wanted to become a doctor) and one of the judges got her a role on All My Children.
For the show, Irene went through three auditions to get the role of An Li Chen Bodine. Her character is credited in 18 episodes, but Irene only appeared in about eight. Irene’s luck jumped from there.
As one of the principal roles in Amy Tan’s famous novel, The Joy Luck Club, brought to life, Irene played one of the 4 mothers, Lindo, at 15 years old.
Her character only spoke Mandarin through her role. It’s an Asian-American classic that has been preserved in the National Film Registry.
The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo
The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo was a teen tv series that ran on Nickelodeon from 1996 to 1998.
The show was about namesake Shelby Woo, a high school student who had an internship at the police department where she is meant to help with odds and ends, but really enjoys solving mysteries.
Shelby lived with her grandfather, Grandpa Woo, at the inn in Florida that he ran. When she’s finished her chores at home, she helped solve mysteries alongside Detective Noah Allen.
The detective doesn’t appreciate her interfering and Grandpa Woo, a retired detective himself, also doesn’t want Shelby getting hurt. Neither are able to stop her curiosity, though.
The show ran for 4 seasons and 41 episodes. It ended in 1998, but made a large impact, given that Irene was one of only two Asian role models starring on tv.
In fact, that year Irene was named as one of the Top Ten Female Role Models of the Year by the Ms. Foundation for Women.
Her success in her personal and professional lives also lead to Irene becoming a celebrity spokesperson for Jane Fonda’s Girls Inc.
What did she do after Shelby Woo?
When Shelby Woo ended, Irene pretty much threw in the towel on her acting career. She landed a couple roles here and there in The Sterling Chase (1998) and an episode of Law & Order (1996).
With the turn of the millennium, though, Irene’s acting more or less stopped. She had a few roles here or there, even going back to Law & Order for one episode in 2008.
Irene’s last acting credit on the Showtime tv show, The Affair, came very recently in 2018. Irene auditioned for the show on a whim, with no intentions of reviving her acting career.
What is Irene Ng doing now?
Irene has both beauty and brains. Even when she was acting, she was enrolled in Harvard to study pre-med and economics.
She continued studying this double major through filming, even Shelby Woo.
Irene had to split her time between acting and studying, filming in Florida and studying in Boston.
When Irene quit acting and graduated from university, she worked as a financial advisor to Merrill Lynch in Manhattan for seven years, up to 2006.
In 2009, she founded the Mencius Mandarin Preschool – the only Chinese immersion preschool in Connecticut.
Her experience from working at the Philosophy Day School in New York City and her fluency in reading and speaking Mandarin makes her an ideal teacher for the school that she continues to run to this day.
In 2008, Irene married David John Rosa, the Head of Product Development at Neuberger Berman.
Together, the couple has two children: a girl and a boy. Both attended the Mencius Mandarin Preschool, as it was founded with them in mind.
Today, the family lives in Greenwich, CT.