“Is it too shallow of me to say this …,” Felicia Chin sheepishly quips, “But I don’t know how to choose my own wardrobe!”
She is dressed in an olive sports jacket over a plain black outfit, an endearingly bemused expression in her eyes as a new colleague tamps down a few rebellious wisps of her hair before the cameras roll.
The truth is – for the 37-year-old actress and TV host who was discovered by Mediacorp as an 18-year-old – she has not had to fuss over her own wardrobe, hair or makeup on set for the past 19 years.
This is a new one.
Yet the sporty outfit Felicia has picked for her first video interview since joining 还好吗 (hhm.sg – the name means “how are you doing?”) as a presenter/content creator is telling.
It speaks of coming full circle for the bubbly, athletic girl next door, who as a newly discovered star with a bright, new chapter ahead of her was observed to have a fondness for pairing sports jackets with everything.
But in those early years, stardom had come at a price.
Joining the industry after winning the prestigious Star Search competition in 2003, she had struggled with public – and even her own – expectations.
Because Felicia “knows what it’s like to feel really low”, she hopes that sharing uplifting stories at 还好吗 will bring hope to those who are struggling and lost.
Felicia shared with CNA Lifestyle: “One day, I was out with a friend, sitting on the floor at an MRT station – City Hall or something. I received a message. A stylist friend texted me, ‘Eh, someone saw you sitting on the floor. I think you’d better stand up.’
“It was like the movie The Princess Diaries, where a normal, common person suddenly has to learn a lot of etiquette. Suddenly, I couldn’t do this and that.”
While she became so successful that she ranked among the “Seven Princesses”, a name coined by the media for the most sought-after young actresses, secretly she “felt lost and a fraud”.
After seven years, she “ran away” to business school in Beijing in 2010.
The turning point for Felicia would come in 2015, when she knelt in a toilet cubicle and said her first prayer. Soon after, she accepted Christ.
When she returned to Mediacorp, she found herself thriving for the next seven years.
In April this year, she won her 10th Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes trophy at the Star Awards 2022.
Today, Felicia is ready to make new choices again and to do “what speaks to me right now”.
She shares how her years of quavering self-esteem (“I was on the brink of bulimia”), tearful struggles as a young artiste, and yearning for a father after her dad died from cancer when she was 17, have taken her through some dark days.
But because Felicia “knows what it’s like to feel really low”, she hopes that sharing uplifting stories at 还好吗 will bring hope to those who are struggling and lost.
“I guess it’s that tugging of the heart you don’t want to regret,” she says of her move from Mediacorp to 还好吗.
June 30 was Felicia’s last day at Mediacorp. She is taking a month’s break before starting on August 1 with 还好吗 – a new platform that publishes stories of hope in Chinese.
We caught up with Felicia for a quick chat before her vacation.
This is such a huge move! How did this journey to 还好吗 come about?
Four or five years ago, I had this feeling inside of me that one day I might leave the company, but I was just not sure when. And I think it didn’t come from myself.
But this year, when it was shared with me, “Hey, do you want to join us? What’s your interest?”, it got me thinking.
As I prayed about it, I felt like this year was the right time to move.
To be honest, I didn’t think it was a very tough decision to make at that moment.
Because of the yes-es to Jesus, eventually when the right opportunity came to join 还好吗, it wasn’t that tough for me to switch to a different path.
When I went back to full-time acting seven years ago, I also became a Christian around that time.
And I told God that I wanted to be where He wanted me to be and to like whatever that I did.
I didn’t want to see it as just acting or producing something, but something purposeful and meaningful.
So along the way in smaller or bigger decisions I chose to say “yes” to God, or whenever I was at a crossroad of my life.
My decision last year to take three months’ leave to study in Tung Ling Bible School was a little “yes” from me to God.
After I said “yes”, there were more work projects that came in that were really enticing! But I had already agreed to attend Bible school.
So I think along the way because of the yes-es to Jesus, eventually when the right opportunity came to join 还好吗, it wasn’t that tough for me to switch to a different path.
What were some of the struggles you faced in making this decision?
When I had to sit down and really tell my bosses, I think that was when reality sank in for me.
People who have seen me grow, people who loved me… their opinions mean a lot to me.
I’m sometimes scared of disappointing them; I’m scared that I won’t be accepted by them. These are very real struggles inside of me.
So there were many moments where I really had to go down on my knees and talk to God and say: “I’m really struggling. I know that I have a fear in this area. Help me with it.”
But to be honest, I really just wanted to do what God wanted me to do. That’s why I made that decision.
Yes, there were different reactions. But one thing that spoke to me was when I felt: Hey, maybe there’s a little growth in me, there’s a little change in me.
There were people who gave me blessings and were happy for me.
There were also people who were close to me, who have seen me grow, who didn’t totally agree with what I’m doing.
To be honest, in the past, I would be very upset about it. Not upset with the person, but probably upset with myself.
Or I would feel very sad about it because there was no acceptance. Maybe I would feel like it was a rejection. That is my inner weakness and struggle.
But as I look at myself now I feel: Wow, Felicia, that little transformation in you!
Have there been confirmations of your decision along the way?
It was quite interesting. I remember there was a Word on Wednesday, like a Bible study, in my church on Romans.
And almost consecutively, two of the sermons spoke so much to me.
It was as if every word was for me, like God was reassuring me that He’s with me.
But even after I had made the decision, as the day of announcement drew nearer, I started to get overwhelmed and I struggled.
What will happen on that day? How am I going to talk to so many people about it? What will my loved ones feel?
One of the biggest things that happened was during Pentecost Sunday this year.
I was worshipping online with two friends from Tung Ling, and we really felt the move of the Holy Spirit.
I was just sharing with them about a dream I had of a cow eating paper — someone was feeding the cow paper.
I woke up feeling very puzzled. What does it mean? Why is the cow eating paper?
As we were talking about it, one of my friends shared: “Do you remember you were encouraging us to chew on God’s Word?”
And then suddenly, it clicked in my mind. The paper is the pages of the Bible. God is telling me to chew on His Word.
As I thought about it, I realised that affirmation and acceptance means a lot to me. That’s why I had a lot of fears about what people would think or say about me.
So I went back to a card that my Tung Ling classmate gave me about affirmation and acceptance in Christ.
I will never be alone.
The first verse was: I am a child of God. The second verse was: I am a chosen friend of Jesus.
As I chewed on these two very simple sentences, I got a deep sense of assurance.
I am a child of God — nobody can take that away from me. I have a friend in Jesus. He chose me — that’s special. More importantly, I will never be alone.
At different stages, I faced different fears. I guess God knew what I needed and reassured me in moving forward.
As I look back, I’m awed by how I was so scared, but as the day of announcement came, I felt very at peace.
Of course, I’m also very thankful that a lot of people prayed for me. I think it made a lot of difference.
Was it difficult to leave Mediacorp, where you have been for the past 19 years?
I’m very grateful to Mediacorp. I was a seed and they were my garden. That’s where my water, my soil came from.
You know, in a garden there might be sun, there might be rain, there might be clouds. But I was allowed space to grow.
I’m truly thankful that I am leaving with a lot of love and support.
And although it’s definitely not a goodbye, I do look back and think that, wow, the past years were definitely good years.
What’s going through your mind as you take the big leap of faith to join 还好吗?
Starting at 还好吗 feels a bit like going back to school! Everything is new: What stationery to bring? Will my classmates like me? (Laughs)
It’s funny because I went back to school in 2010. Now I’m doing something new in 2022.
There’s a lot of deja vu moments – the day of announcement, going to a new environment.
It’s similar, but definitely different because now I feel God is with me.
He is telling me: Hey, you know, 不一样 (not the same). It’s different because I am with you. Every step I’m with you.
It’s exciting, but also a bit scary!
Even though I have my own social media accounts, it’s something that I’ve never really done before.
What excites me is that, creatively, I can conceptualise things that I want to do. At the same time, I don’t know where to start from.
To be honest a few days after I made the announcement, I felt this weight, a burden, on me; like people’s expectations of me.
It’s funny lah. Sometimes we run to God and say, “God help me”, then you receive and after that you run back to your flesh and say, “God, how am I gonna do it?”.
I realised that whatever that we place in God’s hands, He will make it even better.
It’s a transition period, but I do think that I might take things slow. I want to know and observe more, and do things one step at a time.
I just feel like whatever that God asks us to do, yes, we are to obey him. But I realised that whatever that we place in God’s hands, He will make it even better.
He knows that this is the best way for us, so it takes trust. Even when I fall or stumble, I’ll call for help.
He’s also sent help along the way — He’s never far off.
What do you think will be the difference between telling stories as an actress and telling stories at 还好吗?
I’ve never really separated work from who I am as a Christian. (I try, I’m not perfect!)
Even when I was filming, I always prayed to God before we started, during and sometimes even after filming.
What do You have in mind for this project? May You come and bless the people in this project. Lead me to people You want me to touch today on set.
Whatever gifts or talents that I have, I just hope to be making a positive contribution and not fear what God has in store for me.
Because I know there’s a lot of learning to do, but sometimes God might lead us to things that seem bigger than ourselves.
还好吗 tells stories of hope in Chinese. Is this significant to you?
Yes. What spoke to me about 还好吗 was that it is something for the Chinese community.
I have often reflected on why I’m placed primarily in Chinese dramas ever since I came into this industry. There must be a reason I have a certain connection with the Chinese audience.
As I piece everything together, I feel it’s not a coincidence that maybe my next step forward is in this direction.
These two, three years, I have felt the prompting: Felicia, go read the Chinese Bible, go read the Chinese Bible!
And I’m like: Very hard leh! I opened the Chinese Bible and there were a lot of words I didn’t really know.
But last year, I got the chance to attend some classes at Chinese Tung Ling Bible School.
And because of that, I decided to open the Chinese Bible and started reading it. Now I read the Bible in English and in Chinese.
As I piece everything together, I feel it’s not a coincidence that maybe my next step forward is in this direction. That’s why I said “yes” to 还好吗.
Stories of hope, in particular, are so precious. Hope is so lacking in the real world.
It’s easy to feel in despair, especially when you don’t really know who to turn to. You feel helpless and defenceless. These are all very real things that people face.
And Christ is a hope that is definite. That’s quite amazing, right? Who else can give you that!
How personal is God to you?
When I was 17, my father passed away because of cancer. My family tried to just survive and be strong and go on with life.
But as I look back, I think my father has always been an anchor for me growing up. Having him in the family meant a lot to me.
So when he was gone, the family had to weather quite a number of storms. And that was very hard for me.
There was that void inside of me, you know, and I was always searching for meaning and purpose in life from the time I was 17 onwards. I read a lot of self help books, all that.
But nothing quite filled that void till the first time I went to church in 2015.
It was a weekday afternoon, Wednesday, I think. And although there was no service, I just felt all my fears disappear when I walked into the church.
It felt like waves of love upon me. That was supernatural. I’d never felt that kind of love before.
It was a love that does not judge you, a love that just wants to comfort you where you are.
And that was the first day that I knew that God is love and perfect love expels all fears. (1 John 4:18)
I remember when I received Christ in 2015, I was driving home after church. Suddenly I started crying.
But that crying was like joyful crying. It was like, you are so happy, but yet, you’re crying and you don’t understand what’s happening to you.
At that moment, I even said: “哇, 演戏都应该演不到这个情绪吧!” (I think I wouldn’t even be able to act this emotion out!)
Then you realise that “tears of joy” is a real description. I just feel that maybe God was giving me a taste of what it’s like with Him in my life.
You have been through moments of pain, loneliness and loss. What do you want to say to those who are going through the same?
I just want to share that if you are going through struggles, seeking meaning or purpose in life, you can whisper to Father God everything that you’re going through.
And He cares. He cares for each and every one of us so intimately.
It’s okay to just cry out to Him just like I did many years ago at the back of my kitchen. He’s here to heal the brokenhearted. He’s here to help bind up our wounds.
I feel that there are a lot of people who might be hurt or really brokenhearted – just know that you can always, always, always count on God.
And that’s the only thing that I can really say so assuredly that you can count on.
An earlier version of this article was published on Salt&Light. You can also watch the video below to hear from Felicia herself!
- As you look back on your life, can you identify one or two significant turning points? How did that change the way you think/feel/act?
- What struggles do you face with regard to your identity and how people/God see you?
- Is there a decision that God is calling you to obey Him in? What are some fears that are holding you back?
- Are you able to trust that His plan for you is even better than what you could have imagined for your own life?