One sunny Friday afternoon, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Hoon Mei Sim, otherwise known by her stage name, 雲鎂鑫, to talk about her singing career. She rose to fame when she placed second in Project Superstar Malaysia back in 2006, but only released her first album last year, titled “Himalaya”. Here, she shares her story about her singing career, her struggle with low self-esteem, and her unlikely path to success via...hiking.
How did you get your big break, and what happened after?
I was 18 years old when I joined Project Superstar Malaysia. I was only tagging along with my friends, but it ended up being just me in the end, because they didn’t pass the audition stage. It was a great experience, and I soon got an offer to star in a TV drama series. My parents were supportive of my career, but said that I had to go to university no matter what. So, just as my singing career was launched, it had to be shelved for my studies.
Was it difficult to cope with having a career in acting and university classes?
Quite. In my first semester, my results weren’t great. My English was terrible; I could hardly understand what I was supposed to learn. Also, I had just moved to KL; I didn’t even have a printer to print out my assignments so I would be at work until 2 am every day, printing out my assignments at the office before handing them in the next day! It was difficult. I didn’t want to skip classes so I would accidentally fall asleep in them, not because I wanted to but because I was so tired with 4 to 5 hours sleep each night, sometimes less.
Why did it take you awhile to get back into your singing career after the competition?
I had to mentally prepare myself. I was 20, when people approached me to ask if I wanted to record an album. My parents were worried that I wasn’t ready. I was easily influenced by negative comments and highly emotional; I cried easily over little things. At that time, I was recording the theme song for the drama series and I would suddenly burst into tears when I felt like I wasn’t singing well enough. I had high expectations for myself, yet no confidence. Also, a Singaporean record label I was signed to wanted to record an album for me, but then they saw me crying when I was under pressure, so that fell through. Everyone thought that I wasn’t ready.
Tell us about your time working as a DJ for a radio station. What did you learn?
After graduating, there was one year where I didn’t do anything; I felt useless. There was so much time for me to think and I was lost with no direction, no clear path to take. So I got into being a DJ despite always wanting to be a singer. I interviewed so many singers and played so many of their songs on the radio, and I asked myself, why wasn’t I on the other side of the table? I didn’t want to play my own songs on the radio, I wanted people to play them.
When did you know that you were ready to get back to singing?
Hearing positive feedback from my friends and family. They felt that I had improved as a person. Bad comments used to get into my head, such as people calling me ugly or telling me that I was a terrible singer. It bothered me so much but now, it might still sting a little, but I try to take it as constructive criticism in trying to improve myself. People have commented that they see a change in me.
What triggered this decision?
I felt a change in myself when I picked up hiking. I am not an athletic person but because of hiking I begin to realize that if you have the determination and will power, you can accomplish anything, especially when you have already started it. You wouldn’t want to see it go to waste. In long hikes that could take days, I used to feel tired after 1 or 2 hours but I never gave up. I kept pushing on. This helped me to develop a mentality to accept myself and be stronger than who I was.
I used to feel like I was born ugly, I had no confidence especially in my appearance. For example, I hated my lips, I felt like they were too full and the make up artists would keep applying bright red lipstick, making them even fuller! As I gradually learned to accept it, I felt like it wasn’t so bad, my lips could maybe be my trademark.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever hiked?
Gunung Tahan in Pahang! It was mentally and physically challenging because we had to camp in the jungle. After the first day, you start to feel that everything around you is smelly, you don’t have enough rest and your own body odor is overwhelming. It was the most memorable and challenging trip.
Do you have any regrets?
I always tell people that I regretted joining Project Superstar. My life would have been much simpler, and I wouldn’t be so exposed to and affected by negative comments. But then again, without Project Superstar, I wouldn’t be here right now.
So what do you want for your future?
Happiness is important to me and I don’t want to forget why I went into singing. It was for the pure, unadulterated enjoyment of it. I feel touched when I see that people enjoy my music.
What would you like to dedicate to your fans?
I wish my fans happiness. Follow your dreams and put yourself first before anyone else. Don’t spend your life chasing someone else’s dream, because you might end up being 40 and full of regrets.
Mei Sim is wearing the Reversible Kiefer Jacket from Sher by Twenty3.