What is it like to have the all the money in the world? We would imagine it would involve picking friends up on your private jet like it was an Uber (too soon?), having the world’s most famous soccer player be the first person outside of your family to visit you in the hospital after you give birth, and throwing baby parties that cost more than a person’s annual income. These may seem like the most unattainable of fantasies for 99% of the world’s population but they are just part and parcel of the fabulous life of Kim Lim, social media star and daughter of self-made billionaire Peter Lim.
Yet, in a way, even with all those bells and whistles that come with being a real-life Crazy Rich Asian, she’s really not that different from you and I. Or at least she doesn’t behave like she’s different.
She has no airs about her. She stumbles into the 8 DAYS studio — without a PR minder or bodyguard in sight — clutching her belly and groaning about how she’s not feeling all too well. “I’m having cramps,” she pouts as she collapses into a chair, her straight black hair gently cascading down her shoulders. Mind you, this is the first time we’re meeting the 26-year-old heiress and mother-of-one but it already feels like we could have been roomies in boarding school… which would be impossible since the Singapore Chinese Girls Primary alum studied at the all-girl Queenswood School in Hertfordshire, London from the age of 12 to 17.
“Kim is like that one, she’s very real,” hums celeb crimper David Gan, who in recent years has become mother hen to Singapore’s holy trinity of social media It girls Arissa Cheo, Yoyo Cao and Kim. “She is very rich but she doesn’t act that way.”
He’s right. There are just no illusions or pretentions with Kim. The 1.7m-tall stunner has one of those booming, unladylike laughs that enter the room before she does. Her voice, husky and sonorous, will throw you off the first time you hear her speak — you don’t expect someone who looks so sweet to sound so worldly — but then you chat with her and it all makes sense.
She’s young but more grown up than people twice or three times her age. Kim, who has a 23-year-old brother bent on keeping a low-profile, has after all grown up faster than her peers. It’s the result of being in the spotlight for most of her life, no thanks to the public’s fascination with the rich — and Kim’s insane family wealth has made her insanely fascinating to everyone. Especially to her devoted 217,000 Instagram followers.
But she is not an Instagrammer. Oh no. Unlike social media stars who painstakingly curate the images of their so-called life, Kim’s IG feed, apart from the occasional endorsement, is filled with, for a lack of a better phrase, unfiltered photos that give an unfiltered access into her Kim-possibly envy-inducing world. She doesn’t need to pretend to be to cool or to be someone else. What you see is what you get. In the age of Internet-powered influence, hers is a celebrity driven solely by her who she is and everyone’s genuine interest in her. She is, put simply, famous for being Kim Lim.
Her dad is one of Singapore’s wealthiest men — according to Forbes Singapore, he has an estimated net worth of $2.1bil — with a just-begging-to-be-turned-into-a-movie origin story. The son of a fishmonger, he had worked as a taxi driver, waiter, and cook to put himself through school, before becoming the famed Remiser King of Singapore. He is now a full-time philanthropist and investor. In case you don’t know, he owns, amongst many other things, Thomson Medical Centre, Spanish football club Valencia and the image rights of Cristiano Ronaldo AKA the dude who visited Kim in her maternity ward.
It would be only natural for someone who has grown up with such privilege to not have a grasp on the realities of life, but not Kim. “My dad always tells me, ‘Anything can happen to anyone at any time. Maybe next year we will become nobodies so [you have to] always be humble’,” Kim says.
Her dad, whom Kim is utterly devoted to, and her mum split when she was just a kid. And in 2003, he married Cherie Lim, the silky-haired former actress and Kao Biore girl who was one of Ch 8’s leading ladies back in the early ’90s. (P/S: Cherie was also, ahem, 8 DAYS’ very first cover girl.) We ask Kim if Cherie has ever given her any advice about showbiz, and Kim says: “No lah, we don’t talk about work at home” and adds that they are close “like friends” and that they text each other all the time.
She describes her childhood as “normal”, though there’s a huge possibility her normal is very different from our normal. “I didn’t realise my dad was a billionaire until much later, like when I was 17, 19?” she says. “He had never put that image in our minds and it was only when my brother and I started to read the news that we realised that he was somebody. Looking back, I guess I was naive but it was also ’cos my dad wanted us to have a normal life. But to be honest, we really aren’t that different from everyone.”
A few weeks later, we meet Kim again at Japanese restaurant Kuriya, which happens to her dad’s favourite restaurant. We’re having dinner in a private room, where a very attentive waitress peeps through a small window on the door to check in on us every few minutes. It’s the same hallowed room where Kim and her family have dined with their pals like Ronaldo, David Beckham and celebrity dog trainer Cesar Milan. “He told me that for a dog to be calm, the owner must be calm first,” Kim, who is also an animal rights activist, says of Milan. “So If the dog owner is anything like me [screams], then the dog confirm the same.” [Also, are we sitting on the same seat Ronaldo had rested his bum on? Please say it is so.]
She was supposed to have her wedding celebration the week after our chat in March (she had posted a Save The Date video on her IG) but that clearly didn’t happen. She has since postponed her Big Day to October and the reason behind it is one we think many girls wish they had the option to exercise. “It’s ’cos I’m still fat!” she laughs, as she tucks into a piece of meltingly soft tuna belly. “Really! Everyone will think I’m crazy but it’s true. I want to lose weight the healthy way. And I want to look good for myself. Your wedding only happens once in your life so you have to prep for it and I don’t think my prep was enough. I’ve just been so busy with my baby.”
Ah yes, her baby. Kim gave birth to her son Kyden last July, the news only made public — before this no one had even known she was preggers since she more or less went completely dark on social media during her pregnancy — when Ronaldo dropped by Thomson Medical to pay her a visit. [Of that day, Kim says: “I put on like 28kg when I was pregnant, so when [Ronaldo] came in, I told him I didn’t want to take a pic ’cos I was fat,” she laughs. “He was laughing ’cos he knows I’m insecure like that.”
His fans and the media got wind of it, thronged the hospital, and news that she’s a mum hit the headlines. Now, 10 months later, she’s gleefully showing us vids of her super cute son on her phone.
Motherhood, she says, has transformed her life completely. It has given her purpose where before she didn’t have any. Her face lights up when she talks, sorry, gushes about Kyden, who she says is as “g*** l**” (Hokkien for ‘difficult’) as she is and has a voice as loud as hers. “That part really cannot run,” she laughs. More importantly, she has also become healthier. “I realise that I need to be alive and well to take care of my son,” she says, as she reveals to us her years-long battle with an eating disorder (but more on this later).
While she’s one of the most forthcoming and candid celebs we’ve ever spoken too, she draws the line at talking about her husband and baby daddy, whom we only know as BK Kho. “He’s a private person and doesn’’t like to be in the spotlight,” she says. But for everything else, Kim has an answer.
The rumour about how she sent a plane to ‘rescue’ BigBang member Seungri in Bali? True. “He called me to say he was stuck in Bali as they had closed the airport ’cos of the volcano eruption,” she says. “So I asked my dad, who knows him too, and he said ‘Okay lah, just send the plane.’”
Her tabloid-obsessed relationship with Mario Ho, the son of Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho, which sent the Hongkong paps into a tizzy? True. “Yah, we dated for a while. And we had a good laugh about all the silly things netizens were saying about us.”
And about people saying her pregnancy was unplanned? Absolutely not true. “I think it’s so silly. Hello?! What era is it now? Of course I know what contraception is,” she says.
You can’t get more real than that.
8 DAYS: You look amazing for someone who gave birth not too long ago. Why do you keep saying you’re fat?
KIM LIM: I’ve always been like this. I have my insecurities. Do you know in primary school I was in the TAF club?
Do you think that’s the root cause of your insecurity?
Maybe. I used to get bullied in primary school. People would make fun of me ’cos I was fat. I think it has left a mark. I’m always fighting with myself in the mirror, like I feel like I’m not good enough. Seriously. I’m sure a lot of girls feel this way too.
If you weren’t in the public eye, do you think you would be so concerned with how you look?
Well, I’ve always tried my best to look good. It kinda feels I’ve been on a diet my whole life. But after getting pregnant and giving birth, I’m trying my best to lose weight the healthy way. I know I have to eat. In the past, I would just skip meals. And that’s why I developed very bad gastric problems.
‘Cos you weren’t eating?
Yeah. But after becoming a mum, you really start to mature. I realise I couldn’t be like that anymore. I have to be strong for my son. So now I eat healthy, have less rice and work out four to five times a week. But I think I’m like the most insecure person around but everyone around me is used to it.
I think there are also a lot of people who would say, ‘what does she have to be insecure about?’
Exactly! But I’m human too. People say you are so rich, you got this, you got that but everyone has problems. You just have to sort it out yourself. No one is perfect. For me my issue has always been about my looks. But I’ve learnt to accept it. And really, you cannot starve yourself. Because of that my health really deteriorated.
Did you have an eating disorder?
To a certain extent, yes. I would eat but I wouldn’t keep my food down.
So you were bulimic?
Yeah. It was bad. I look back at that time and I totally regret it. I was in boarding school in London and it was so common [to have an eating disorder]. All the girls wanted to be skinny. And everyone would compare who was skinnier and so everyone just didn’t eat. And I think that me going there already feeling insecure [about myself], it just got worse.
How did your dad react to it?
He was heartbroken. He would take me to see counselors but I was so stubborn and rebellious, I didn’t listen. When you’re young, you wouldn’t know better and you don’t care. But as a parent now, I understand.
How did you get better?
To be honest, it was only after I got pregnant. My son really changed me. The vomiting stopped after I got back from boarding school, but I still didn’t eat healthy and I would take like, diet pills. And ’cos of what I did, my stomach gives me a lot of problems now. My gastric can’t be cured and many times when I’m in the hospital, it’s because of it. So now I tell people to not do what I did. Once your health goes, you can’t get it back. I have to be on medication for life if I want to control my gastric.
Kids should know that looking good isn’t everything.
Yes. You can think of looking good but you have to do it the right way. It sounds like a cliché, but you really have to eat properly and exercise.
It seems like motherhood has been a really positive experience for you.
Yeah, you start to appreciate your life a lot more. You start to want to take care of yourself so you can take care of your son. Before him, I didn’t care for my health. I would drink so much, like really go at it. But now I can’t be like that, or at least I drink in moderation. I have a lot more discipline now. Motherhood really changes a person.
Did you think you’re too young to be a mum?
Not at all. Even my dad said that I should have had kids earlier. My grandma told me, “Eh, people at your age have two kids already.”
I don’t know (laughs). But my dad wants me to have 12 kids. I was like, crazy (laughs). But he really loves kids. He’s been asking me to have kids since I was 23.
Is motherhood what you expected?
[Without missing a beat] Yeah! I had reached a point where I felt like I needed more meaning and purpose in my life. And when my baby came, my life became very colourful.
Wasn’t it already very colorful?
I didn’t realise it was, that’s the thing. I didn’t know what to do last time. Even when I worked, I was like, oh okay. Or when I did charity, I would be very happy for that moment, but after that, I didn’t know what to do. Now, with my son, I have something to look forward to every day. He’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’m lucky that I have help. But even I didn’t, I still take care of him myself. Especially during the first six months ’cos that’s when you really feel the bond.
What was your pregnancy like?
Oh, I loved it. But my morning sickness at the beginning was really bad. I would puke out everything I ate. I also disappeared [from the public eye] during my pregnancy. I travelled a lot. And it was the best decision. I decided that I should have the right to enjoy my pregnancy and not have anyone question me ’cos I don’t owe anyone anything.
So you had a social media detox.
Yeah. I miss that feeling now that I’m slowly getting back into social media again. I miss those times when I can just eat what I want and not feel guilty (laughs). I mean, I did think I was fat and all that but at least, I learnt how to enjoy the moment. I didn’t fight with the mirror every day ’cos I told myself, that I would lose it all after giving birth. It’s the first time I felt that way. I eventually want to have three, four kids but I don’t want to get pregnant again so soon. Maybe at the end of the next year (smiles).
During that period when you disappeared from social media, did people recognise you when you were out and about in public?
I think so but ’cos I got so fat, people were like, “Are you Kim?” I remember buying furniture for my new place and the girl at the store was like, “Oh you look like Kim Lim.” My cousin was with me and she said, “Don’t look like ah?” and the girl said, “No.” (Laughs). I was 83 kg when I gave birth, can you believe it?
So what’s Kyden like?
He’s very funny. I think he’s quite stubborn and he knows how to pretend. Now he just wants me to carry him all the time. When I put him on the bed, he’ll start to wail (laughs). I’ll show you a video then you’ll understand. [Proceeds to show us a video of Kyden making googly faces at the camera.]
You were in Milan for Fashion Week. Were you sad to leave him behind?
Sad! Sad! I never thought I could feel this way. Seriously, I just wanted to go home. Last time I would never want to go home but now I just can’t wait.
Why didn’t he go with you?
I would if it were a holiday. My helper doesn’t come along so I’ll take care of him myself. But for work, it’s hard to take him along. I can’t get anything done with him around. He’s a really strong kid and very tall. My husband is very tall too. At eight months, Kyden was already 10kg. I call him mini-Hulk (laughs).
What’s the hardest part about taking care of a newborn?
Actually, he’s a very good baby. It’s only at night, when we’re overseas and the helper’s not there. And at like 5am, he wakes up and I’m like (groans). And he’s like there screaming and crying ’cos he wants me to carry him. That’s the hardest part but apart from that, I’ve been pretty blessed.
You mentioned that you breastfed Kyden. Was it tough?
I think it was okay but that’s ’cos I had help. Seriously, I think as a first-time mum, you need help. And I don’t mean like a confinement lady or a helper. But an expert in breastfeeding. That’s why I think if you want to give birth, you should do it at an O&G clinic, where everyone is trained. And ’cos, you know, we own the hospital (Thomson Medical) so I would ask the lactation specialists and they’re the ones who guided and taught me. That’s why I got it quite easy. I know a lot people struggle ’cos they don’t have the right advice.
How is Kyden like you?
He’s very loud like me. And happy-go-lucky. And stubborn. (Smiles)
What about your husband?
Big-sized, I guess? Tall lor. My husband thinks the baby looks like him but I think the baby looks like me. (Laughs). But his loudness is definitely from me. Sometimes when he screams, my stepmum will look at me and we both know where he got that from (laughs).
Is your dad very happy that he’s a grandad now?
Of course. He’s over the moon. My grandma too. They used to walk into my room and ask if I’m okay, but now, they say “Where is my grandson?” right away. They don’t care about me anymore (laughs).
Have you seen your dad so happy before?
Is he a strict dad?
Nah. But he is strict when it comes to character building and this is one thing I need to learn from him. I think he brought us up to be good people — okay, this sounds like I ownself say ownself good (guffaws). But I feel like, for example, charity is something we should do and I think it’s ’cos since I was young, my dad would take me along when he did charity work and I would always have fun and that’s how I slowly started enjoying doing charity. It’s things like that. When we were younger, if we wanted to go out, he will let us. As long as we tell him that we’re okay, he’ll be okay.
He sounds like a cool dad.
Yeah, I want to be this kind of parent. Some mums are too strict and the child starts to hide everything. I don’t want that. I want him to share stuff with me.
Would you send your kid to boarding school?
Maybe not when he’s so young. I’ll wait for him to grow up first. You know why? When you go to boarding school, you get to know a lot of people. I think in life connections are the most important. So now, wherever I go, I have friends.
In those four years of boarding school, how often did you come back?
Every three months. But it was very sad lah. My mind was always on coming home so it was depressing every time I had to go back. So after a while, I got rebellious, and when I returned, I would go party.
Weren’t you too young?
(Nods) Last time the age limit was 16 and I would use a fake ID (laughs) I was very rebellious.
How did your dad feel about you being in the spotlight?
At the beginning he didn’t like it. He told me, “There’s a price you have to pay, you have to watch your security.”
So kidnapping is a real issue?
Of course. My father always taught us to be wary of our surroundings. And we have bodyguards. It’s an issue lah.
A lot of stars showed up for Kyden’s very lavish 99th-day party at the Ritz Carlton, some of whom are your stepmum’s pals. Who are you close to?
I’m close to Rebecca (Lim). She’s a very wholesome good girl so when we go out, it’s for dinner and we just talk. My stepmum’s friends are like Auntie (Pan) Lingling and Auntie Cassandra (See). They all saw me grow up! And they really took care of me last time. Like Auntie Lingling, even now, will still ask me, “You got drink your soup or not?” (Laughs).
Did you ever think of being an actress?
I think many years ago Auntie Lingling did ask me [if I want to go into acting]. But I said no ’cos I didn’t think [acting] suits me. I’d just keep laughing.
What did you want to be growing up?
An SQ air stewardess (laughs). Seriously. But all my friends said I wouldn’t suit the job. Like, if I get a rude passenger, I would probably take the tray and ask him to do it himself (laughs). But when I was younger, I didn’t know better. I thought it was just about flying and looking pretty. I remember I was six or seven and I told the air stewardesses that I wanted to be like them. And they said, “Why?! You can sit First Class leh.” (Laughs)
You said that you travelled a lot during your pregnancy.
Yeah until the third trimester when my dad was like, “No! Stay in Singapore! My grandson is in there!” (Laughs).
Is there anywhere you’ve never been to?
I’ve never been to New York. Really! I don’t know why. I just never had the chance to go.
Well. you can just hop on a plane and go there now.
I guess. But I’ll go there soon.
Do you fly private all the time?
I prefer commercial, actually. There are more things to see and do. On private planes you are confined on it. The good thing for private flights is that it’s own time own target.
What sort of lessons about money did your dad teach you?
That it isn’t everything. Sometimes when you have too much money it becomes a problem ’cos everyone will fight over it. He always tells me, “You don’t have to earn what you don’t spend” which is his way of telling me to save ’cos, you know, I like to shop.
Has he ever told you not to shop so much?
Of course. When I was younger, [my shopping habit] was worse. It was only when I got older that I realise the value of money and that it’s not easy to earn. I’m more cautious with what I buy now, like I would buy stuff with value, like watches. In the past, I would go into a shop, like Chanel, and just buy everything on the shelf, like I want this, this, this, this. I could buy, like, five Chanel bags at a go. Now I just buy the stuff I really like.
So what happened to those bags that you don’t use anymore?
I sell them and then give the money to charity. There’s nothing wrong with selling them at a cheaper price so those who really want to carry a Chanel bag can get a chance to.
Is there a lot of pressure to be Peter Lim’s daughter?
I’ve gone past that stage. I think I felt that pressure last time, but like I said, when we were growing up, my dad didn’t really show who he was. But I feel like I should go back to the office to work soon. Just last week, I told him that I want to do that and he was like, okay.
What do you do there?
The operations and the marketing stuff. The finance side is so not me (laughs). But of course, I will still learn. I must know what’s going on with the company.
Do people try to take advantage of your generosity?
We guess you have a bull**** barometer?
Now I do. I didn’t use too. Even in like primary school, I always had more pocket money ’cos my dad has always been generous so people will always want to borrow money from me. And I would just give and pay for them not knowing any better. And when you get older and you go partying and you meet a lot of friends but you don’t know who your real friends are. Actually right now, I don’t have that many close friends and it’s also ’cos I don’t want to get close to too many people.
I imagine there are a lot of people who will ask you to invest in their business.
Yah but I never entertain any of them. I’m very direct, when they talk about business, it’s a no.
Do people ask you to introduce them to your father?
A lot. I’ll tell them “No, sorry”. But in my head, I’m thinking, “Wah Lau, are you dumb or what?”
What’s the worst business proposal you’ve heard?
So many. The lamest one I’ve heard recently was this guy who messaged me on IG, saying, “Give me one million dollars and you’ll have my heart.” So lame! (Laughs). I like guys to spend on me, not I spend on guys, okay (guffaws). There are also some that go, “I have a piece of land and I really need you to invest in it and I promise you that I will return you the money.” These are complete strangers. My friends know better than to ask me.
What’s the greatest misconception people have of you?
That I’m proud. Or that I’m very fierce. A lot of people also think that I’m damn atas. But I really don’t think I am! I love to eat at hawker centres!
Which one is your fave?
There’s Newton, of course, but I also like the Bedok one. The food there damn nice! When I was pregnant, I craved mee pok, especially from Eat. I also like the soupy bak chor mee in Bedok Market. My hubby’s mum’s house is in Bedok and that’s how I started going there to look-see. The queue is always very long but my hubby knows [the stall owners] so they will serve our order first (giggles). I also craved the popiah and nasi lemak from Qiji! That’s how I got so fat (laughs).
Have you taken the bus before?
Of course. I have taken the train with Cherie before too. There was once we were rushing to Sentosa for some fair and we both took the MRT from Orchard. I remember when I was young, it was also cool to take the bus when you go out with friends. And in primary school, I remember taking bus 171 home. So yeah, that was how I was brought up.