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The 'Lion Mums' Star Vanessa Vanderstraaten Wants To Be A Tiger Mum

She's also a huge cat lover.


Staying mum together: Vanessa with her Lion Mums co-stars (from left) Nurul Aini, Bernice Liu, and Season 2 newbie, Lina Ng. 

8 DAYS: After nearly two years, you’re back as single mother Min Yi on Lion Mums. How did you prepare to re-enter the world of kids?

VANESSA VANDERSTAATEN: There wasn’t much preparation needed as I was really looking forward to playing Min Yi again and rejoining the cast. What I actually did was get myself acquainted with the storyline, like where the character was heading, and the kind of journey she was going to take. Sorry but I can't reveal too much!

Do you remember your first day on the set of Season 1?
It was fun! My first day on Lion Mums was with Nurul [Aini] and a shopping cart, I think. I remember us pushing each other around like kids in between takes (laughs).

And how did your first day on Season Two go?
We finished Season 1 in 2015, and we waited two years to do the show again, so it felt like, “Finally! It’s happening!” I was very excited to be back with the cast and crew.

How much have you changed as a person since Season One?
I've gotten a lot more patient, but whether or not it has to do with working with children, I don't know. I've become more mature on the whole as well, watching my friends become mothers themselves. As a result, the stories in Lion Mums resonate even more with me this time around.

What are your most memorable moments from filming Season Two?
I actually had a minor acting breakthrough! I had an intense family scene with Gerald [Chew] — who plays my dad on the show — where I was just listening to him and suddenly, I started crying. Like for real. It was a very important moment to me as an actress. It's incredible, and I'm very fortunate to have fellow actors who gave so much during the take, even when the camera wasn’t rolling.

What parenting lessons did you pick up?
I learnt that we need to have more of a spine when it comes to disciplining kids. I believe that as a parent, you have the responsibility to make sure that your child doesn't grow up to be a nightmare.

If you were a mum, which of the Lion Mums would you be most like?
I would be most like Chae Lian [the new character played by Lina Ng]. If we are the lion mums, then she's the tiger mum. You know there's this book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? That's her.

How strict would you be to your future kids?
I would definitely be a tiger mother. I would be quite scary. Something along the lines of getting my kids to be the best they can be in the Singapore education system. Getting them into scholarship programmes. (Guffaws)

Have you received feedback from single mums?
I have had messages and Facebook comments from single mums about how glad they were to have someone telling the story of what it’s like to be a single mother, and what it was like to be kicked out of their homes because they got pregnant as a teenager. There were also women who came up to me and thanked me. It's really touching when that happens; we'd start crying sometimes. It means a lot to me to be able to tell Min Yi's story. I was raised by a single mother and I know it's not easy to raise your child to be healthy and loved. It's so much for one person to do.

What else did they say about your performance as a single mum?
[They also pointed out that] it’s funny how mothers on the show are so in shape, and they wake up with their hair and make-up done. Last season, I was suffering from hyperthyroid, so I was very skinny. It's under control now, and I have since put on more weight. I think it showed on camera. But I think that’s okay because mothers don't always have time to work out! (Laughs) There's a little bit of excess flesh around the stomach, which I think is nice.

You’re the Vice President of the Cat Welfare Society and have seven cats under your care. Are you a tiger mum to them?
No, I'm the worst! I sayang them so much. Because of that I have a male cat who’s slightly overweight. I don't think twice about spending money on them.


You were one of many Singaporeans on the Netflix drama Marco Polo (above). What was the most notable difference between working on that show and local productions?
You’re just trying to get me into trouble (laughs). I think it’s just budget lah. When I did Marco Polo, nothing was compromised because they had the time and money. They have the budget to say “Alright, I don’t like this product, let’s do it again from scratch.” In Singapore, we don’t typically have that luxury of time.

What are your fondest memories of Marco Polo?
My sweetest memory actually has nothing to do with the filming itself. It was visiting the animal farm on set. There were cows, goats, dogs, and kittens! These animals were kept as livestock in certain scenes — they were like the animal extras. 

Season 2 of Lion Mums premieres Wed (Aug 9), Ch 5, 9.30pm. Marco Polo is streaming on Neflix.

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