Vivian Hsu must have the ability to manipulate time. She’s 43 (“a secret that everyone knows,” she laughs when someone brings up her age) but is youthful-looking enough to pass off as a xiao mei mei Instagrammer. It’s as if time has stood still since her days as everyone’s favourite Lolita and whose photos were fawned over by teenage boys (and their dads) across Asia back in the ’90s. Her youthful beauty was all everyone could talk about when the Taiwanese stunner glided into the ballroom at the Park Royal Pickering Hotel on Wednesday (April 18).
Vivian, who moved to Singapore after marrying Singapore-based Indonesian businessman Sean Lee, 41, in 2014, was there to promote Bio-essence’s new skincare range. She’s been the ambassador of the brand since 2009.
Up close, Vivian looks even younger — when we showed a friend the unfiltered selfie we snapped with the singer-actress, said friend commented, “Did she not age at all?” While it’s super easy to feel like a table rag next to her, Vivian, bless her soul, is the kind of star who makes you feel comfortable right from the get-go. Even her manager is friendly. When we enter the room for our interview, her manager chirps, “Oh, sit closer to Vivi! It’s more comfortable to chat that way.”
And chat Vivian did. Unlike some stars who refrain from talking too much about their personal lives, Vivian is candid and forthcoming, especially when talking about Sean and their super cherubic two-year-old son Dalton. “Every month, I’ll be away from [my husband] ’cos of work and I know he misses me. But he doesn’t make me feel bad it or tell me that I can’t [work]. I’m very thankful to him,” she tells us. “My work is a great source of my joy… I think women should have their own career. I think a lot of husbands will feel very insecure, especially if their wives are in entertainment. They’ll worry. But he knows me and he knows that my friends are all very simple so there’s a lot of trust. Plus we are very similar, we both go straight home after work. Even more so now ’cos we are parents.”
Being a mum, she tells us, also means that her English vocabulary now consists only of the words “Paw Patrol” (a super popular kids cartoon for the uninformed) and dinosaur names. “When you play with kids, you can’t be worried about having laugh lines,” she says. “You have to go all the way. Like, my T-Rex has to be scarier than his.” She then proceeds to scrunch up her face unglamorously (or as unglamorous as Vivian Hsu’s face can look) and lets out a loud growl before collapsing into a puddle of giggles.
Like her beauty, Vivian’s personality doesn’t need any filter to shine through.
8 DAYS: We have to say that Dalton is simply too cute. Apart from him having eyes as big as yours, how else is he like you?
VIVIAN HSU: He is very funny, very positive. He is also very active, just like my husband and I. And I think he is smart like his father. And he is also musically inclined.
And that’s something he inherited from you?
His dad is also very musical. I think [my husband] got into the wrong industry (laughs). Just kidding. [Sean] once said that if he can live his life again… he envies my job. He said that no matter how tired I am… I’m still in this circle where I’m creating something, be it a role or music.
Well, he can still join showbiz now.
He is too busy with his business. [Ed: Sean is the chief executive of logistics firm Marco Polo Marine] Everyone knows he likes to sing. Whenever there is a chance to sing, he will. Like at our Taipei wedding. I know he likes to sing so I told him, “Why don’t you sing something? We can include it in the rundown.” And he was like, “I don’t want! Jam Hsiao will be sitting there! And Shin too! It’s too scary! So we didn’t include it. But halfway through our wedding, he went on stage and sang. He was so happy (laughs).
Is a career in showbiz in the works for Dalton?
His dad says no…
I don’t know…
Is it ’cos he missed out on being in showbiz so he wants to deny his son that opportunity too? We’re joking of course.
(Guffaws) Yeah! (Mimicking her husband) I want you to be just like me! (Laughs) I think my husband has his reasons. Like he wants [Dalton] to have a lower profile now. But, you know, that was then. Maybe he’s okay with it now. Who knows?
You live in Singapore now so what’s your favourite local dish?
(Without missing a beat) Bak Kut Teh. Every week we have to have bak kut teh. You can’t find good bak kut teh in Taiwan and I can’t cook it well. So whenever I go back to Taiwan, I’ll buy vacuum-sealed packets of BKT for my family.
How long did it take you to get used to the food here?
I think Southeast Asian food tastes very Chinese, as in the range of food is very palatable to Chinese people. Like laksa. I love it. Hokkien mee too.
Those aren’t exactly the healthiest of dishes. Aren’t you scared of piling on the pounds?
Scared! So whenever someone orders a dish I like to eat, I’ll take a bite. I think being able to have one mouthful is good enough.
But is it enough?
Of course not! But you know, 90% of the time I’m eating healthy… so I have to be content. I should be happy to be able to have a bite. And that’s why I like to have meals in big groups. One person orders this, another orders that, and I’ll just take a bite from everyone (laughs).
Where is your favourite place to go to in Singapore?
The wet market lor. I’m so familiar with the market. Like I know everyone from the fishmonger to the butcher to the florist (laughs).
Don’t they go crazy when they see you?
(Laughs) Once the butcher asked me to sing for him. He said, “Aiyah Vivian! If I you can sing live here, It would be so great!” I told him, “Boss, I have a live performance on this day and date, I’ll sing for you then okay? (Giggles).
Do you try to disguise yourself when you’re at the wet market?
No! I’m pretty familiar with everyone in the wet market. Like the fishmonger, Fa-ge. Sometimes he saves me the best fish. I don’t know if I can say this… but sometimes he’ll set aside the freshest fish for his grandson but when I’m there, he’ll say” Okay, since you’re here, let me give it to you!”
Now that’s one perk of being a star.
No lah. I’m very nice to everyone, okay (laughs). I really like the feeling of going to the wet market. I like going to East Coast too. And Sentosa.
Who do you miss more when you travel overseas for work, your husband or your son?
My hubby of course! ’Cos my son is always next to me. He always travels with me. I think when kids are that young they should be with their mums. When he is older, his dad can take him out to play sports. Then it will be woohoo! Free time for me. (Laughs)
Well he might not want to hang out with you guys when he gets older.
(Smiles) think he will stick to me. He’s star sign is Leo and I read that Leos are very close to their mums.
It is right? Isn’t it? (Guffaws)