Photos: Joanna Goh
Videos: Foong Mien Shi
If there’s one thing Chen Xiuhuan (or Sherry Tan) regrets, it’s forgoing a university education to start an acting career at the tender age of 15.
As someone who has been there, done that, the former actress hoped that her daughters Shanisse, 19, Shalynn, 17, and Shavinne, 13 would wait before entering showbiz. That probably explains why she was so reluctant to allow her second daughter, Shalynn, partake in anything remotely related to the industry after she expressed an interest in performing.
When Shalynn told Xiuhuan she wanted to attend a training programme with Hong Hui Fang, Guo Liang, and Lin Meijiao’s kids in Shanghai last year, she brushed the topic aside as she was busy.
Then came a phone call from Vivian Lai, who convinced Xiuhuan that it was a good opportunity for Shalynn to have fun while learning something new. Since the programme coincided with the December school holidays, she gave her daughter the green light.
But Xiuhuan experienced a change of heart when celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee, who accompanied the kids on the trip, showed her a video of her teenage daughter dancing after the training programme finished. The self-professed “tiger mother” was shocked to realise that her classically-trained violinist daughter is a talented dancer.
“She could really dance!” gushed Xiuhuan, who was present at the Sunsilk shoot to support her daughter’s first commercial. “I had my doubts and asked myself: ‘Is this really my daughter?’ She has always been a reserved and serious person as a violinist, but she began to open up after this programme.”
It didn’t occur to her that Shalynn was “really serious” about showbiz until Addy came knocking on her door, expressing his interest in signing her on as an artiste with Starlist, his artiste management agency.
After “quitting showbiz for my kids” and “investing so many years in grooming them” as musical talents, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine they’d end up back at where she left off.
Even after Addy promised to prioritise Shalynn’s studies, Xiuhuan was unconvinced.
Only after her Taiwanese husband vouched for their daughter’s capacity to juggle school and work did she change her mind.
“Ironically, he was pretty supportive (I thought he’d be more against it)! He said that if our daughter hopes to venture in something other than music, we should let her go for it,” she said.
While she has given her blessings to Shalynn, the actress has set some ground rules.
(Continued on next page: When will we see Xiuhuan on the small screen again?)
Attaining a university degree is “a must,” said Xiuhuan, “This is regardless of whichever career path she chooses.”
“I’ve told Addy that she’ll be in year 2 JC (junior college) next year, so please cut back on work then… he’s also stricter than me in terms of attire and said that she cannot show her waist or other body parts. I’m really happy because I don’t wish for her to wear such revealing clothes either,” she chuckled.
Xiuhuan added they have started to receive calls from Mediacorp and filmmakers in Shanghai who are keen to cast her daughter – and other celebrity kids – in their shows. “I’ve told them to look for Addy since he handles her work engagements now.
“To be honest, I don’t wish to interfere in her work or appear at her workplace since I’ve given them full management rights. I want to let her experience life. I don’t want to be a stage mum!” she laughed.
Xiuhuan has a relatively more relaxed “mum” schedule these days since her oldest daughter is in university (Shanisse is studying medicine and wants to be a doctor, says Xiuhuan) and her youngest daughter has started attending secondary school, but despite having more free time on her hands, chances of her returning to act in local dramas are slim to none.
“Filming takes up at least three months and I think that’s too long a duration. I can’t take care of the kids at all. I need to send the kids to school every day and supervise their violin practices,” said the actress, best known for her role as Princess Yidi (Star Maiden).
“But if there’s a really good script and the pay is OK, I’ll give it some serious thought. But there haven’t been any offers yet lah, I’ve been getting movie offers only.”
Drama producers, we hope you’re reading this.
WATCH: When will Xiuhuan allow her daughter to start dating?