Sylvester Sim, 34, is a changed man. And it’s all thanks to fatherhood. Who would have thought the tattooed Singapore Idol 2004 runner-up, now dad to 10-month-old daughter Naomi, would profess to like changing diapers? But more on that later.
In some ways, Sly is still the same brash Ah Beng. “When I was young, I liked to fight for the sake of fighting. I’ve always wanted to be a professional wrestler, but I was too skinny!” he tells us. Which explains why he is fulfilling his childhood dream, sorta, by squaring off against self-proclaimed “Singapore’s Superstar” Steven Lim in a Muay Thai “celebrity match” for the inaugural Asia Fighting Championship (AFC).
The championship is co-organised by Muse Fitness gym and Sly’s company Sgee Ventures. “Initially I was concerned ’cos Steven Lim has legs like tree trunks, and I was afraid he’d break my ribs. But I like challenging myself. I think I have a 90 per cent chance of winning,” Sly tells us proudly.
So no dad bod for this guy, who has been hitting the gym and going on 4km runs. “I went through a ‘dad bod’ phase a few years ago,” shares Sly. “I weighed almost 80kg, but lost 11kg in a month by dieting. I almost starved myself to death. It was just very depressing to be fat. People would say, “Eh, why are you so fat now?” So I decided to turn my life around. I want to be like Zheng Geping!”
8 DAYS: Other than training for the fight, what else have you been busy with?
SYLVESTER SIM: I’m still helming the music team at [Dempsey live music bar] Unplugged. I’m surrounded by young musicians and I set up a place for them to perform.
I don’t sing as much now, but I do write songs. My dream is to write an NDP song. A rock one! I cannot write another [hit like] ‘Home’, but even something slightly below that [in terms of quality] is fine (laughs).
You auditioned for The Voice of China (now called Sing! China) in 2014. Now that your fellow Idol alums Olinda Cho and Joanna Dong are finding success in the show, would you join another singing contest?
I’m past that phase lah. I’m very happy for Olinda. She took part in Sing! China last season [but did not get in]. We were talking about it when she came back and I told her, “Just ’cos something comes early doesn’t mean it’s good.” So I hope she goes further this time round. Joanna was also from my Idol batch. She was good back then, and better now.
When we last caught up with you three years ago, you were married and said you wanted two kids. You have a 10-month-old daughter now.
My family doesn’t want to be in the limelight, so I won’t bring them into it. My daughter is still young. But I don’t mind posting her photos occasionally on social media and hearing friends tell me how cute she is (laughs).
But I think one kid is enough for me for now. Parenting is really tiring! I didn’t plan on when I’d have kids. Naomi was a gift to us from God. We cannot say don’t want, right? (Laughs) I’ve always loved children and taking care of kids comes naturally to me. My mum used to work at a childcare centre when I was young, and I’d help her mind the kids.
And before having my daughter, I would always play with my sister’s kids too. I’m naturally very careful with children, though maybe not the most patient (laughs). I’m very kiasi one. I’m always cautious about them falling over or bumping their heads.
Are you a helicopter parent?
No. I’m careful, but I’m not an anxious person by nature. If my daughter does fall down, I wouldn’t fuss too much over her. Falling is inevitable, and she needs to learn to get up by herself. If she grows up and decides to get tattoos, that is okay too. It’s her choice. My wife and I have the same parenting approach.
How did parenthood change your relationship with your wife?
We became a better team lah. We don’t have a helper at home, so we take turns to take care of our daughter. If I have to rush to work, she’d hurry home to take over. And ’cos of that, our relationship is stronger than before.
Then how did parenthood change you?
I’m more patient now. I used to lose my temper often, but now I can tolerate and understand things better. I’m a very hands-on dad. My friends were quite surprised. Some of them think taking care of a baby is very embarrassing for a guy, but I don’t want to miss out on spending time with my daughter just ’cos of my ego (laughs).
I’m proud to say I like changing her diapers, bathing her and waking up for night feedings. Babies grow up very fast, so I cherish those moments. You totally change when you become a parent. You want to care for your kid and see her grow up to be successful!
Catch Sylvester in the Asia Fighting Championship, Sept 23, 6pm, Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre. Tix from Sistic.