While most home-grown talents find fame in Singapore before expanding out to make their mark on the rest of the world (with a recent example being Tay Ping Hui), things happened for Mei Xin the other way around.

The 31-year-old was placed at the starting point of her unconventional showbiz path in 2006 when she joined a beauty pageant at the suggestion of her then-modelling agency. There, she caught the eye of an agent, who began hooking her up with a variety of hosting gigs (fun fact: she made her hosting debut on Channel U’s On The Beat alongside Patricia Mok, Lee Teng and Jeremy Chan), which Mei Xin did between recording songs.

Singing eventually took over, followed by a small role in her very first drama, 2007’s Dear, Dear Son-in-Law, and then she jetted off to China to expand her fledgling career.

And expand she did: during the four years she spent there, Mei Xin enjoyed burgeoning popularity in the notoriously competitive market thanks to heavily watched projects such as 45-episode series Guangdong Master. However, the success did not bring her joy nor satisfaction.

“I thought that my company was too strict, and I’m someone who really values my freedom,” she told us over the phone. Strict in what way? “You have to maintain a certain image and you can’t just do whatever you want. I guess I just really dislike being controlled.”

For instance, she elaborated, if a manager told her that she can’t even sit a certain way, she would think to herself, “‘Why not? This is so annoying.’ I was like a child – the more you tried to discipline me, the more rebellious I would become.”

Still, she held out for all those years despite being exhausted, miserable and slightly depressed to the point that she was crying every day. She eventually parted ways with the China company (she made sure to emphasise that she does not blame anyone for her unhappiness) and enrolled in a two-year interior design course.