You'd never guess that beauty-queen-turned-singer Soo Wincci (pronounced win-see) was teased mercilessly about her weight as a child.
After all, Miss Malaysia 2008, who has five albums under her belt, is a picture of elegance, standing svelte at 1.7m and weighing 54kg. These days, she gets on the treadmill one or two hours every day, in order to look fit.
Recounts Soo, who is from Petaling Jaya in Selangor: "I was the biggest girl in my year when I was about eight years old. I was 55kg, but quite short, with a height of 1.5-something metres.
"My friends used to call me Godzilla and say that I shouldn't go to the canteen lest I finish all the food," says the down-to-earth 28-year-old with a hearty laugh.
Her weight is just one of the many hurdles Soo had to overcome on her journey to becoming a singer.
Music was never the plan...
The only daughter (she has two brothers) says her parents, who run their own business, were initially against a career in showbiz.
At 16, she fell in love with singing after attending music classes at the Lee Wei Song school of music in Malaysia.
"That changed my whole life.
"I've always loved to sing, but before I received vocal training I was tone deaf and struggled with stage fright," she says.
But her father saw the lessons as a waste of time.
"I neglected my studies a bit because I had to attend so many rehearsals and we started arguing because of that," she explains.
"Music was never the plan.
"My parents are traditional, and I dreamt of being a doctor because I was very interested in science then, especially chemistry," adds the self-confessed "tuition freak".
"I had two to three teachers for every subject. Whenever I knew that a particular teacher was famous, I would go for the tuition."
She was inspired to do well for herself, says Soo, because she believed she "wasn't born smart or thin".
"But I told myself I wanted to try," says the bubbly woman, who today holds a bachelor's degree in law, a master's in business administration and is now pursuing a PhD in business.
Her grades soared quickly, as her weight plummeted.
Soo confesses to eating only one slice of watermelon a day in order to lose weight, and struggled with anorexia and bulimia.
"I lost about 15kg in a month. I started to be a bit anorexic and bulimic.
"There was a point I would go to the toilet and vomit after eating, because I couldn't stomach it after such an extreme diet," she says, adding that her parents and friends advised her to stop the extreme diet.
A few years later, all hell broke loose at home when she announced that she wanted to venture full-time into music and pursue a singing career.
"My father and I were either in a cold war, or arguing non-stop every day. He tried his best to stop me from singing.
"I could be in any profession except singing.
"They didn't see being in entertainment as a real job, and the industry was tainted with stories of scandal and women being involved sexually with datuks to get to the top," she explains.
Finally, with her father's reluctant approval, Soo began participating in competitions.
"Over the years, I joined a myriad of competitions, including pageants and singing contests, all in a bid to get exposure and experience.
"Some of the judges asked me why I was not a lawyer despite having a law degree," she says with a chuckle.
While many assume that winning Miss Malaysia gave Soo her big break, she says participating in cooking competition Masterchef Celebrity Malaysia was her real breakthrough.
"People didn't take my singing seriously after I took the crown. They saw it as a beauty queen dabbling in singing because of the glamour.
"I remember a song promo event I did in Malaysia, which had only five people in attendance."
Soo insists she joined pageants and competitions to "seek a way" for her career, and that it was never for the fame. Music has always been her focus.
Several of her ballads have been well received, garnering more than 1 million hits on YouTube and making it to charts on radio stations.
Soo, who took a RM1 million (S$396,000) bank loan to fund her music career, says she has reaped about 20 per cent to 30 per cent of the loan back, but will be pumping it back to launch her second international album.
She considers Hollywood actress Michelle Yeoh, who is also a Malaysian, someone she wishes to emulate.
"She did it step by step, venturing into Hong Kong first, then Hollywood.
"I hope to use a similar formula to go into the music line," she says, adding that she also admires artists like Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai.
Still, she is realistic about her future in showbiz.
"You don't know what's going to happen, which is why I'm pursuing my PhD in business.
"My education is my back-up. If it doesn't work out despite my best efforts, I will just go back to work," she says.
She also became the face of Malaysia footwear brand XES shoes last year, and designed a collection of 18 shoes.
"Being in beauty pageants means you need to stand around in high heels for long hours, so I understand what goes into the quality and comfort of a pair of shoes.
"Eventually I hope to develop my own fashion brand which includes clothes as well," she says.
She has also appeared in Channel 8 drama serials such as Injustice, where she acted alongside actors like Zzen Chong and Tiffany Leong.
No time to date...
Soo, who has been single for the past three years, says romance is the last thing on her mind.
With some cajoling, she admits there are men who are interested, but insists that they would not dare disrupt her career.
"I'm in the studio, even at midnight. There are many people working under me now.
"I recently took over the company which signed me, and I'm only thinking of contributing back to my team and my country," she says.
She is also afraid that falling in love will reduce her single-mindedness when it comes to her singing career.
"I don't dare...I'm scared that if I fall in love I might go crazy and suddenly say that I want to quit my entertainment career.
"Sometimes I surprise myself, I'm constantly changing. No, no, no. I won't allow that (giving up on her singing career)."
The driven woman, who shuttles between Taiwan and Malaysia, is constantly upgrading herself, even during her free time.
"My hobby is to 'collect' talents. Recently, I dabbled in pole-dancing and bian-lian (face-changing), an ancient Chinese dramatic art.
"Soon I'm going to pick up aerial acrobatics," she says.
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