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Back from the Brink

Singer Yeow-Sun Ho tells Li Shuo how she bounced back from the depths of despair to find meaning in her life as she has come a long way since the days she contemplated taking her own life as a depressed teenager.

The Singaporean Chinese singer, who says she never went looking for fame, is having to deal with life in the spotlight after making a historic breakthrough in the United States.

The dance track, Where Did Love Go, was the No. 1 Breakthrough Song of the Week on the American Billboard Dance Chart.

Having attended her first-ever Grammy Award ceremony, she's now working with Madonna's producer Peter Rafelson, and planning a show in Beijing in May.

Yet life was not always so full of promise for the 32-year-old, who was in town promoting her latest album, Lonely Travel.

"I started my battle with depression when I was 16. It was partly psychological, partly because of mental stress," Sun recalled of her gloomy years.

"We were to go through the college-entrance examination; I felt depressed not because I was not a good student. Actually I was always a top student. But I wanted to be perfect," she admitted.

Sun did not leave her house for a period of five months. She did not want to see anyone, remaining cloistered alone in her room, with the door and windows shut and the curtains drawn.

"I did not talk to people at all; my parents were very very worried as were my friends," she said.

"I made suicidal attempts many times. I was so depressed that I tried to end my life."

At her lowest ebb, she met a counselor whose inspirational words proved to be a turning point and gave her the "second chance."

"He told me about Jesus, and told me about positive thinking and how I can forgive myself and don't need to be perfect," she recalled.

That started a two-year program of counseling which ultimately saw her emerge as a stronger individual, determined to offer the same help to others.

"I told myself that a counselor, a friend, helped me from death to life, and I want to be a counselor like this friend of mine."

Sun studied psychology, and on graduation from universities in the United States, she came back to Singapore to found a whole social organization called City Harvest Social Services.

Amongst others, the group helps teenage dropouts and mentally disabled children.

"These people are young but already feel like losers in life. I hope that I can give them a second chance, like I was given a second chance," she said.

Over the course of about seven years, Sun says she has personally counseled around 3,000 people. Many others have been helped by her organization.

But how does this humanitarian side to her life fit in with her growing fame in the glitzy world of pop music?

"Fame is never something that I look for," she said. "In the limelight I actually feel uncomfortable."

After her Billboard success, Sun was invited as a guest of honor to attend the Grammy Awards last month. "It was a great experience, breathtaking for me because I saw so many outstanding stars perform live there," Sun recalled. "I started dreaming that one day I could go up to present awards to others, or even be awarded or perform.

"I never dreamed of being a singer but I always liked singing even from kindergarten," Sun said.

Fluent in English from childhood, her English-language songs caught the ear of foreign fans delighted by her clear, exotic and mysterious voice.

She is now targeting the American market with her second single, One With You, which was also produced by Rafelson.

She has no intention of neglecting her social work. Sun was named 2003's Outstanding Young Person in Singapore for her contribution to social work.

She was also among the top 10 of a similar worldwide listing.

Sun hopes her planned show in Beijing this May - proceeds from which she says will go to charitable causes - can be a springboard to success in China.

(CRI March 11, 2004)


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