Today, Cheryl Wee, is a confident 31-year-old actress-entrepreneur and mother to a five-month-old baby boy, but speaks instead about the fact that she didn’t always feel so comfortable in her own skin – and how appearances can be deceiving. In a sit-down interview with us, she opens up “When I saw myself in the shower, I genuinely hated myself. I avoided looking at myself in the mirror because it would make me feel very fat and uncomfortable.”
Cheryl, who is the daughter of beauty and hair mogul Jean Yip, was catapulted into fame in 2013 when she landed the lead role of a feisty female police officer named Elizabeth Lee in the local period drama “Mata Mata”.
She went on to sign with a Taiwanese management agency, Gin Star Entertainment, in 2014 to develop her singing career in Taiwan.
But all that success couldn’t mask her inner struggles.
Even though performing in Taiwan was an opportunity she dreamt of since she was 15, it was a very dark time for Cheryl. In Taiwan, Cheryl started to develop body dysmorphia and an eating disorder.
She was ensnared in the vicious cycle of binging, then starving herself.
Her eating disorder spiraled out of control, and at one point, her period even stopped for one-and-a-half years.
Snide remarks about her body from industry experts and the pressure to be as slim as her peers, destroyed her confidence and made her want to get out as fast as she could.
She added that she was so preoccupied with losing weight that she couldn’t concentrate on her work. “Every day, I wanted to be thinner. When you are in that spiral, it’s easy to get stuck in the dark.”
Cheryl’s battle with body confidence stemmed all the way back to her teen years.
The singer-actress revealed that her first time she felt self-conscious about her figure was when her mother told her that she was gaining too much weight when she was only eleven. “In retrospect, my mother had good intentions but at that point it was very hurtful.”
Her self-esteem was also put to the test when she was body-shamed on social media. “On social media, people are not afraid to body shame. Some netizens even ridiculed and criticised me for having an eating disorder even though I was not fat.”
Yet, despite the negativity that she was faced with, with the support and encouragement of her friends, family and husband, Roy, she decided to focus on herself, her health and her baby when she got pregnant in 2017 instead. Because she was pregnant, she had to have regular meals and cut back on her sugar intake.
“Back then, I didn’t know when I was full or hungry. I would either starve or overeat. When I got pregnant, I had to eat regular meals and portions. Also, my baby hated desserts which helped me with my addiction to sugar. Back then, I couldn’t go a day without sugar, I would even make myself stressed and depressed just to eat sugar. All that sugar would cause me to get mental fog. When I stopped binging on sugary treats, I found myself being able think more rationally.”
After giving birth to her baby, her path to confidence continued as she committed to a healthy lifestyle. She overhauled her diet, took up exercise and embraced her curves.
When asked for her advice to others who might be going through body image issues, Cheryl also stressed the importance of surrounding oneself with good supportive friends.
By talking about her own struggles, Cheryl hopes to inspire others to get healthy. Her desire to advocate positive body image is also evident in the business that she runs.
Cheryl now owns an eponymous Wellness and Weight Management Centre that aims to encourage her customers to “be aware and conscious about healthy living instead of being obsessed with weight loss.”
The signature treatment offered by the centre is called the “Royal Flush” that harnesses the detoxifying properties of sea salt and essential oils to help with lymphatic drainage
The whole candid conversation is one more reason that Cheryl is so relatable, despite living a very publicly monitored life.
“I used to think I don’t want people to experience what I did or experience what I felt. I would have a meal and cry after that. It’s painful to hate yourself. But everyone has their own obstacles and you just have to go through it. You will come out a better person.”
Thanks to Cheryl, it's much easier to keep that perspective in mind.