While Quan, 45, may project a tough-as-nails persona, Lee said that in private, she is subject to bouts of emotional turbulence.
“She would cry in the toilet and never let me see her tears,” Lee said in a social media post.
Photo: Quan Yi Fong/ Instagram
With her daughter in China, Quan does not often cope well with the absence. “She will go to my room to smell my clothes and lie on my bed and cry,” Lee added.
While Quan seems to be a social butterfly, in real life, Lee said her mum does not “have many friends, and she has never been good at socialising“.
Photo: The Straits Times
Lee, who has more than eight million followers on her Weibo account, now wants to change things around.
“It’s time for you to retire,” she wrote, asking Quan to relocate.
“It’s time for me to take care of you,” said Lee, who, in 2017, went on stage to sing a song dedicated to her mum when the latter won an All-Time Favourite Artiste award.
Lee also shared the story of how her mother had struggled when she was carrying her.
In 1999, an earthquake struck while Quan was pregnant in Taiwan. Lee wrote that her mother was alone, with “her grandma and uncle not at home”.
She said a terrified Quan broke into tears while sitting on the floor and praying that her pregnancy would not be affected.
Lee, who has made inroads as an actress in China and whose father is Singapore actor Peter Yu, added that her birth was also full of drama.
When Taiwan-born Quan, who divorced Yu in 2008, knew it was time to go to the hospital, she went alone using her motorbike.
There was one immediate complication – she had no money to get admitted.
She had to go home, where she found a watch that “her only friend” had given to her and pawned it.
“Then she went back to the hospital.”
More hurdles came her way.
Photo: Shin Min Daily News
Despite being in labour for 24 hours, Quan still could not give birth, so the medical team “had to operate on her”.
Money was tight, so she opted to leave the hospital, using whatever she had left to pay for “me to be hospitalised for a few days”.
Lee revealed that she actually had to be warded longer because she had severe asthma.
“Four days later, my mum came to the ward… wrapped me in a blanket and carried me away.”
A nurse shouted to Quan that she could not bring home the baby.
Quan stood her ground, stating: “I have no money. Do you still want to take care of the baby?”
Quan herself has also posted about that trying period.
When Lee turned 18, Quan recalled that she ate “only one bun a day” and used the cheapest formula, only to discover later that the milk powder was targeted at adults.
With no money for disposable diapers, she had to wash more than 20 nappies a day.
“Today you are 18 and an adult. Mum is telling you about what happened and giving you the watch that saved our lives,” Quan wrote then.
Now, Lee, who took the surname of her godfather, celebrity hairstylist Addy Lee, wants Quan to retire and be with her in China, noting that the past 20 years have been hard on her mum.
Quan, despite winning awards for her show-hosting, has also made the news with her quick temper, which saw her being hauled to court in 2011 over an altercation with a taxi driver.
Lee got her foot in the door of show business in 2015 after beating thousands of hopefuls to snag a commercial in China for technology giant Apple. She has since been featured in other commercial jobs in China and in acting roles such as Tribes And Empires.
There was once Lee accompanied Quan on an overseas filming trip. Quan recalled in a Staits Times interview: “Passers-by went up to the film crew to ask the identity of the celebrity. They thought my daughter was the celebrity and I was the minder.”
This story was first published in The Straits Times.