From being abandoned and left in debt by her father to dealing with a bizarre stalker claiming her son’s paternity — it’s as though Jade Rasif has lived several lives.
But through it all, her mother has been her rock, Jade says.
We recently got the chance to catch up with the 27-year-old DJ-turned-healthcare-worker in a virtual interview promoting the International Women’s Day edition of MTV series The Originals.
In her video profile, currently airing on MTV Asia and premiering on Mar 15 on MTV Asia’s Facebook, Jade waxes lyrical about her mum (when we first settle in for our Zoom call, she tells us she can go on for hours).
When we probe further, she reveals that it was her mother Joyce Fong who had dug the family out of their dire financial straits after her estranged father David Rasif embezzled $11.3 million from his clients and fled the country in 2006.
Mum ‘saved and saved’ to pull the family out of debt
Nearly 15 years on, she’s calm and collected as she recalls the whole saga. But at the time, it was a “giant mess” for Jade, her two sisters and her mother, she says.
Before her father left the country, he had convinced the family to sell their HDB flat to buy a condominium unit that was way out of their budget.
After her father left them, her mother was stuck with the million-dollar mortgage, not to mention the lawsuits that followed in the wake of his disappearance.
From the outside, people assumed her family was well off, she tells us, but her paternal grandparents were “dirt poor” and her mother was an immigrant from Malaysia.
And the millions supposedly amassed by her father? It was all confiscated by the authorities.
The family had to tighten their belts for years as they paid off the mortgage — unlike Jade’s more well-to-do classmates at SJI International School. They didn’t get new clothes, nor did they have a car. Jade didn’t even have a mobile phone in secondary school, she adds.
“We didn’t grow up with a lot of things. But my mom really wanted to make sure that we wanted for nothing.
“So every cent that she had, she saved. She saved and saved, and she saved enough for us to go to university.”
This industriousness has carried on till today. Even with Jade among Singapore’s highest-paid DJs and her younger sister Tyen becoming a fitness guru with a sizable online following, her mother still insists on working. In fact, she left a well-paying job at a bank for the non-profit sector in 2018.
Jade tells us, half proud and half exasperated, “I was like, ‘You can finally enjoy life. You can be rich.’ And she was like, ‘No, I don’t want to work for money.'”
No husband? No problem
With her mother as one of her biggest role models, Jade says she knew she “would be okay” as a single mother when she found out she was expecting in 2018.
Jade, who reportedly turned down a proposal from the baby’s father, explains: “My mum raised three kids herself. She just worked hard.
“So I knew, as long as I buckle down and work hard, I can give my son the best life.”
One pearl of wisdom from her mother that she hopes to pass on to her two-year-old son is that “the route to happiness is helping other people”.
And Jade walks the talk too — the DJ began volunteering with the Singapore Healthcare Corps in April amid the pandemic and is now a full-time healthcare worker.
The perils of social media
When she isn’t busy on the frontlines of Singapore’s fight against Covid-19, she’s also an online personality boasting over 377,000 Instagram followers.
But the one thing you won’t be seeing on her social media pages is her son’s face.
Besides being big on consent and allowing her son to decide for himself if he wants his pictures posted, Jade reveals that she’s been extra private due to a persistent stalker.
The stalking was “a very big issue” when she was pregnant, she shared, adding that she had never even met the man before.
“He was convinced that my son was his child. It was so bad that I was like in and out calling the police all the time.”
The stalker even got his hands on an ultrasound image with Jade’s name. But that wasn’t all.
“He made a shrine to the child with drumsticks, toys and everything. And then he took a photo and sent it to me. It was very strange,” Jade tells us. Yikes, creepy much?
Since the stalking, she has actively avoided revealing her son’s pictures online in fear that it might end up in the wrong hands, she says.
Instead, she’s been busy using her platform to speak up on a number of social issues, from calling out sexist media coverage to advocating for several teens who had accused YouTuber and radio DJ Dee Kosh of sexual assault last year.
Her hope for the future this International Women’s Day? That mothers and women in general will have more freedom to define themselves.
She explains, “I feel like at this point, we should really allow women to be the type of person that they want to be.
“As long as the child is loved as long as the child is cared for, then I really don’t think it’s anybody’s business.”
This article was first published in AsiaOne.