Kit Chan’s singing career has earned Singapore a place in the regional pop scene and opened doors for our budding talents

Q: Kit, as Youth Ambassador, what exactly is your role?
Kit Chan: I encourage young people to aspire and dream, not just to watch but to get involved. My special interests are issues on women and the environment. I support causes like Earth-Fest and Association of Women for Action and Research’s “Walk n Roll” concert. I do fund-raising events too.

Q: Why do you think you were chosen Youth Ambassador for two years – in 1999 and 2000 – running?
Kit: Because I’m young?

Q: Maybe it’s your “squeaky-clean” image. Is it for real?
Kit: Is that my image? Well, good for me because I’m anything but perfect! I think much of the “image” is the make-up and the designer clothes. Sometimes, too, it’s the soft-focus effect in my music videos, which makes a lot of people think I’m an oh-so-sweet dreamy romantic—until of course, they talk to me! I’ve always tried to be honest on and off stage. I feel totally different once I take off my make-up and stage clothes—very liberated and down-to-earth, but also less magical and theatrical.

Q: You seem to love the idea of “playing a role”. Is that why you studied theatre at LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts instead of going to university?
Kit: I caught the stage bug in secondary school—in my days at Raffles Girls’ School. I was involved in skits, song and dance, the choir and even cheerleading—anything that made me feel creative and, in my teens, the centre of attention.

Q: What gave you the courage to follow your dream?
Kit: I’d always thought I’d go to university, get a job, marry, have kids… But by the time I was in Raffles Junior College, I was really into singing and had even begun to make a small living from commercial recording. I realised that it was possible to turn my passion into a career. I had also convinced myself that a nine-to-five job, marriage, office politics i.e. the conventional life, was not for me. I guess everyone goes through that phase, and I’m glad I did too or I might never have had the courage to choose a singing career.

Q: Who or what was your biggest influence at that time?
Kit: My literature tutors. I remember being terribly impressed with poets like Thom Gunn, and the whole concept of Existentialism. It was a new word to me then, and a wonderful new idea. It focuses on the isolation of individual experience and places total responsibility on Man. The concept seemed to me rather bleak at first. But it also says that Man must create meaning for himself through action. Bingo! I felt I had to start moving in the direction I wanted my life to head. And more paper qualifications wasn’t quite it.

Q: Were your parents with you in your decision?
Kit: I think they know me very well. Once I’ve made up my mind, I always work at it heart and soul. That’s why they were supportive from the start.

Q: What are the best things you’ve learnt from your parents?
Kit: Honesty, perseverance, humility, kindness. Although these conservative values may have slowed me down in the rat race, I know there are long-term benefits to be reaped when I look at my parents. They are happy, content and at peace with themselves. They also encouraged my three sisters and me to be independent. I wouldn’t have survived in my career if not for my independence.

Q: Your voice is obviously your fortune. How do you keep it in tip-top condition?
Kit: Unfortunately, vocal chords do get overworked, and can just shut down. I try not to keep the late nights (extremely difficult), refrain from alcohol and smoking, drink lots of water, get enough rest—gosh, do I sound like a nun? I do take a short break after each major project. Besides the body, the spirit has to take a rest too!

Q: How do you rest your spirit?
Kit: I like hiking and travelling and I am quite into the New Age way of life. And of course, I read a lot.

Q: What are you reading now?
Kit: I like fact and fiction. For my trip to Nepal, where I’ve just come back from, I read The Lonely Planet’s guide to Nepal. Before that it was Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, a stunning novel; also an autobiography by my Taiwanese publisher, Fernando Chen. I’m now reading Isabel Allende’s Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses.

Q: You write poetry too, don’t you?
Kit: I think poetry is a beautiful way to express yourself. My collection, Cork Out of My Head, went into its second print in Taiwan a week after it was released. It made me wildly happy. The book has just been released here, and I’m told it’s doing well, something I didn’t expect. I mean, who buys poetry? Poetry appreciation is truly a dying art, and poets, definitely an endangered species.

Q: The poems were written between 1990 and 1995. What made you publish them now?
Kit: For a long time now, I’ve been presented to the public in so many different ways—with so much help from record producers, sound engineers, make-up artists, hairstylists, photographers… Sometimes, even I get confused by the myriad of images! Publishing my poems seemed the only way I could be myself – no editing, no censoring, no rules – and it’s made me extremely happy.

Q: Has “being yourself” ever got you into hot soup?
Kit: Always, since I was tot! I got the most caning as a kid, because I simply couldn’t stop arguing and speaking my mind. New people I meet are either intimidated by my forthrightness, or they really dig it. But being a public figure has taught me to keep the lid on, somewhat.

Q: Do you scare men away?
Kit: Well, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan told reporters I was “scary”… I don’t know really. I’m not seeing anyone right now. I think men are wonderful, desirable creatures, as long as they don’t irritate me.

Q: How do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Kit: Still youthful and energetic, always wanting to try something new and hopefully blissfully in love!

Q: Tell us something about Kit Chan few people know.
Kit: If there are things few people know about, then it must be because I don’t want anyone to know about them! But if you really want to know what goes on in my mind, you might want to read my collection of poems. Oh yes, and I love collecting lingerie. I have six drawers of them!

KIT’S CAREER HIGHS

– Lead vocalist for “Count on Me, Singapore” in the Sing Singapore ’90 CD compilation
– First local artiste to score a hit song, “Heartache”, on Taiwan’s pop charts in 1994
– Female lead for Asia’s first ever Cantonese musical, Snow, Wolf, Lake, performing for 50 shows staged in both Hong Kong and Singapore in 1997
– Appointed by the Ministry of Information and the Arts as spokesperson for the Speak Mandarin Campaign 1997-98
– Led the nation to sing Home at the 1998 National Day celebrations
– Was the inspiration for the comic character Kit in Kitsuff, the local comic book launched last year by the creators of Mr Kiasu (Comix Factory)
– First foreign female artiste to receive the award for World Best Chinese Female Artiste at the 8th Gold Hit Awards in Taiwan in 1997
– Best Local Artiste, Singapore Hit Awards, 1999
– Appointed by National Youth Council as Youth Ambassador in 1999 and again in 2000