The singer and actress who starred in the film Forever and 881 The Musical talks to Kurt Ganapathy about growing up, karaoke and why you should never call her “Joanne.”

Growing up, I was cheeky, chatty and obnoxious with friends, and well-behaved and demure in front of adults I didn’t know well. Yes, I appreciated the merits of duplicity quite early in life!

I once looked at the light switch on the wall, and truly, truly believed that I would never live to grow up and reach it. I must have been at most six years old. That must have been my first semblance of existential angst.

My father loves to sing. He was always belting out Pavarotti or Domingo around the house and in the car; we would be listening to classical arias. I started to mimic him and when the karaoke craze of the 80s hit Singapore; I followed him to karaoke sessions.

When I was six my mother enrolled me in my first children’s karaoke competition (which I won!). Since then I’ve never left the stage.

I’m not a person who likes routines! My days rarely follow any pattern; whatever urgently requires my attention—memorizing a script, contacting musicians for a gig, warming up before a show—gets done first!

My pet peeve is being called Joanne. My name is Joanna, and Jo is an abbreviation of that. But Joanne? That’s just someone else’s name altogether!

I’ve been told the same thing by a few people—that anxiety inhibits performance (it’s true in bed and true on stage), and that anxiety stems from the fear of failure. I was not a particularly disciplined or motivated child, but I was conditioned to believe that failure was permanently debilitating, so that fear propelled me to study harder.

To enjoy and embrace failure is something that I’m only just learning to do in recent years!

A lot of people give me advice, and I am always respectful of it, even though in actuality I accept very little. I believe advice always comes from good intentions. If it’s “bad,” it’s probably because it was given to the wrong person at the wrong time, and it’s my responsibility to be reflexive and discerning.

I can spend hours trawling the Internet for cult label items on discount.

I believe that there are no absolute moral rights or wrongs—only that which is normative or deviant to social expectations. Even murder or rape can be considered a triumph in certain socio-historical contexts. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have a personal moral value system, or that I condone these acts. It simply means that we cannot claim that any act or lifestyle is in itself right or wrong. As members of society we need to accept the responsibility that we have chosen collectively to define it as such.

Don’t do today what can wait till tomorrow! This is a play on an old aphorism. I’m not promoting irresponsibility! It’s just my way of expressing carpe diem. I think Asians have a deep sense of duty, but often we forget that it really is just work and much of that is mundane and not terribly time sensitive.

If tomorrow never comes, I’d be glad that I put off my chores, and spent today with my loved ones or doing something I enjoy.