Sheila Sim is a breath of fresh air. As we catch up over breakfast at a café at Martin Road, the clean-faced 32-year-old looks far from the sexy woman we shot just a few days earlier for our cover. Then, she showed us why she deserves her Singapore supermodel status. The moment she stepped out in that red velvet Frederick Lee gown, it seemed as if a spotlight had come on, and she effortlessly worked the camera. We could hardly get a bad shot out of her.
She arrives for breakfast looking like a fresh-faced teenager. Having rushed from running errands for her father and then her granny, she’s late. But you forgive her because you know this is a girl who is filial. She’s your girl next door. But she’s also the one with the cheekbones, the clear skin, and long limbs… the largely expat crowd around us wonder who she is.
Many Singaporeans would know Sheila. She’s graced countless magazine covers and advertising campaigns (Poh Heng Jewllery and SKII being just a few) and she’s now developing her career as an actress. Her first TV role was as the lead in the 2013 Mandarin TV series I’m In Charge, alongside actor Elvin Ng. “That’s when I fell in love with acting. Elvin was so nurturing and ready to teach, and made my first TV gig such an enjoyable one. There’s been no turning back since!”
Sheila’s now filming Hero, which will be released in December, and is about characters in the charming old Dakota Crescent area. “I’m playing a China girl who has a very hard life — she comes to Singapore full of life and positivity… but a series of events leaves her jaded.”
In real life though, Sheila is far from jaded. You can tell she has a zeal for life and for living and learning. When she returned from Hong Kong as a 21-year-old after four years of modelling there, the first thing she did was to take up a diploma course in advertising and marketing. “In my period of modelling, I was always curious to know what was happening behind the campaigns I was modelling for. I wanted to learn more so that I could do what I do as a model better.” The course also ultimately prepared her for her own business; Sheila co-founded and runs modelling agency Nu with three other partners.
I tell her that we chose her to be our cover girl because we wanted a Singapore face for our August issue, to celebrate National Day. “I’m really so proud to do this. I love Singapore. Truth be told, there isn’t any other place I’d rather be. When I was in Hong Kong modelling, all I wanted was to be home. We are in a safe place. As a I grow older and travel more, I really appreciate what we have. We sometimes forget we are just 51 years old. I love that there’s still a kampung spirit here. And we’re so uniquely multi-racial.
“We were lucky to have Lee Kuan Yew for ourselves. He fought so hard for us so we can now shout out loud with pride. Every National Day, I’ll have a sentimental Instagram post about what I feel for this nation, and last year, it was a heavy-hearted one as we’d just lost LKY.”
Seeing she’s quite the patriot, I wonder if Sheila is the sort who books a hotel room specially to view the National Day fireworks. Before I can ask her that, she laughs and says, “For years I have been watching the fireworks at the surrounding hotels. This girlfriend of mine does this annually! We’d get together and have a potluck and just enjoy the view.”
But this year will be different. The model-actress, who names One People, One Nation, as her favourite NDP song, says she will get to live out one of her dreams of being able to catch the parade live. “My friend managed to get tickets and asked if I wanted to go along. It’s just a rehearsal but I am so excited! I can imagine how emotional and overwhelmed with patriotism and pride I’d be.
Watch what went on during the photoshoot below:
Text: Barbara Koh
Photos: Joel Low