In public, Kim Lim is always sparkling and stylish, with a cluster of Cartier Love and Juste un Clou bracelets on her arm.
Asked if they have a special meaning, she says with a smile: “I usually go out without much jewellery, I just like to stack different bracelets.”
But beyond being accessories, the bracelets are also a cover.
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When she removes them, her wrist is encircled with scars. They are old wounds, each scar a record of her little-known past.
At the lowest point of her life, she says she tried to do “stupid things”, without elaborating further.
It is a past she rarely talks about. She says she decided to open up because many young girls these days battle depression and she hopes they will not take the same self-destructive path.
“The Darkest Period Of My Life”
The 27-year-old heiress is the daughter of Singaporean business magnate Peter Lim. One of Singapore’s most successful stockbrokers, he switched to being a full-time investor in 1996. In the 2018 Forbes list of Singapore’s richest people, he ranked 12th with a net worth of $2.4 billion. His companies and commercial interests include Thomson Medical Group, Valencia CF, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo’s portrait rights and Hotel Football, which is next door to Manchester United’s Old Trafford football stadium.
When she was four years old, her parents parted ways. It was one of the longest divorce cases in Singapore, lasting more than seven years.
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Recalling that time, Kim Lim’s eyes well up with tears. She says: “That’s the darkest period of my life. I remember when I was in primary school, my brother and I would shuttle between our parents every two to three days.”
After primary school, her parents sent her to boarding school in England to make her more independent. She spent four years at Queenswood School. She returned at age 16 and attended Anglo Chinese School (Independent), Hwa Chong International School and the Singapore Institute of Management.
Many would think that as a rich man’s daughter, she is able to have everything her heart desires and enjoy a life without worries. But Lim disagrees.
She says: “I’ve never felt I was different from other children. My father is very strict with me. We live a simple life, such as going to the hawker centre to eat his favourite mee siam. As a kid, I didn’t have many luxuries. He always told me that whatever I want, I have to get it myself.”
This is advice that she has taken to heart, at least in her love life. When it comes to love, she believes in destiny, love at first sight and being a go-getter.
Lim laughs like a little girl as she says: “I met my husband in a temple in Thailand, I guess that’s destiny.” The devout Buddhist regularly visits Thai temples and believes in fate.
“I was drawn to his tall frame and his ‘bad boy’ vibe. I later found out he was my assistant’s friend. We dated for half a year and, in a flash, we had registered our marriage.”
Continuing with a laugh, she adds: “Our personalities are completely different. He’s very low-key. He’s older than me by one year, but is completely uninterested in social media. Before we met, he didn’t even have an Instagram account. He set one up later just so he could follow me on social media.
“When it comes to how we deal with things, I’m more impulsive, he’s more calm and rational. Maybe it’s because we’re different that we’re attracted to each other. I feel grounded when I’m with him.”
This is the first time she has shared her love story with the media.
In 2016, she was rumoured to be dating Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho’s son Mario Ho. Both shared photos of themselves exchanging rings and kissing in Paris on their social media accounts. It was widely reported by the press.
Asked about it now, she says: “We were together for half a year. But because we lived in different cities, it was hard to maintain a long-distance relationship. Over time, we drifted apart.”
There were also rumours of a romantic relationship with K-pop boyband BigBang’s Seungri.
She dismisses it with a laugh: “We’ve always been good friends.”
Interestingly, while her romances were widely talked about, few knew about her marriage registration. The ceremony was very simple, with only family members by her side.
She says: “Once you’ve found the right person, why wait?”
As for the wedding ceremony, she says it keeps getting delayed. It was planned for March 23 last year and invitations had been sent out, but midway, she got pregnant.
After her delivery, she planned to hold a “wedding of the century” at the end of 2018, but that got derailed again as she “had not attained her ideal figure”.
Lim is the spokesman for Cambridge Therapeutics slimming salon and apparently goes there for at least three sessions a week to achieve her “ideal wedding figure”.
“Motherhood Changed Me”
Now that she has a son, Kyden, her life has undergone a 180-degree change.
Previously, she would pack her bags and jet off wherever she fancied. Now, she puts him first before her trips. On this 10-day-plus Europe trip, she would often FaceTime the one-year-old to see what he was up to on the other side of the world.
Lim also invited us to her father’s holiday home in Manchester, letting us spend 48 hours with her there.
Her football-loving father’s holiday home is on the sixth floor of Hotel Football. Manchester United is one of his favourite teams and he often visits Manchester to watch games and has his own private room at Old Trafford.
A few years ago, he and football players Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs invested in the hotel, which was officially opened in 2015. On the sixth floor, there is a row of rooms without numbers that is Peter Lim’s private suite – and also home to Kim Lim and her younger brother in Manchester. He chose to have his suite on the sixth rather than top floor because the windows look out directly to the Manchester United logo, a dream view for a super football fan.
The suite has an open kitchen, living room and bedroom, with floor-to-ceiling views of the neighbouring stadium. On the top floor of the hotel is an indoor football field with a 360-degree view of Manchester.
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After becoming a mother, Kim Lim says she has started doing charity work for kids.
Recently, she took more than 100 underprivileged children to The Great Moscow Circus, hoping to bring more smiles into their lives. She also went to Mongolia before the arrival of winter to deliver gers (Mongolian yurts) to homeless children there, hoping to provide some shelter from the cold.
She says: “With a grandmother, father, husband and son who love me, everything is perfect. I don’t really need anything else.”
As we travelled to different European cities for the photoshoot with Kim Lim, she took on the role of a big sister, always giving suggestions of the best places to eat.
This is why, when we were in London, we ended up in the city’s hottest restaurant, Novikov, as well as her family’s favourite, Orient London. And in Manchester, she made reservations at Menagerie, a restaurant popular with the city’s footballers, well before our plane touched down.
Lim says her father is the one who taught her to be hospitable and gracious. “As a child, whenever I went out with my dad and his friends, I would see that he treats them with so much sincere hospitality. I think sharing things that I like with my friends is so much more fun than enjoying these things on my own.”
On Friends And Social Media
Of course, she is aware that there are those who befriend her only for networking purposes or even to take advantage of her.
But she says: “If I am being taken advantage of, to a certain extent, I really do not mind.” She insists there is no need to be calculative over many little things in life.
Once, when she found out that a trusted friend had been stealing money from her wallet, she stopped hanging out with the friend and never asked about the money. She saw it as having paid “school fees” to learn the truth about a person.
Lim is an influencer with 238,000 followers on Instagram, so I ask her if she has that many friends in real life.
She says with a laugh that the case is entirely opposite. There are not more than five friends whom she can really talk to or who will help her in an emergency.
She adds: “You have a lot of fake ‘friends’ on social media. They will like your photos or sometimes leave comments, but as soon as a prettier or fresher face appears, they will have an immediate change of heart and move the focus onto someone else. This is reality.”
While she was pregnant, she disappeared for nearly nine months on social media. She says: “Pregnancy is a very private matter – I wanted to share this experience only with my family and my husband and not let people on social media comment about it.”
During her disappearance, she lost many followers – not that she minds. All she wanted to do at the time was take care of her baby and enjoy the pregnancy process with her husband.
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Lim also sets boundaries for herself. She never posts photos of her home or her kid’s face. She explains: “That is for safety concerns.”
Reportedly, in the 2014 case where the elderly mother of Sheng Siong supermarket boss Lim Hock Chee was kidnapped, the defendant revealed that his first choice had been Lim and her younger brother. This is why when it comes to sharing details of her life, she has always chosen to be more conservative.
Up till now, she has never shared photos of her one-year-old son Kyden’s face on social media. Even when she held the 99-day celebration for her son at Ritz Carlton, she made a note on the invitation card for guests to refrain from sharing photos of him on social media.
She says: “I don’t want him to be moulded into an influencer baby when he is still so young, it would be too unfair to him. If he wishes to be an influencer when he grows up, then I will encourage him, because that would be his own decision.”
Many fashion, beauty and jewellery brands promote their products through her social media platforms, although she insists on working only with brands she likes.
She also hopes to use her social media influence for good and encourage more young people to lend a helping hand to the elderly, children and stray cats and dogs.
Since most of her income comes from being an influencer, I ask if she is worried about the day when social media is no longer trendy and what her plans would be if the influencer business is over.
It turns out that she has seen this coming for a long time.
She says: “I have given myself a deadline – I will quit this industry after I’m 30, so I can focus on working with my brother to help our father manage his businesses. After all, that is more practical. So during this time, I will work hard to fight for my own career and hopefully make a name for myself.”
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Text: Sylvester Ng, Icon Magazine / Additional reporting: Natalya Molok