Model-actress Sheila Sim does not tolerate excuses

Nu Models' Sheila Sim (above) has talents such as celebrity stylist Keith Png in her stable.
Nu Models' Sheila Sim (above) has talents such as celebrity stylist Keith Png in her stable.PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Nu Models' Sheila Sim has talents such as celebrity stylist Keith Png (above) in her stable.
Nu Models' Sheila Sim has talents such as celebrity stylist Keith Png (above) in her stable.PHOTO: ST FILE

Company: Nu Models

The boss: Sheila Sim, aka The Unlikely Bad Cop

Inspiration behind the agency's name: Nu sounds like the English word "new" to represent the new company. Nu is also the hanyu pinyin of the Chinese word for female. This refers to the female-dominated modelling industry.

Talents: The models are usually on short-term contracts and brought in for events such as Singapore Fashion Festival. The artist division has nine talents, including actress-singer- model Erika Tan, 27; celebrity stylist Keith Png, 38; and make-up artist Clarence Lee, 42.

Tan has appeared in print advertisements for Ayataka green tea and shopping mall Raffles City. Her first acting and singing role is in the music-themed drama Crescendo, airing on Channel 8.

Both Png and Lee were invited to give their expertise on the Singapore edition of Taiwanese infotainment programme Lady First. Png has participated in all three seasons (2013, 2014 and 2015), while Lee was in the first and third seasons (2013 and 2015).

Model-actress Sim, 30, has a reputation for being Miss Nice - hardworking and down-to-earth. But as a mentor, she has no qualms putting her foot down when it comes to tardy behaviour.

The creative director of Nu Models once reprimanded a trainee who turned up late for Chinese-language lessons because she was out partying the night before. Not only that, but the trainee had also lost her voice due to a bad sore throat.

Sim, who is single, says matter-of-factly: "The artists I'm grooming are generally well-behaved. Still, they are quite scared of me. I have very little tolerance for excuses. If you cannot behave like an adult, then I will have to treat you like a kid."

She explains that one may carry over such bad habits to work engagements, which may prove costly to one's career. "If you have a bad attitude, word spreads like wildfire. The client may choose not to hire you in future."

If Sim is the bad cop, Nu's co-owner Olinda Cho, 35, is the good one. The latter is a singer who took part in reality TV singing contest Singapore Idol (2004).

Sim says: "Olinda is the friend. She talks to them over coffee and hangs out with them like a friend."

While Sim may be strict, she says it is important her talents feel like they are part of a big family.

This stems from her experience. As a 17-year-old model, she once flew to Milan in Italy alone for a job and had to face unhelpful staff at the modelling agency.

The amiable Sim says: "From then on, I told myself I will look for a company that will not treat talent like a product. At Nu Models, I want everyone to feel like family. We don't want a top-down approach where the boss tells everyone what to do."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'No excuses tolerated'. Print Edition | Subscribe