Singer Joi Chua ready to stand up for herself

Home-grown singer Joi Chua has launched a new album, I Am Me.
Home-grown singer Joi Chua has launched a new album, I Am Me.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Has home-grown singer Joi Chua been swept up by the female empowerment fervour?

She turns into an advocate of self-defence classes for women during a media session to promote her latest album, I Am Me, on Thursday.

"Even if you have a doting husband, if he is not by your side in times of danger, he won't be able to protect you," says Chua, 38, who is married.

Little is known about her husband, except that he is an optometrist by training and works in a multinational company.

Chua adds: "I signed up for a one-day self-defence class four years ago. I learnt to protect myself, such as how to escape a chokehold, and got a better understanding of the criminal mind."

The topic of self-defence crops up after she relates that three teenagers had tailed her at an Osaka hotel last year. She managed to give them the slip.

The singer's spunk is apparent from the moment she steps into the sprawling suite at One Farrer Hotel to meet the press.

She exudes confidence in a sheer black blouse over ripped jeans - a far cry from the ethereal goddess image from her early days singing ballads such as Watching The Sunrise With Me (2004) and Blessed To Have You Love Me (2007).

She says: "People think of Joi Chua as a quiet girl-next-door. They imagine that I float instead of walk. I don't want to wear floaty skirts, I want to wear pants."

Her physical appearance is in line with her album's theme, which centres on her evolution into a modern independent woman.

She sings of standing up for herself in the dynamic mid-tempo title track, whose melody she co-wrote with Singapore songwriter Tat Tong.

Change is only natural for Chua, who has experienced many milestones over the last decade. She got married in 2010, set up a business in 2011 and made her acting debut in local movie 3688 in 2015, playing a parking attendant who dreams of becoming a singer like her idol, the late Taiwanese songbird Fong Fei-fei.

Running her Holland Village optical shop, Eyecare People, in particular, has toughened her up, she says.

"As an artist, you are very well- protected, the company takes care of a lot of things for you. You don't really have to do a lot, except sing. As a business owner, I had to do everything from scratch."

She marked another milestone in 2015 by signing on with Chinese agency C.L Entertainment Group and counts Hong Kong singer Alex To and Mandopop veteran Dave Wang Chieh as labelmates.

Last year, she released an EP Joi+ and a single, Self Portrait. She also judged a Chinese talent reality show, Jiu Yao Ni Zui Hong, which pits Internet personalities against one another.

With so much going on in her career, one wonders when she will move on to the next chapter of her personal life and welcome a baby.

In reply, she sings "wa meng ti", the title of the popular Hokkien song which means "I ask the heavens".

She adds: "I'm not against becoming a mother, nor have I set a timeline for myself to have a child. I'll let nature take its course. Even without a kid, I'll carry on living my life happily."

•I Am Me is available on digital platforms such as iTunes, KKBox and Spotify.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2017, with the headline 'Singer Joi Chua ready to stand up for herself'. Print Edition | Subscribe