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Coming Full Circle

TV and radio host Simone Heng left a luxurious career in Dubai to get her health priorities straight

simone hengAlmost a decade ago, Simone Heng, a Singapore-born Australian TV and radio host, left her hometown in Australia to work in the entertainment industry in Singapore for four years, and eventually in Dubai for five years. Adventurous and full of life, Simone fit right in with the expat lifestyles in both countries.

She was a host on HBO Asia for two years and a successful radio host on Singapore’s Power 98FM up until 2008. She was hired by Richard Branson’s Virgin Radio International to be a presenter on 104.4 Virgin Radio Dubai. Apart from hosting the highest-rating English radio show, Simone is also an established TV personality, hosting the Dubai 101 on Dubai One TV for two seasons. She also hosted other shows like the CNN International travel show, CNN Go; became an endorser for Ponds, BlackBerry, and now Dove; and even managed to single-handedly make her DIY (do-it-yourself) fashion blog practically a household name.

Like any hardworking and successful expat, Simone’s life was in the fast lane – the way she always thought she wanted it to be. Until fate intervened, that is. In June last year, her mother suffered a terrible stroke which left her wheelchair-bound. Not only did the distressing incident make Simone realise the importance of family, it served as a wake-up call for her – to slow down a little and to make time for things that matter.

Simone – dubbed as the Ryan Seacrest of Dubai – left her luxurious career in the Middle East and moved back to Australia, not only to be near her mum in Perth, but to get her priorities straight. At 29, the lovely TV host and FLY Entertainment artiste has come full circle.

Ezyhealth: Welcome back to Singapore! How does it feel to be back after being away for years?

Simone: Thank you so much for having me on my first ever Singapore magazine cover!

It’s quite surreal being back in the city of my birth. I have lived in four different cities before the age of 30. Whenever I go back to a city I have lived in, it’s a very strange sensation. Things are familiar but at the same time foreign. You are also in a bit of a time warp because you remember the cityscape in a certain way. I am sometimes bewildered that so much has changed in so little time in Singapore, but Dubai was the same way.

Ezyhealth: What are the best life lessons you’ve learned after living in Dubai for five years?

Simone: I became a business woman in Dubai. I learned to say no and to raise my prices high. It was in Dubai that I really came of age, and most of my career highlights have been there.

Ezyhealth: Was it hard starting up your career in the Arab world? Why do you think you made it there?

Simone: I think the best thing about the Arab world was that it was an emerging market. When I arrived, other presenters were not marketing themselves as celebrities. I took what I learnt in Singapore and applied it there. I hustled for everything. I got a TV show on the top English language network within eight weeks of my arrival and joining Branson’s Virgin Radio. Within 12 weeks, I had hired a publicist to get me press. I did everything on my own, and you can do that in a new media market if you’re a strategic and motivated person. If you’re an artiste who needs more support and others to instigate for you, it’s probably not the best market to go to.

I also think with any emerging market comes a lack of saturation. In 2008, I was most certainly the only Eurasian girl working frontline in the media. For many Arabs, I was a very new entity. They couldn’t really identify where I was from and I had a very Western vernacular. I used these things to my advantage.

editedEzyhealth: You gave up a very successful career in Dubai not just to be closer to your family, but also to get a lifestyle change. Please tell us more about this.

Simone: In June 2013, my mother suffered a horrific stroke. She is now in a wheelchair and lives in a nursing home near my new base in Perth. The left side of her body is paralysed, and she will never be able to live independently again. This stroke, which is common in Asians (my mother is a Eurasian from Singapore), was brought on by high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

My mother was so highly strung that even day-to-day chores would fill her with anxiety and she would lose sleep. Towards the last year of my time in Dubai, I had become the same. I was so in demand and managing everything on my own that I would barely sleep. I wasn’t eating healthy, and maintaining the daily exercise I craved became harder and harder. When Mum had the stroke in June and I saw her in the hospital, it was heartbreaking. I didn’t want to end up that way, the same as my Auntie (my mum’s sister) and my Grandmother – all three of them in wheelchairs before 70. It wasn’t what I wanted out of life, and it changed my priorities in an instant.

Ezyhealth: Please tell us about your personal fitness challenge called ‘nursing home run’ and the story behind it.

Simone: Every day, I wake up and think to myself ‘Today I will fight my genetics’. I truly use this in my mind when I am pushing through those uphill runs to visit my mum in her nursing home. I would get there after a 4km run, just as she is having breakfast. I would do her hair and makeup for the day. Then I would run back home, another 4km. It’s almost the same way as some people may go to church in the morning. It’s become a ritual.

edited 536219_10153353725925113_637309309_nEzyhealth: What other lifestyle changes have you embraced so far?

Simone: I am sleeping so well. I can’t even believe it’s me some mornings when I look in the mirror. I look so rested. My skin is so plump! I used to have to take a Panadol at night and wear airtight ear plugs and an eye mask to sleep in Dubai, as I was such a light sleeper and so full of anxiety. Now I sleep through anything. It’s wonderful. I am also flying every four weeks to either Dubai or Singapore, so I try to exercise regularly in between trips and eat better when I am travelling.

Ezyhealth: Aside from hosting 104.4 Virgin Radio Dubai and doing other shows on the side, like hosting CNN Go, you are also an acclaimed DIY guru in Dubai. When did this passion for DIY start, and please tell us about your well-known DIY website,

Simone: I was always passionate about the visual arts. I always knew I would go into the performing or visual arts for a career. When I finished doing my second season of Dubai 101 in 2010, I started painting again. Painting then turned into making my own accessories. I think people who are visually artistic always find a way for those creative things to seep out. I lost my visual engagement from TV and it had to come out another way. Being on the radio was not enough to engage my visual needs.

The blog turned into an online TV series on From there, huge brands like GAP, Monster Headphones, and Homes R Us began commissioning me to combine my skills as a host and my love of DIY by heading workshops with their VIP customers. It has all happened so organically, and I have been very blessed that God gave me multiple strings in my bow – all of which make me really happy.

Ezyhealth: You’ve just started doing yoga. How do you like it so far?

Simone: I love yoga. I am by no means an expert, but it’s great for highly strung people. I had such bad stress knots in my neck at one point. I was spending so much cash on massages to get them out, until someone told me to try yoga to get them out in a more sustainable way. It worked so well! Afterwards, my body always feels so nimble. I have a DVD that I take with me while travelling so I can exercise with my laptop.

Ezyhealth: What can we expect from you this year? Any upcoming projects we can watch out for?

Simone: I am very proud to have already snagged my first on-air gig at Mix 94.5 in Perth. I am just casual and fill in announcing at the moment, but I am so flattered that after being away for a decade, Australia’s most competitive radio brand, Southern Cross Austereo, would like me enough to get me on air almost immediately. Australian listeners are warm and very grateful, and radio is still a very relevant medium in Oz. I hope to work in the Eastern States when my mother’s condition becomes more stable.

I am also still the Dove hair ambassador for the Arabian Gulf, so I will be flying to Dubai shortly for the launch of our billboards and campaign to the press, which is very exciting. I plan on expanding my reach back into Southeast Asia and would love to do a travel show. In fact, I am excited about doing more TV in general. I really miss it! will also be launching an store to sell its products, which is very exciting, too. A mobile video provider has just approached me to create DIY tutorial content for them. This is really the way ‘TV’ and media is going. This excites me greatly, too!

by Maripet L. Poso
Posted by ezyhealth on Apr 8 2014. Filed under Cover Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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