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Olinda on Track

Hear the outspoken and original singer’s weight loss success story

_DSC0278_1“I always knew I wanted to sing,” declares Olinda. “It was always in my blood. You know, I used to be a ‘toilet singer’!” She breaks into peals of hearty laughter.

The determined young star has leaped from stage to progressively bigger stage. She first started singing as a child, appropriating her parents’ karaoke set over their insistence that she would spoil the microphone – “I wasn’t the most guai (obedient) kid,” she readily admits. At the tender age of eight, she belted it out in front of total strangers while on a family holiday in Hong Kong. “Yeah, I wasn’t a shy kid at all!” she guffaws.

Olinda signed herself up for the Fame Awards at 15. “My parents wanted me to go into business,” she says conspiratorially. “But I did what I wanted. I was quite ‘airy fairy’ then!”

Olinda laughs a lot, and her laughter is infectious. Poking fun at herself comes naturally. But there was a time when it wasn’t so fun to have the joke on her. The Olinda of old had to put up with frequent comments about her size, even as she shot to fame on the first season of Singapore Idol, placing third in the nation-wide singing competition.

Her subsequent slimming endorsement saw her slim down dramatically, and Olinda has kept the weight at bay for more than ten years. Her success story continues with her cutting her own album, Rewind, in 2007. Fast forward to 2015: Olinda is now training and mentoring young talents with her artiste management company Nu Management. Pretty perfect for someone with singing “in her blood”.

Ezyhealth: Tell us about your weight issues when you were younger.

Olinda: I used to be bigger in my younger days. At my heaviest, I weighed 90 kg. Actually, by the time I appeared on television, I’d already lost a fair bit of weight. So it was sad to hear people call me fat when I was on Singapore Idol. Besides, it’s a singing competition – you should be hearing me, not just seeing me.

Ezyhealth: Well, you’ve lost a lot of weight since then! What motivated you to slim down?

Olinda: I was very happy being a ‘fatty’ my whole life. I just thought, I want to walk into any shop and be able to pick out anything to wear. During Singapore Idol, the outfits were a problem. I had trouble finding clothes that fit me. When 8 Days asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said I wanted a slimming endorsement – and Body Perfect approached me after that!

Ezyhealth: People sometimes have pre-conceived ideas about someone just because he or she is overweight. You’ve experienced that too. How did you deal with that?

Olinda: People think you’re slow and stupid if you’re fat. They assume you can’t run. You’re frequently the butt of jokes.

There are three kinds of fat people: There’s the Angry Fat, who will whack you first before you say anything. There’s the Sad or ‘Emo’ Fat, who always looks down and is very quiet. This type is usually very ‘damaged’. The Funny Fat will poke fun at themselves before you have a chance to say anything. I chose to be the Funny Fat – make them laugh before they laugh at me! I guess it was my defence mechanism.

There’s a fourth type: The Happy Fat. They’re very rare though. They don’t care what other people think. Their attitude’s like, “I’m fat, so what?” It’s very attractive, that kind of confidence. It comes from within.

Ezyhealth: Has life changed for you since you slimmed down? Do you feel or behave any differently?

Olinda: People come up to me sometimes and say, “Oh my God, you look like Olinda Cho! You know, that very fat girl from Singapore Idol?” I just say, “Uh huh…”

I feel the same, but I would say life is easier. I can be more flexible with my clothing options in photoshoots. I think I have the same amount of confidence, though.

At the end of the day, I did it for myself. I don’t think the way I look makes people treat me differently. Personality is more important. It’s charisma that draws people in. Talk to me for two minutes. I guarantee if you like it, you’ll come back for more. It can’t be all about looks. It’s very boring just looking at the same ‘vase’ every day, no matter how pretty.

Ezyhealth: You used to be a bit of a tomboy. How would you describe yourself now?

Olinda: Yeah, I used to be quite chor lor (crude) and very direct or straight to the point. I think I’m still the same old me though. Recently someone called me “sassy”. I thought he said “sexy” and my eyes almost popped out of my head! Haha… Okay, maybe I’m sexy. I think it doesn’t really matter so much how you behave. Those who love you will love you anyway.

Ezyhealth: You’ve done a great job keeping the weight off. How do you stay in shape these days?

Olinda: I try to go to the gym often. I’ve been doing muay thai for a little while. It’s great –

when you’re angry you can punch it out. I go to an all-girls gym. You can tell who’s PMS-ing. They’re the ones who are black-faced and punch very hard!

Mostly I run at the gym. I also like to take long walks from my home in Katong to Marina Barrage. I walk and chat with my cousin. There’s no ‘goal’, we just do it! It’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

If I’m hungry, I’ll eat. I eat when I want to but I don’t go crazy. Sometimes people get a little extreme. Just know what the healthy range is and aim for that. Eat and be happy.

Losing weight is easy, maintaining it is hard! But I think anything you want to do, do it for yourself. Don’t do it because your boyfriend tells you you’re fat or because people laugh at you. It’s like when someone tells you to do your homework, you won’t want to do it. But when you want to get it over with so you can go and play, you will get it done really fast!

Ezyhealth: What are your indulgences?

Olinda: Keropok! I really like anything that’s crunchy. I think, if you want to eat it, just eat it. But just eat one piece. If you tell yourself you’re never going to eat keropok you’ll just end up buying three packets the next time you see it!

Ezyhealth: What advice do you have for young women who are unhappy with the way they look?

Olinda: Find out why. Don’t do things to yourself without knowing why you’re unhappy in the first place. It could be other people giving you negative responses. You have to realise, you can’t control what other people say. Maybe one or two people, but what about the rest of the world? How many more people will have negative comments? So maybe what you have to work on is yourself and your self-esteem.

Ezyhealth: You mentor young talents. Please tell us more about that.

Olinda: I give them vocal training, but a large part of my mentoring is emotional and psychological. To tap into their emotions I have to first understand where they’re coming from. Five different people will sing the same song in five different ways. So I always ask, where is it coming from? I always need to know the reason – that’s my thing. Once I know where the emotion is coming from, I’ll know how to deal with it.

Ezyhealth: What are your plans for the year ahead?

Olinda: I’ve working on some YouTube videos with my girls, Rena Lee and Erika Tan. We’re very close, like a family. The videos will be out pretty soon, so watch out for them!

For the Record…

a. Name one thing that never fails to make you smile.

Either one of my parents’ faces.

b. Fame or fortune: if you could have only one, which would you choose?

Of course, money! Who cares about the fame?

c. If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what would you say to her?

Don’t eat so much! But always remember to be yourself. If I had followed this advice earlier, I would have had more of a childhood!

Olinda Cho is an artiste with Nu Management.

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by Melanie Sim
Posted by ezyhealth on Mar 5 2015. 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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