Photos: Dion Tang
Video: Tan Shi Qi, Kimberly Tay
“It was never planned,” says Fiona Xie of her decision to return to showbiz at the media session, held at styleXstyle Vibes cafe today, for her new Channel 5 drama, Left Behind.
Seven years ago, the 34-year-old backed out of the Channel 8 drama, Together at the last minute, and announced her decision to retire from the acting world.
Seven years later, Fiona is back, just as suddenly as before. Throughout the course of the media session and 1-on-1 interview after that, the actress repeats a phrase several times, “I always follow my heart,” a phrase that—we think—seems to hint at the reasons behind her decisions.
Now, in her first official meet-the-media session since her abrupt departure from Singapore seven years ago, Fiona bares all – from the reasons behind her hiatus, how she has changed, to everything in between.
1. Why she left
“I never really got to live life,” Fiona says. “So I took time away to do what I wanted to do and meet amazing people.”
But that’s not everything. Later, in our interview session with the bubbly actress, she revealed that one of the reasons why she left in the first place, was because of a failed relationship.
They were together for less than five years, but Fiona had “totally shut down” after the breakup, resulting in her abrupt departure.
“Sometimes, I look back and wonder about the things that I once let go of,” she mused. “If I had not let go at that time, I might not have been able to experience what I have experienced now.”
Having loved and lost, is she ready to welcome someone new in her life now? We guess the answer is no because the actress has her hands full learning how to love herself – before loving others.
“It took me a long time to grow into the woman I am,” she honestly replied, “Learning to love myself, this might sound very contrived, but you cannot be someone else’s if you’re not your own.”
2. Why she’s back
Fiona, who is single—but unavailable—right now, also revealed that she came back because the character and storyline of Left Behind truly touched her, and she “agreed [to do the role] without even seeing the script.”
But what of the “family commitments” she had talked about at first? Fiona, who started tearing up by then, revealed that her 23-year-old younger cousin was sick and in the hospital, and that she had returned because of him.
“I dedicate the show to him [my cousin], I dedicate everything,” she said, as tears welled up.
“The last time I was back, it was because of my grandma, who had lung cancer. I was engaged back then, but I couldn’t go ahead with it after that. I was so broken about everything,” she said.
3. What she’s up to next
Of course, everyone’s curious about Fiona’s future plans, but the 34-year-old remained coy about it, and would only reveal that she would be going to Japan for a holiday with her family after this.
Fiona also stressed that everything was still in the works, and that she has not signed any contract, though she has been approached before. “A lot of people have emailed me offering their interest and some have even sought for my contact details from my friends,” she let on.
So, can we expect to see her on Channel 8 anytime soon?
In her reply, the actress self-deprecatingly quipped that it has been “a long time since I spoke in Mandarin” but did not refute or reveal her plans to do a Channel 8 drama in future, though she did say that she’ll “follow my heart” regarding this matter.
4. From a Princess to a senior
Once hailed as part of the Seven Princesses of Caldecott, Fiona professes to feel no pressure from any of the upcoming young talents in the industry, as she “doesn’t see them as competition”
“I’ve been there, done that, and experienced what they’re going through now. Finally, I can be their ‘older sister', to reassure and encourage them, just like how others (such as Jacelyn Tay and Huang Biren) have done for me before.”
When her legendary role as a swimmer in The Champion – and the infamous scene of her running down Orchard road in a teeny-weeny two-piece was brought up, she giggled in reply, “No bikinis, leave it to the young ones!”
5. Of businesses and failures
After she left showbiz, Fiona dabbled in art, photography and fashion. At the press conference, she let slip that her fashion business in Shanghai, China did not go too smoothly.
The 34-year-old thanked her partner and her boss for their care, and described the city as “tough”, revealing that she had a hard time figuring out who to trust there.
“[The business] wasn’t very successful in Shanghai, but I’ve learnt a lot, and they [her partner and boss] encouraged me as well.”
6. Has she gone under the knife?
Finally, Fiona addressed the rumours that have abounded since her return to our local screens was announced – her “changed” face.
“I’ve done Botox, non-surgical procedures,” she confessed.
However, Fiona asserted that she had not gone under the knife at all.
“If I wanted to, I would have gone to South Korea for the full works. Would I still look like this?” she chortled in disbelief.
Left Behind premieres on Channel 5, August 22, 10pm.