Living

In the Spotlight: Cheryl Wee

She’s baby faced, but with a good head on her shoulders. As Cheryl Wee talks about business, family and her fiancé, it’s clear she wants a purpose-driven life

All she wanted to do since she was young was to sing and dance (that, and be a receptionist in her mum’s Jean Yip salon). She got into pageants, acting and singing, modelled in Jean Yip campaigns, and went to Taiwan hoping to take her entertainment career to the next level. Instead, Cheryl Wee’s life dipped to a new low. 

Made to believe she was too chubby for entertainment – “At one point, all I was eating was three cups of oatmeal, which was just 300 calories a day. I was 42kg but still thought I was fat!” – her obsession about losing weight overtook her dreams and aspirations. Story short: a family intervention later, she returned to Singapore, hit on the idea to help other women who had body image and/or weight loss issues, and started Cheryl W. 

Today, slightly a year after founding her wellness and weight management company, and having just turned 30, Cheryl faces her next milestone in life: getting hitched to her boyfriend of 12 years, Roy Fong. By all accounts, she’s getting the wedding of her dreams and is in a very good place in life. 

Even as she shares gleefully about her fiancé and July wedding, and seriously about her business dreams, her words drive home the weight she gives to her loved ones as she finds her own footing as a businesswoman and a person. (Which made us feel a little superficial, seeing how we came to wardrobe dive and chat about dream weddings.)

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Treasured gifts from the two main men in Cheryl’s life: the Bulgari watch is from her dad, and her diamond engagement ring from Roy.

Did you always know you’d join the family business?

I’ve followed my mum to work since I was nine. I’d spend all my holidays at the shop, working. I told myself, “When I grow up, I want to work in Jean Yip and I’ll be the receptionist and I’ll be the earliest here.” My mum was cutting hair while pregnant with me till the very day she was to give birth, so I think I have the heartbeat of the company inside me. My passion for the business is in my veins. I’m the oldest child and oldest grandchild in the family. I’ve seen how my mum and dad, my aunty, uncle, struggled as they grew the business. My mum never took a day off till I was about 15 years old; the only two days they rested was Chinese New Year. 

Do you see Cheryl W as your own business or a Jean Yip subsidiary? 

I’m the founder of Cheryl W. But with anything in life, we have to be accountable to somebody. Absolute power is never a good thing. It helps me, knowing that I have to answer to my mum and my dad – whether or not they know that I view them as my big boss! In a company it’s always the teamwork and knowing that there’s accountability and at the same time, support. 

Whose opinion holds the most weight with you? 

My mum, dad [Mervin Wee] and aunty Dawn [Yip] all give good advice. But naturally, my mum’s opinions hold the most weight. Cheryl W is a sister brand of Jean Yip and she’s our big boss. Secondly, I think she has a very successful business formula, so a lot of the times we turn to her for advice. She gives me quite a free hand to run my business and she’ll step in as and when. If we have conflicting views, we compromise. But if it’s not a big thing to me personally, and it might be good for business, of course we’ll give it a shot. After all, she’s the one who’s been there, done that and she’s the more experienced one. 

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“I can throw on this Balmain leather jacket with a dress or with jeans. It’s an investment piece.”

What’s your leadership style?

I find that I’m still learning and finding and improving my leadership style. I look up to different role models like my mum, my dad, even Jessica Alba who’s so inspirational in the way she runs The Honest Company and chooses her products. My mum is go-go-go, very hands-on and enthusiastic, very passionate; my dad is more of the creative sort, he uses the softer, milder approach but is very firm still. I have adopted a bit of both styles: On the outside I may look very mild and gentle, but inside, there are certain things that I’m actually quite insistent and persistent on. 

Is your fiancé involved in your business? 

Roy has always been very supportive, whether it was with my acting or now, as I’m an entrepreneur. When I started Cheryl W, he designed the whole shop, from the space planning and the feel – practically everything you see, including the rooms, fittings and my logo. He’s always saying how he wishes he can work more together, such as with product designs, and we’re finding ways to work more towards a common goal. At times when I’m jaded or tired, and feel like I’m not sure if something is working out, he would send me inspirational or motivational videos, and ideas that I can expand on in Cheryl W or things that I can do on our website, and he helps me with that. He tells me to never stop, to keep on going. 

How have you grown as a couple? 

We’ve known each other since we were 17, we’ve been together since we were 18. One of the biggest ways I’ve seen both of us grow is in terms of maturity. We have more responsibilities, and now it’s really about advancing our careers and how we can progress together. The philosophy we agree on is to be as life-giving as possible, whether to each other, to ourselves, or to others. If you criticise someone for the sake of it or to feel good, that’s not life-giving because you just bring another person down. Life-giving meaning, to compliment people not to be fake but to help them feel better for themselves. And to support one another, that’s so important to us.

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“I recently bought these Tod’s sneakers. This Hermès Herbag was a gift from my aunt Dawn. My mum and aunt are quite pragmatic and they don’t buy a lot of expensive designer things for themselves. They have their Birkins etc, but it’s likely a bag my mum bought for my aunt, or my aunt bought for my mum – and we share. They would splurge on everyone else before buying anything for themselves.

And tell us, is your wedding shaping up to be your dream wedding?

The wedding is more than a dream wedding – much, much more than expected. My dream wedding was if I were to marry the man I wanted to marry, found a gown that I’m so in love with – and I no idea what I wanted, but when I tried this, I just knew it was the one – and have my friends and family around me. But this is way more than what I hoped for. I’ve six, seven gowns for all three days, including a kua that my mum wore when she got married. I tried so many wedding gowns – Roy booked a whole list of places from Oscar de la Renta to Browns Bride in London which carried Marchesa, Jenny Peckham, Vera Wang. I didn’t believe it when the lady at Vera Wang in London told me, “When a bride tries it on and knows it’s the one, that’s the one.” But it happened – when I tried on one gown, I knew it was The One – and then the brand and price did not even cross my mind. But thank God, it was a very reasonable price.

What’s your shopping philosophy?

I feel that you have to invest in good quality for basics, for things like white shirts and jackets. I have been that sucker who bought like, 10 different white shirts from blogshops or in Korea or wherever, and there were hits or misses. So I ended up buying 20, 30 white shirts that I don’t really need because I just need that quality one. I invest in statement pieces, like my Balmain leather jacket, and in basics like your white shirts – I recently bought a nice shirt from Maje; I quite like 3.1 Philip Lim, Alexander Wang – and blue jeans or a Chanel Boy bag. I don’t like to buy a shirt that I wear two to three times and it’s disposable. I’d shop Zara for the pieces that you can mix and match. I invest in shoes: I have a good pair of Louboutin heels and flats; Prada shoes are really good.

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“I don’t buy a lot of expensive bags. But this Valentino one is my everyday work bag and I’ve used it for years.”

This article first appeared in the June/July 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (out now on Magzter and newsstands). Click here to subscribe.

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