updated 2 Aug 2014, 21:07
Login password or
Tue, Sep 27, 2011
The New Paper
Email Print Decrease text size Increase text size
Maia Lee: "Keep away from my babies"
by Maureen Koh

Maia Lee is cleaning up and trying to turn her life around.

The road ahead isn't easy but the former Singapore Idol finalist is determined to push on. And while she is not about to wax lyrical about her change of heart, it's clear that the young woman has much at stake.

It took Lee a whole week to finally agree to this interview - which was originally meant to start off as a catch-up on her tattoo removal.

Lee, 28, tells The New Paper on Sunday: "Have tattoos, they (some people) make such a hooha. Remove them, they (try to) dig out other stuff to pick on me."

She is weary. And wary.

"Actually, all these years, there were times I had thought, how nice it would have been if I wasn't in showbiz," she says.

"Yet on the other hand, I used to love music."

Lee's fears aren't totally unfounded. When news broke in February that she intended to remove the 30 tattoos on her body, she became "a public enemy in the tattoo community".

Attention-seeker and traitor. Those were some of the names hurled at her.

Despite Lee's rock chick image and her apparent who-cares front, it is clear that her family means the world to her.

First impressions, unfortunately, last. And that has set her thinking "that even if there is something more positive written about me", she "still runs the risk of being judged negatively".

Lee frets over how her father's feelings were hurt when she made it to the front page of the Chinese evening newspapers.

She says: "Especially when words such as 'la ma' (hot mum) are used. I can't stand having my dad being put through that, seeing people read the news in front of him.

"Dad says nothing, but I'm sure it affects him."

The single mum is also fiercely protective of her young children - son Tyrese is nine and daughter Julka is three. That they have different fathers has also been chronicled.

She says: "I could live and put up with the sniggers, the stares, the sarcasm hurled directly at me, but keep away from my babies.

"The reality is, we, too, want normal lives like everyone else."

And that means setting records straight and moving towards what she believes is a new path for her family.

This includes removing her tattoos - a process that is expected to take two to three years before the last one goes.

Lee had another reason to remove her tattoos, especially one on her right arm and another on her back, which are images of Thai Buddhist temples.

She converted to Christianity in 2008 after a group of Christian friends supported her through her second pregnancy and is now a member of the New Creation Church.

To keep her going - and to put food on the table - Lee has turned her love for fashion design into a new venture: Poppykins Boutique, an online kids clothes business she runs with a friend.

While her friend manages the Facebook page and the logistics of taking orders, Lee focuses on making the babydoll dresses for all kinds of occasions like pageants and theme parties, as well as casual outfits and complementary accessories.

She designs, sources fabric and materials, and even sews and handcrafts the products.

To cut costs, she doubles as stylist and photographer to produce the catalogues.

At a recent photography session, Lee was all professional as she cajoled her little model, Ashley Tay, 21/2 years old, to pose for the camera.

Lee reckons it would take some time before the business really takes off. She is now meeting orders from friends and their friends.

"It's a wonderful feeling to have my talent appreciated in another way."

Lee is also taking on a freelance job as a stylist with Zuriat Kau Ilhamku, a bi-monthly Malay parenting magazine.

And from this Wednesday to Oct 31, she can be seen in Fairytales, which is being screened at Sinema Old School.

Lee plays a school teacher, alongside others like Norleena Salim and Chen Shucheng, in the heartrending drama about three secondary school students who make wrong life choices.

Tattoo removal so painful she cried

It has been five months since Maia Lee started the painful process of removing her tattoos.

The number of tattoos involved and the amount of colours used add to the complexity.

Black tattoos, the easiest to remove, take between six and 15 sessions, while the green-yellow ink needs more time.

The process involves laser treatment, which works by producing short pulses of intense light that pass through the top layers of the skin to be selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment.

This laser energy causes the tattoo pigment to break up into smaller particles that are then removed by the body's immune system.

Lee said that each session has to be separated by a six-week interval from the previous one. The pain is excruciating.

In her blog where she tracks her progress, Lee confided: "Can I share with you that... I CRIED.

"Well, not that I wanted to, but the tears just flowed because it was so painful that even the cold air + ice pack could only alleviate the pain this much. When the laser got to the spinal area, phooof!"

Lee admitted that she trembled each time before the laser was fired and occasionally, the thought of giving up hits her.

But she says: "I know very well I will not - this is just a test of my determination and tolerance. "I cannot describe the joy I have each time it (the tattoo) gets lighter and lighter."

At times, Lee feels like "a tree trunk - the surface of my skin is very rough and bumpy, and the blisters are aplenty".

She says: "I don't want to sound like a whiner too much, but yes, this pain is real. "It is SO REAL. Think 50 times before you get a tattoo."

This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments

Copyright © 2014 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. No. 198402868E. All rights reserved.