Local celebrity Wong Li-Lin, 41, is known as a pretty actress, an elegant ballerina and a loving mother-of-two.
But as a child, she was fostered to different families.
She had also been to brothels and gambling dens, where she witnessed brutal fights.
And this traumatic childhood is why she is helping troubled youth.
Wong was recently appointed the Community Chest's ambassador and she says her immediate plan will be to help youth-at-risk and the elderly.
The Community Chest helps 83 charitable organisations by raising funds on a yearly basis to meet the needs of their social service programmes.
The ComChest Care & Share Charity Show was held last Sunday. Telepoll lines for the show close on Aug 10 at midnight. Visit www.comchest.org.sg for details.
Though there have been reports on her difficult childhood before, the usually media-shy celebrity opened up with vivid details to The New Paper on Sunday.
She reveals that for several years - from the age of two - she was sent to different foster homes.
Wong tells this reporter she remembers living with a Malay family, then a Hokkien family before returning to live with her own troubled family when she was six.
Things did not improve.
The former Triple Nine actress details in an e-mail interview: "They were very unstable times. I lived mostly in and out of gambling dens, and I grew up with prostitutes, gamblers and thieves."
She first saw the inside of a brothel when she was eight, when her mum went to visit a friend.
At 10, she says, she witnessed her first fatal fight.
Her parents also fought a lot, she adds.
Yet, looking back, Wong describes her childhood as colourful and dramatic.
"I got to meet people from all walks of life and I had the opportunity to learn and study human behaviour from a young age," she says.
"There was a lot of drama, some amount of violence.
"As a young child, I didn't think to comprehend or not comprehend. It was just what it was."
She was introduced to ballet by regularly tagging along with her best friend to weekend dance classes.
At 13, Wong started teaching ballet to pay for her fees. She says she went to live with her ballet teacher, Mrs Skipp, for two years when she was 14.