When stars fall ill

When stars fall ill
Kit Chan performing in Hong Kong in 2012.

Pop stars are not like you and me, despite what some say to demystify their celebrity.

When you and I fall sick, we go to the doctor, are prescribed medicine and maybe receive a medical certificate indicating we are unfit for work.

For a pop star, that MC would likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and massive disappointment among fans if he has a looming concert expected to attract an audience of thousands.

In local singer Tanya Chua's case last month, falling ill also meant the delay of her dream coming true when she had to cancel her debut concert on June 26 at the famed Hong Kong Coliseum.

Her flu had worsened and she developed acute laryngitis.

Looking subdued and sounding hoarse in a video posted on Facebook on June 24, Chua, 39, admitted that she was nervous about cancelling the show.

Comforted by the words of encouragement her fans posted, she added: "Having seen the comments, I feel more calm. I sincerely thank you for understanding. Apart from gratitude, I only have more thanks. Thank you for your patience and for your generosity."

In the words of Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, 53, managing director of Rock Records Singapore, her record label: "She sounded hoarser than a man."

To her fans on Facebook, she added: "I can't face you in this less than perfect condition and I hope you can understand this difficult decision."

Also last month, Stefanie Sun, another home-grown Mandopop star, soldiered on to perform a show in Chongqing, China, although she has not fully recovered from a bout of flu - only to have to go to a hospital after the June 21 concert.

Subsequently, her June 28 gig in Chengdu before a crowd of almost 40,000 went without a hitch and China portal ent.163.com noted that she was in tip-top condition. She will be performing at the National Stadium this Saturday as part of her Kepler world tour.

Seasoned performers Kit Chan and Dick Lee have "war stories" of their own.

During her last concert in Hong Kong in February 2012, Chan developed allergies and lost her voice a few days before the show.

Even up until the full-dress rehearsal with the Hong Kong City Pops Orchestra, she was experiencing "a lot of difficulties". And yet, she had two shows with an audience of 8,000 each night looming.

She decided to go ahead with the performances, relying on hot ginger tea and prayer to get her through.

Chan, 41, also learnt that technique, experience and skill make a difference.

"I had to really think about how I was going to produce each note, how to sustain it or how to avoid the voice-break, etc. It was no fun at all, but they saved my performance from being a total disaster. From then on, I had renewed esteem and respect for vocal techniques and learnt to not take them for granted."

She says of the occasions when she had to perform while sick: "Each one is like a scar on my heart."

As for Lee, he once came down with a bad flu during a stressful production of the musical Falsettos in Tokyo in 1994, in Japanese no less.

He had an injection which made him go "berserk" and trash the dressing room. The 57-year-old says: "Basically, I blacked out and when I came to, the dressing room was wiped out."

As he had no understudy, the performance had to be cancelled. But he was back treading the boards the next day.

Clearly, no one wants to fall sick and artists try their best to keep in the pink of health when touring.

For Chan, this means taking vitamin supplements, avoiding fried and spicy foods or phlegminducing foods and taking lots of soups, fruit and Chinese tonics. Moderate exercise, such as swimming, short runs and Pilates, builds up stamina and increases flexibility.

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