Actress Priscelia Chan on the art of positivity

Be passionate about what you do even if you have nothing to show for it, says the 35-year-old, whose efforts finally paid off at this year's Star Awards.

She took home the Rocket Award - given to the artiste who's shown the most improvement - for her role as a jealous, wilful wife in Mediacorp Channel 8's The Journey: A Voyage (2013). The trophy is Priscelia's first since she joined the industry 15 years ago.

"Entertainment is a game of luck and timing - much depends on the opportunities you get. Once I learnt to respect the industry's caprices, it became easier to press on.

There's a Chinese saying, tai shang yi fen zhong, tai xia shi nian gong (a minute on stage requires 10 years of training). I've always believed that if I work hard to give a good performance, I'll be rewarded in time to come."

Use Your Time Wisely

The naturally vivacious actress never stays unhappy for more than a day.

"Time is wasted on moping. Yes, I feel upset when I don't win. But I'll also ask myself why - for example, did I do the script justice, or did I deliver my lines right? Then I make it a point to one my skills instead of feeling miserable," says Priscelia matter-of-factly.

Learn to Look Forward

When awards elude her, Priscelia recalls precious moments to remind herself how much she loves her job: "When someone recognises me on the street and tells me they enjoy watching my shows and to keep up the good work even though I didn't win, it really spurs me on."

That said, staying positive is hard work - you have to constantly remind yourself to keep at it, admits Priscelia. "Make time for self-reflection every day, whether it's keeping a journal or thinking about what you're grateful for. Eventually, it'll become a habit."

Life Never Pans Out the Way You Want It to

"I went through a phase in my 20s when I felt like I had to follow everyone else's path in life - get married, have a kid, own a house and car, and have a career that rakes in money. The turning point came when my mother passed away nine years ago - she'd been unwell for a while, but I never expected her to leave so suddenly," she says.

It made Priscelia realise that she needed to start living her own life and doing the things that make her happy.

Build a Support System

Priscelia counts herself lucky to have the loving support of her family and friends, especially her husband (actor-turned-businessman Alan Tern). They were buddies before becoming a couple, so the foundation of their relationship is strong, she says.

"We go on coffee dates at least once a month to spend quality time together. Alan always knows how to cheer me up - sometimes he gives me a hug out of the blue and tells me he's proud of me or that he thinks I'm the best. And when I feel disappointed about missing out on an award, he jokingly says: 'Why do you need one? You already have the best award - me!'"

Bad Times Aren't Worth Remembering

"I have a short memory for bad times. My younger sister calls me Dory (the absent-minded fish in Finding Nemo) - I take that in a good way," she says. When she has bad days, her remedy is simple: exercising, savouring a cup of her favourite coffee or listening to music.

"I also look at motivational quotes on Instagram to remind myself to keep my chin up."

All in Good Time

Whenever the topic of not having a bun in the oven comes up, Priscelia tells herself that God has a better plan in place. But she and her husband were actively trying for a baby about two years ago, and have gone through their fair share of pain.

"It took a while for us to learn to let nature take its course; we still talk about it now and then, but we don't linger on the sadness or disappointment. I simply spread all the love that I have to give to my nephew, my friends' kids and Twinkle, my cat!"

Flower Power

Priscelia knows all about the therapeutic effect of flowers. "I've occasionally bought flowers to make my own arrangements at home, but it was after playing Xiuxiang in The Voyage: A Journey that I turned to them as a perk-me-up to purge the negativity of the role."

To help Priscelia perfect her arrangements, we got Jaclyn Lim, owner of The Bloom Room, to teach her how to arrange beautiful floral designs in simple household containers.


Hand-tied posy in a glass jar

1 Pick & mix

Flowers are not cheap in Singapore, so Jaclyn suggests mixing premium blooms like dahlias or peonies (from florists) with more affordable ones like lilies, sweet williams or spider chrysanthemums, which are easily available at wet markets and supermarkets.

For the first arrangement with her own recycled coffee bottle, Priscelia chooses pink dahlias, champagne eustomas, pink astilbes and yellow craspedia (billy buttons).

2 Putting it together

Jaclyn teaches Priscelia how to use the spiral technique - where the stems overlap one another to form a spiral. Priscelia takes the dahlias in her right hand, and uses her left to add smaller flowers to the arrangement.

For texture, she adds pod-like billy buttons in odd numbers to liven up the posy and make it look less traditional.

She has some difficulty at first with the technique. "I can't insert the flowers properly, and taking any out messes up the bunch!" she sighs. But a quick note from Jaclyn to loosen her grip soon fixes that.

3 Stringing it up

When Priscelia is satisfied with her arrangement, she ties the bouquet with twine. The flower lover then whips out a lace ribbon she's brought along and ties it over the mouth of he jar, adding a personal touch to her creation.

Finally, Priscelia cuts the stems of the flowers at a 45-degree angle to create more surface area so that they can absorb water more efficiently. Further advice from Jaclyn: "If your flowers are standing too tall, cut the stems until the flowers sit nicely just above the opening."


Botanical arrangement in a recycled container

1 A useful trick to get started

Jaclyn says: "You can use items like teapots, colanders and tins in flower arrangements. If the container has a large opening, create a grid over it first to prevent the flowers from spreading out."

To do this, make parallel lines over the opening with adhesive tape, then cross more strips over them to form a grid.

"No wonder all the arrangements I've done before have looked scattered and messy. Now I can use this tape method to create better-looking ones!" says Priscelia in delight.

2 The garden effect

Arrangements that look like overgrown gardens are trendy, says Jaclyn. To achieve that effect, choose airy, delicate blooms like pink and white alstroemerias, pink penstemon, green lunaria and bupleurum. Let the leaves droop over the tin to complete the look.


Priscelia poses for a photo with her blooms and says: "I enjoyed the free-flowing style of this arrangement. I can practise it at home until I achieve a more polished look!"

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