The adventures of Melody Chen

The actress, DJ and host isn't one to shy away from risk and danger. She tells Delle Chan how she's pushed herself beyond her comfort zone.

Melody Chen is the ultimate risk-taker. From equestrian lessons in secondary school, to wakeboarding in the early 2000s and the motorbike lessons she's now taking, the gung-ho 37-year-old is determined not to let fear rule her life.

"I developed a keen interest in sports when I was younger, and that gave me plenty of opportunities to try something new," she says.

Besides the usual running and swimming, she also dives, snowboards and ice-skates.

"It wasn't all smooth-sailing, though! For example, with equestrian lessons, it was scary mastering jumps with my horse. I had many falls, but I picked myself up again and again.

"I wouldn't exactly call myself an adrenaline junkie, as I do have my fears," Melody muses. "However, I'm quite capable of leaving them at the door and going all out when I'm in the zone."

At present, the Kiss 92FM DJ is bent on getting her motorbike license. She embarked on lessons in early 2014 but these skidded to a halt after a mishap.

"It was raining heavily during one of my lessons, and halfway through, I discovered that my bike couldn't decelerate properly.

"I managed to complete part of the circuit before falling off the bike and landing on my side. I couldn't walk for a week after that! I have a slight fear of the emergency brake now, but I'm determined to resume lessons again soon," she says, eyes glinting.

An independent streak

Has she always been such a risk-taker? We ask. "I think that moving out at the tender age of 20 was one of the biggest risks that I have ever taken in my life," Melody shares.

"As an only child, I was very privileged. However, I craved my own space, and didn't want to lead a sheltered existence. I was even willing to sacrifice my relationship with my parents to attain that independence, something people around me couldn't understand back then."

The gutsy lass rented an apartment and looked for freelance jobs to support herself. "I don't regret my decision though, as it has made me who I am today. And thankfully, my relationship with my parents is still as strong as ever," she says.

Looking back, she says she has her dad to thank for her gutsiness.

"My dad always wanted a son, but that didn't materialise. As a result, he brought me up to be strong and independent," she shares.

Adventure on reality TV

Melody's not afraid to try anything new - even if it's captured on TV for the world to see.

In 2006, she took part in The Amazing Race Asia with a friend. One of the challenges was to bungee jump a whopping 134 metres over New Zealand's Nevis Valley - no mean feat, especially for someone afraid of heights.

"I was terrified, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going," she laughs.

"If I were asked to participate in The Amazing Race all over again, I'd agree in a heartbeat! I love the series, and I was thrilled to be called back as a Pit Stop Greeter for the Singapore leg of The Amazing Race 25 last year."

In 2009, Melody also gamely agreed to take part in an ice-skating reality competition, Ice Star Asia, despite never having skated before.

"It was a wonderful experience for me, as I got to train under some of the best Cirque du Soleil instructors in the world. How many people can claim to have done the same?" she asks. "These shows really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone."

Off the beaten track

Reality TV adventures aside, Melody's volunteer activities have also taken her outside her comfort zone.

Sure, she's had holidays in glamorous places like Santorini in Greece, and Mauritius, but it's her journeys off the beaten track that have made the most impact on her.

Take her trip to Bangladesh in 2010, for instance, where she visited the child she was sponsoring under World Vision's Child Sponsorship programme.

"The trip was an eye-opening experience - physically, mentally and emotionally. Forget about five-star treatment; the living conditions there were really rudimentary. But it really touched my heart to see the children so happy with the simplest of things," she recalls.

Following her visit, Melody became a World Vision Singapore Goodwill Ambassador for three years. She has no qualms about roughing it out during her travels, and would love to strike other far-flung places off her bucket list.

"I'd love to visit Machu Picchu in Peru, as well as the Amazon, and I've always dreamt of going on safari in Africa," she says. "Travelling just makes life so much more fulfilling!"

"I'm quite capable of leaving (my fears) at the door and going all out when I'm in the zone."

Coming up next

What better way for Melody to document her future adventures than with a handmade journal? We asked Ian Tan, master bookbinder of The Thistle Bindery, to teach her how to create one with a simple case-binding technique.

1) Getting started

Ian gets Melody to prepare the pages in her journal by folding a sheaf of papers into two, using a hand tool called a bone folder. She then punctures holes along the spine.

2) Stitch by stitch

To stitch the pages together, Ian teaches her how to thread her needle with the help of some beeswax. "Rubbing beeswax on the thread prevents it from getting tangled later on," he says, chuckling at Melody's dubious expression.

3) Not quite the end

Next, Melody prepares the journal's end papers (the leaves of paper that will be affixed to a book's cover) and glues them to the pages as accurately as she can. "I have glue everywhere! My finished journal is probably not going to be very neat," she laments.

4) Cover girl

To make the cover, Melody glues two cardboard rectangles evenly onto a paper spine, folding in any excess paper. She then decorates the cardboard with purple paper, her favourite colour.

5) One for the books

Melody attaches the pages to the cover, carefully pasting the two end papers onto the cardboard pieces.

"Use the bone folder to smoothen out any creases and wrinkles," instructs Ian. He inspects her finished product and pronounces that she has done a satisfactory job. "I now have a newfound respect for people who make books!" an impressed Melody declares.

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