They ditched their degrees to sing and dance in clubs for a living
If there is one regret that Miss Anita Lim has, it is the lie she has told her parents about her job.
"All they know is that I am in showbiz, but they don't really know the kind of entertaining I do," she tells The New Paper on Sunday.
And for this reason, it took us several weeks to persuade the freelance performer - yes, that is what the 25-year-old fills in the "occupation" field - before she agreed to this interview.
Miss Lim was hesitant because she worries that her parents may find out the truth after this report is printed.
She says: "Dad and mum will be devastated if they knew I have been so immoral.
"Our financial situation is no excuse."
But drawing a Chinese quote, she admits with a sigh: "As they say, 'zhi shi bao bu zhu huo' (In Mandarin: paper cannot wrap a fire. It means the truth will eventually surface).
"So one day, I'd have to come clean."
Coming clean with her taxi driver father and housewife mother means letting them know that she performs in three nightclubs in the Sophia Road vicinity.
That also means that when she is not singing, she will be socialising and drinking with her fans.
Fans who are "mostly lecherous men with groping hands" and who will pay extra for her company, with the hope that it extends to more "engagement" outside the club.
Miss Lim declines to confirm if she accepts those invitations: "I don't think it is relevant in this case."
While she says she is "not entirely ashamed" of her work now, she confesses that only one best friend knows what she does.
Says Miss Lim: "For someone whose childhood aspiration was to become a doctor, I'd say my life has tumbled down drastically.
"When friends (from her former junior college) meet me and learn that I am not a doctor, they are shocked."
She adds with mock horror: "Can you imagine what it will be like if they knew more?"
She does not exaggerate. Her academic track record is excellent.
She was in the Gifted Education Programme in primary school before going to an independent school and later, to a top JC.
"I don't think I am particularly intelligent. I just worked really, really hard towards my dream," she says.
"When I was in JC, I'd be at the library. At home, I'd be poring over all kind of books instead of clubbing."
Things were good on the home front, with her father running his own business with her mother's help. The family of four, which includes a younger "super intelligent" brother, lived in a private apartment.
Miss Lim says: "If someone ever suggested to me then that my life would turn out how it has now, I'd have scoffed at the thought."
At the end of her first JC year, she was already confident that she could make it to medical school.
She was not certain if she could get a scholarship, but she banked on her father footing the fees.
But a bad business move made him file for bankruptcy.
She recalls: "Everything happened so quickly. In under six months, we went from living in comfort to scrimping on whatever we could find, and moving in to live with my paternal grandparents in their HDB flat.
"We were lucky that we didn't end up on the streets."
And two months later, when she sat for the GCE A-level examinations, she had lost her focus and determination.
She says: "Sometimes, I wonder if I had opted for a different approach and chose to channel all my concentration into doing well, could I have got a scholarship?"
Miss Lim did well enough to secure a spot in a local medical school but after working out the sums, she decided to give it up.
"Practical considerations took precedence. If I took a study loan, it would mean having to live under and cope with another debt. The family could not afford that since one of us had to be financially viable," she says matter-of-factly.
There were several job options but none, she admits, would "make me money as fast as working in a nightclub".
Miss Lim lets on that she had worked as a part-time social escort "in the year when everything crumbled", but maintains that they were "clean assignments to respectable businessmen and sometimes, diplomats".
She says: "There was no sex involved. No hanky-panky.
"Because of that, I had toyed with the notion of turning full-time, but one of the agency operators suggested that I consider working in his nightclub.
"He said the money was good and if I worked hard, I could make more than a fresh graduate does."
Apprehensive at first, she rejected the offer. It took her about six months before she finally landed a $2,000 job as an assistant manager in a fast-food restaurant.
She says: "It was hard work, eight to nine hours of shift work, six days a week. I quit after eight months."
The following year, she tried out other jobs that included office work and outdoor sales.
The turning point came when her father had to stop driving for two weeks, for reasons she prefers not to share.
"But I came home to a heated argument that was taking place between dad and grandpa over some money matters," she says.
"It was then I realised that money is essential for our survival.
"And that my parents had been putting up with snide remarks from my grandparents for still having to 'borrow' their home."
It has been nearly five years since she was first offered a one-year contract that paid her "really good money". The family have since moved out and are now renting a two-room apartment.
She declines to elaborate but estimates that she earns about $7,000 a month, half of which is her contribution to the home.
Miss Lim, who is single, saves the other half in the hope that she can help pay for her brother's university fees.
"He is really the smart one in the family and I don't want him to have to walk down the same path as me just because we can't afford it," she says.
As for herself, she says: "I have no regrets. I chose this life. I'd live it well.
"I only hope that one day, I can tell my parents the truth and they won't hold it against me."