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How did $23 million help advance singer Ho Yeow Sun's music career in the US?
Ho Yeow Sun, 42, popularly known as Sun Ho, is married to Pastor Kong Hee, 47, founder of City Harvest Church. The couple have a 7-year-old son, Dayan.
Kong is currently facing charges of alleged misuse of at least $23 million of church funds to finance his wife's singing career in the US.
A "Crossover Project", started in 2002 by the couple, was set up to use Ho's secular music to connect with people and reach out to non-Christians, local media agencies reported.
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Since news of the charges against Kong and four others broke, two of Ho's music videos for dance tracks "China Wine" and "Mr Bill", released in 2007, have been widely circulated on social media.
In comments posted on the videos hosted on YouTube, netizens slammed the videos for its content and Ho's provocative dance moves.
Many questioned how the controversial videos could be "reaching out to non-Christians".
In "China Wine", Ho can be seen gyrating to the music with back-up dancers, dressed in a low-cut, midriff-baring top and micro-shorts.
Ho collaborated with noted rapper-producer Wyclef Jean on both singles.
The singer was based in the US between 2003 and 2010, reported The New Paper, where five of her English singles released made it into the top 10 of Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs.
But according to a Straits Times on Wednesday, doubts were cast that Ho made it just on talent alone.
One senior music executive interviewed by the paper said the Billboard dance chart is based on airplay and not sales.
"You can just pay to promote yourself to get radio stations to play your songs," said the executive, who remained anonymous.
A director of a record label here estimates that it costs between US$300,000 (S$386,000) and US$1 million to produce an album in the US.
A collaboration with famed producer Wyclef Jean could cost between US$50,000 and US$300,000.
The $23 million that was purportedly used to finance Sun's music career not only gave her four No.1 hits on the Billboard dance charts, an English-language album and slick music videos but also a US$20,000 (S$25,600) a month Hollywood home.
The mansion, nestled in the plush Hollywood Hills district, is where celebrities like Nicky Hilton and singer Leona Lewis have set up home, The New Paper reported. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also said to own property there.
The New Paper visited the house in June 2010 and reported seeing a black SUV and a black Mercedes Benz CLK550 driving in and out of the estate, which has four buildings in all.
Ho is also known to have uploaded videos of her personal life in the US on her official website.
The videos posted included those of her spending time with her son at Manhattan Beach, her relief work in Haiti after the earthquake and picking up US$217 worth of groceries from Whole Foods Market, a natural and organic food store.
Her lavish lifestyle in the US is a far cry from when the couple first got married in 1992. In a 2002 interview with The New Paper, Kong recalled that they "were so poor" that he could only afford to buy her a wedding band that cost $60.
He made it up to Ms Ho with a $5,000 one-carat diamond ring in 1997.
Besides drawing flak for her music videos and lifestyle, Ho was also criticised on many occasions for her fashion sense.
In 2010, she was criticised for showing too much skin in a black cut-out Rodarte dress at the Grammy awards.
Comments on her dress from online communities ran the spectrum from “bad taste”, “too SM (sadomasochistic)” to “skanky”.
In November 2003, she set tongues wagging when she wore a daring red Armani gown – with a plunging neckline – to the Hollywood Film Festival in Los Angeles.
At the 2006 Global Music Awards held in Singapore, she was criticised again for turning up in a short grey-black dress that barely covered her buttocks.
In a blog entry in 2007, Ho addressed comments surrounding the controversial "China Wine" music video.
She defended her outfits that she wore, saying they covered more than "what girls are wearing today when they go to the gym".
She also clarified that she is not intentionally "pushing the limits" when it comes to her music and image.
"I’ve had super revealing dresses pushed upon me by sponsors for red-carpet events and I’ve had to push them right back at the stylist!" said Ho, adding that sexy cleavage-baring dresses were "the norm" for red carpet style in Hollywood.
"If anything, I’m the 'weird' one over there when I have to explain to them my reservations and restrictions!" she wrote.
She also added that her husband had no problems with her music videos.
Kong is known to show unwavering support for his wife when it comes to her career.
According to The Straits Times' report on Wednesday, church members within the couple's inner circle said Kong's affection for his wife deepened after she suffered two miscarriages.
The couple met when Ho joined the church as a volunteer in 1989. He proposed in 1992, even though they never dated, and wed six months later.
Ho first entered the music scene in 2002 as a Mandarin artiste, when she released her debut album, Sun With Love.
She also won the Singapore Hit Awards in 2003 and 2004 for two of her Mandarin albums, Sun*Day and Lonely Travel.