Who is the woman behind beleaguered City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, now at the centre of the most shocking probe into a religious organization in Singapore?
Ho Yeow Sun, who now styles herself Sun Ho, is no stranger to controversy or the spotlight.
She is expected to come even under more scrutiny after her husband and four other key ministry members were reportedly arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly using church funds to funnel S$23 million into promoting her music and albums.
Since first bursting onto the scene in 2003 as Kong Hee’s Mando-pop singing wife, Ho has been praised and slammed in equal parts by a public shocked by her skimpy dressing and blatant use of her husband’s church as a platform to promote her music albums.
The Anglican High and Victoria Junior College alumnus had previously stayed under the radar as part of CHC’s creative team until she resigned in 2003 to pursue her dreams of pop-stardom. Soon she started performing in flamboyant and expensive costumes on stage, sparking an uproar in the city-state.
When news leaked in 2005 that she had once been a victim of sexual abuse, the public wasted no time in slamming the information as part of her strategy to promote her new album “Embrace” at that time.
Coverage of her album’s successes was limited and muted, compared to the likes of other home-grown talent like Stefanie Sun.
She tried to defend herself and told Channel NewsAsia around then that she hoped that Singaporeans could “give me a chance”.
CHC had also began to prosper on donations from members who were encouraged to set aside a tenth of of their income to CHC every month.
Last year, CHC moved to its new home in Suntec though the church did shelve more ambitious plans to build a 12,000 seater auditorium at the site after the Urban Redevelopment Authority released guidelines restricting the use of commercial buildings for religious purposes.
Initial plans for the Church to pay S$310 million to become a co-owner of Suntec sparked widespread debate when it was announced in March last year.
Ho’s husband, Kong, started to refer to himself as a “businessman” and together with his wife, set up Skin Couture, a luxury fashion apparel business in 2005.
When the five successive albums she released between 2002-2007 hit double or triple platinum status, rumours of her “staged” popularity started to fly.
One church member reportedly accused Kong of using CHC funds to fuel Ho’s music career, but the allegation was later retracted.
In the wake of the accusations, Ho abruptly announced that she would be “looking overseas” to further her career, moving to Los Angeles, Hollywood with her young son, Dayan Kong.
The allegations were investigated by the Commercial Affairs Department in 2010, leading to the reported arrests Tuesday of her husband and four other key ministry members for alleged criminal breach of trust and falsifying church accounts.
But what was Ho up to in those three years she upped and moved to LA?
According to media reports, she was living the lavish lifestyle of a bona fide Hollywood celebrity.
It was reported by The New Paper in 2010 that Ho was renting a S$7.7 million estate in Hollywood Hills with her son, an assistant, a nanny, and her relatives.
The 29,000 sq ft Mediterranean style building boasted four structures, including accommodation for a butler, nanny, and maid. It also had a swimming pool and space for 11 cars, the tabloid said.
Famous neighbours in the area were the likes of Nicky Hilton, Amercia Ferrera, and singer Leona Lewis.
When Ho wasn’t relaxing in her multi-million dollar home, she hobnobbed with music A-listers like Wyclef Jean, who produced her 2007 album, “China Wine” and whom, according to Ho, she is so close to that her son calls him “Uncle Clef”.
According to her website, in 2008, Ho donated 500 tents to victims of the Sichuan earthquake and released a single, “Eternal Blossom”, which was broadcast over radio stations there.
A single “Kill Bill”, which she released the same year with rapper Lady Saw, saw Ho calling herself a “Geisha” and gyrating around household appliances wearing only revealing kimono-styled lingerie and singing about killing her fictional husband.
Ho also became the first Asian pop singer to be invited to the MTV Europe Awards when she attended it in 2007, and subsequently also turned up for the Grammys in 2010.
Things were not looking so good for Kong back in Singapore, who was in the news again, this time because he and other members of CHC were part of a CAD probe into allegations of the misuse of funds and cooking the church’s account books.
Ho herself was placed under scrutiny when she was asked to return to assist in investigations in 2010 and reportedly grilled for eight hours by the police.
Now, even more questions on Kong and Ho will likely be raised.