Singapore-born violinist Vanessa Mae is "lucky" to have tiger mum

3 November 2014 / 1 year 11 months ago

By Noor Ashikin Abdul Rahman
The New Paper
Sunday, Nov 02, 2014

If anything, the mother of Singapore-born violinist Vanessa Mae told The New Paper that some people might consider her daughter lucky.

London-based Singaporean concert pianist Pamela Tan-Nicholson reportedly kept her daughter on a tight leash growing up.

She is said to have hit her often to instil discipline, restricted her life outside of music and even forced her to "kowtow" while pulling her ears to ask for forgiveness.

Mae, 36, was allowed to leave home on her own only when she was 20. Perhaps others would consider Mae lucky she had a Tiger Mum, said Tan-Nicholson, 56.


"Maybe some would say she would have done better with an even stricter mum who didn't give her so much freedom. Everything is relative," said Tan-Nicholson, who separated from Vanessa-Mae's Thai birth father Vorapong Vanakorn when their daughter was two years old.

The former lawyer then married British lawyer Graham Nicholson and moved to England two years later. They are now divorced.

Tan-Nicholson will be performing tonight (Oct 30) at 8pm with the Covent Garden Soloists Orchestra at Marina Bay Sands' Sands Theatre, as part of the Toyota Classics 25th Anniversary Charity Asian Tour 2014. Tan-Nicholson said her own mother was also strict.

"My mother used to beat me up and I was so grateful," said Tan-Nicholson. Her mother, 84, has dementia and lives with her in London.

"My mother was so strict she used to cane me, there's nothing wrong with that. I was brought up properly. I think it depends on how you look at it, in terms of what you got out of it."

Mae reportedly sacked her mother as her manager on the eve of her 21st birthday in hope of a normal mother-daughter relationship.

But Tan-Nicholson suggested it was something she saw as necessary.

"I felt that it was important she stood on her own two feet. It was also important for both of us to do our own things. For as long as I'm working with her, I'll always feel she's my No. 1 artist when in fact I like working with so many different artists. It was not healthy for either of us," she said.

"Once I said I didn't want to be involved, I had to keep my word. When she was 18, I started weaning her. It was difficult so I realised I had to make a clean break."

"The best thing is to worry from a distance and not say a word. They will live and learn from what they say and learn what is wrong or right. It was time for me to shut up and ship out."

Their last conversation was in February, when Mae represented Thailand in skiing during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Tan-Nicholson said: "We don't talk every day. But I texted her (to wish her luck) and she must have thought I was a stalker. She thanked me for the message later."

Get The New Paper for more stories. 

Join in the talk