Heavy beats throb. Strobe lights flash. The crowd is loose. In the middle of the action a woman, clad in a kimono-esque bra gyrates wildly (see music video below). That woman is Sun Ho (also known as Ho Yeow Sun), in ‘Mr Bill’, one of her many music videos.
Dancing isn’t her only specialty; she is also an ex-pastor at City Harvest Church, counsellor and role model to the 23,000 people who attend City Harvest’s church services.
So how did she move from gospel to go-go? We piece Ho’s life, in six music singles:
Read also: City Harvest founder charged
1. ‘Starting Point’
Born on 2 June 1972, Sun Ho claims she had a difficult upbringing. At six years old, she remembers undergoing depression and suffered sexual abuse. Since young, the Anglican High School and Victoria Junior College alumni’s love for music was evident. She was known to be a spontaneous performer who would write her own songs.
Song fact: ‘Starting Point’ was the theme song of a Singapore docu-drama series, 'Turning Point'.
Sun Ho plays the token Asian
Like many performers before her, Ho’s first real stage was at the church.
Although her main role was youth counsellor, she liked to think of herself as City Harvest’s musical director and ‘singing pastor’. The church was also where she met her husband, Kong Hee.
Controversial Kong styles himself as a businessman, although most know him as 'Pastor'. Kong and Ho founded the City Harvest Church group, as well as Skin Couture – a street wear boutique that carries flashy labels such as Christian Audigier and True Religion.
City Harvest has prospered from church-goer donations. Members are advised to set aside at least ten per cent of their salary. Ho was preaching and counseling at City Harvest from 1993 and retired from the church in 2003.
Song fact: ‘Embrace’ was Ho’s debut album and was the third best-selling album in Taiwan in 2007.
3. ‘Where Did Love Go’
On the 23 May 2010, Kong and 18 other individuals were accused by City harvest member Roland Poon Swee Kay of diverting and falsificating records of funds collected from City Harvest church-goers. Although police action had been taken, the incident remained hushed for two years. The scandal resurfaced again this year, when Kong and four other church members were arrested on charges of siphoning $23 million, allegedly to support Ho’s singing career.
The five members have been charged in court for alleged criminal breach of trust.
Song fact: ‘Where Did Love Go’ was number 1 on the American Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Charts in 2003. Not bad for retirement, huh?
4. ‘Isn’t It Amazing’
What did the $23 million buy? A succession of five Mandarin pop albums that went platinum, and four hit songs that reached number one on America’s Billboard dance chart.
Ho has worked with a number of high-profile artists, including Wyclef Jean, David Foster and Diane Warren.
Her highly sexualized image - in her last video, ‘Fancy Free’, Ho shimmies in skin tight leather - had critics denouncing the pop singer for being hypocritical, claiming that Ho told female members of her church they should dress modestly and not dance suggestively.
She has also been accused of goading church members to buy her albums and support her singing career, although she has vehemently denied this. ‘What’s so wrong if my church members want to support me voluntarily?’ she replied.
Song fact: ‘Isn’t It Amazing’ was featured in a charity compilation.
5. ‘One Brick One Tile’
Ho’s lifestyle has also come under great scrutiny in recent years. According to the Straits Times, Ho and son Dayan Kong have been living a lavish lifestyle in the United States where she pursues her music career.
She lives in a rented property worth SGD$7.7 million. It has been reported that the Hollywood property sits on 29,000 square feet of land, has a main house, servants’ quarters, sundeck, swimming pool and a driveway with space for more than five cars. From here, she gets access to parties such as the MTV Europe Music Awards, and the Grammys.
Song fact: ‘One Brick One Tile’ is included in another charity compilation.
6. ‘One With You’
Ho has constantly defended herself as well as her lifestyle, saying that ‘people don’t understand her’. According to an interview in Today and in her own words, she wants people to give her a chance and all she wants to do is give hope, strength and enjoyment.
Song fact: ‘One With You’ also reached number 1, this time on the American Billboard’s Dance charts in 2004.