Actor, model and singer Grace Chim speaks with our editor Tola-Doll Fisher about pursuing her calling despite early opposition

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©Krula Headshots

Tola-Doll Fisher (TDF): You’re an actor, model and singer. What have been some of your recent accomplishments in these areas? 

Grace Chim (GC): I’ve been very blessed. The most recent one would be a TV series called Bali 2002. It was actually a real-life retelling of the Bali bombing in 2002. It’s very close to my heart because I was there when I was younger. I also got a chance to work on a Marvel film about an Asian superhero called Shang-Chi: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. 

In terms of modelling, recently I did a banking promotion commercial for a top four bank – I can’t go into too much detail about that just yet. I think one of the best accomplishments that I’ve had in the past year was to be able to sing for King Charles! I joined the West End Gospel choir, which is a group of West End performers. We were invited to sing for the British Ugandan 50th Asian anniversary being held in Buckingham Palace. The king was so nice – really regal. The experience reminded me of the posture we have as Christians. Because as children of God, we’re royals, right? We have to remember our royal identity, rather than be shaken by every little thing. Right after meeting the king I released my debut single, ‘Safe & Sound’. 

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Filming during ‘Breaking the Silence’ Photographer © Paniradya Giardian

TDF: Congratulations! What is ‘Safe & Sound’ about?

GC: It is a lyrical encouragement to listeners of how our weaknesses are actually stepping stones to the safest place to be when we fall on our knees in our need of him. People constantly said that I was too fat, too ugly and didn’t have a good voice to be an artist, but faith kept me going, and here I am now! I found that God uses the seemingly ordinary and is faithful to complete what he started with just a tiny dream that was planted. All he needed was my “Yes”. 

It took me eight years to finally release the song and it has been licensed to be used in a US feature film (Cincinnati Spin), which is due for release next year. Only by God’s favour!

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Filming during ‘Breaking the Silence’ Photographer © Paniradya Giardian

TDF: How did you move from being told you had no place being in these creative spaces, to actually working quite successfully in them?  

GC: In the UK and the US, everyone believes that the arts is a promising career. But in Asia, it’s not an option. I’m half Singaporean and half Indonesian, with a little bit of Japanese, but I was born in New Zealand. So, my citizenship is New Zealand, and I’m stuck with an American accent! Growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, my parents were always working. I was an only child and had no one so every day I came back from school and sang karaoke to Britney Spears and Hilary Duff. 

I think I had a hint in my heart of what I loved because it just felt easy. My mom put me in all these lessons like Kumon, violin, piano, ballet. I dropped out of most – the only thing that stuck was singing. I had a really low grade for maths but you know, the Lord blesses us with different gifts. However, my mum said I might as well stop high school and continue doing arts for college. 

But growing up I never had that opportunity because my teachers and my cousins and friends all said that I was too fat or too ugly. My primary school teacher would say I was untalented. There are times when I question myself still. Hearing those messages for so long could have pushed me to give up on my dreams. But I really think that the enemy attacks our greatest calling.

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Bridal modelling styled shoot © Susana Rios

TDF: I’m so sorry you had that experience, but it sounds like your mum was supportive of your artistic dreams?

GC: I don’t think she had strong feelings about it. I ended up taking a business degree then working in a property company for two years. But I realised: “I can’t do this for the rest of my life.” And then God told me: “If you’re not going to follow this dream then I’m going to give it to someone else.” It scared me that someone else could live out God’s calling for my life. So I told God: “Fine, I don’t have the talent. I don’t have any money to go to college again. You work this out. This is your dream.” God opened the doors: he led me to audition for one of the oldest acting schools in the English world (American Academy of Dramatic Arts), which is where most of the Oscars and Emmy award winners in the US come from. And he provided scholarships – it was just easy from there.

TDF: What was the sense of this ‘calling’ for you?


Meeting His Majesty King Charles after performing with the West End Gospel Choir

GC: Singing or acting. For those who need an encouragement, I’d say you never know the full outlay of God’s plan, but you start somewhere. I had no experience of singing or acting and went to a school where everyone else had been singing and performing their entire lives. I have no idea how I got in.

TDF: You mentioned a turning point experience where you felt God say that he would give this dream to someone else if you wouldn’t go after it yourself. So, by that point did you already have a relationship with God? 

GC: Growing up I was bullied and also my parents were divorced when I was six or seven so they put me with my grandparents until I was ten. But I had one friend from primary school who took me into her family and took me to church every Sunday. I think I was saved when I was ten years old. I felt angry as a kid; really lonely and neglected. But when I knew God’s love, I just felt content. 

People constantly said that I was too fat, too ugly and didn’t have a good voice to be an artist, but faith kept me going

TDF: Before that in your home, was there any kind of religious affiliation or faith at all?

GC: They were Buddhist, like most Chinese cultures are.

TDF: And how do they feel about you being a Christian?

GC: They had nothing to say; for them religion is a cultural concept. So as long as I was a good kid they were OK. But they saw changes. I had a helper at home who said: “Oh, you used to be such an angry kid. You’re so different now!” 

TDF: What does your family think of your success now? Are you the only one not working in business?

GC: Yeah I’m the black sheep, although they’re starting to understand. At first they were judgmental about it – my dad said: “It’s not too late to be a doctor!” But over the years, they saw that I stuck to it. They didn’t understand the concept of how we actors earn money. It’s basically just a business, so if they think about it in that way it makes sense to them. Now they’re supportive, because they’re seeing the fruits. But when I was first starting, I had to lean into God’s voice about it.

TDF: It’s not the easiest industry. Have you ever felt regret about choosing this path? 

GC: Not once. It is so hard. This industry requires a lot of faith. I do not know how unbelievers survive without God. But, it’s so rewarding. Being in something that God has called you to do makes you feel truly alive. 

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Filming during ‘Breaking the Silence’ Photographer © Paniradya Giardian

TDF: What are you working on now? 

GC: I’ve started a podcast called the ‘Actors Daily Bread’ Podcast and season one is out now! It’s hosted by myself and Vanessa Cozart, who is also an actor. Each episode we interview established or unknown Christian actors, to encourage those who might be still waiting in their journey, whether in acting or in their faith. There are a lot of actors out there who just feel stuck, as nothing’s coming to them. So we are learning from regular working actors. The one thing that stands out is that it’s all about service. This industry is so self-absorbing, the focus could easily be on making us famous. But service should be the main thing that we provide, whether it be being of value to the script, the story, to the production. 

When I knew God’s love, I just felt content

TDF: One of the things we’re hearing a lot about in the UK is the fast growth of migrant churches. Why do you think these communities stick together rather than integrating with local churches?

GC: Well, I’m a very international person so I actually value diversity, and really value learning from different cultures. My best friend is Nigerian. But a lot of East Asian people cling to their own groups – I think they’re scared. Most Asian people are very timid and a bit more closed off. 

TDF: What do you think the fear is about?

GC: I can only speak for the East Asian groups and I hope this doesn’t sound racist, but they value white people a lot and grow up getting told inappropriate stories about other cultural groups. Everyone outside of that group is unfamiliar territory for them so they have this idea about how dangerous other people are, polluted by the media.  

It’s like biblical times where people stuck to their own territories and worshipped with their own people. One thing that some more modern churches are doing well is joining different groups together, and finding the beauty of how different cultures express worship to God. 

In early 2024, Grace will collaborate with the production company Euphoria 360 Media to create a film for Netflix Nigeria. She has just completed filming a US Pilot Series directed by Victor Migalchan, an American/European director, and Emmy Awards judge. Following this, she is set to work on another US feature film produced by director Carl Jackson. Grace’s debut single, ‘Safe & Sound,’ is now available, and you can also listen to her podcast, ‘The Actors Daily Bread,’ on Spotify. Find out more @gracechimm @theactorsdailybread