Soo Wincci: Overcoming Challenges to Reach the Top
Soo Wincci poses outside Berklee's campus in Valencia, where she'll complete a master's degree in Music Production, Technology, and Innovation in July 2018. Image courtesy of Soo Wincci.
Soo Wincci is a self-made professional who proves that perseverance is a great skill to master in order to achieve your goals. At 32, Wincci’s list of achievements is impressive not only in its diversity, but also because her determination brought her success in each case. She holds two degrees plus a doctorate in business studies; she set up her own artist management company before the age of 30; she’s an entertainment celebrity in her home country of Malaysia thanks to her career as a singer and actress, and her participation in the local version of MasterChef All Stars; and she made a name for herself in beauty pageants when she was crowned Miss World Malaysia in 2008. Her willingness to expand her knowledge in the field of music production brought her to Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, to enroll the Master of Music in Production, Technology, and Innovation program.
Set Yourself an Objective, and Fight for It
To reach these impressive goals, Wincci had to overcome many challenges along the way. “I was not gifted with natural talents, so I told myself I would work extra hard and keep learning to gain enough experience to reach the top. I wanted to prove that with hard work, determination, and strength, everything is possible,” she says.
She started training at a music school in Malaysia to beat her learning difficulties and regain confidence in herself. “As a consequence, I grew a passion for vocal and stage performance, but the music industry was too crowded at the time, and I wanted to have more experiences to conquer my stage fright. Hence my mother suggested [that I] try modelling in beauty pageants,” she recalls.
In 2002, Wincci started in small pageants, and she finally reached Miss World Malaysia in 2008. In between, she graduated from the law school at the University of Reading, England, in 2007. “I told myself that if I won this title, I would keep on pursuing my dreams in the entertainment industry,” she says. She did, but it came at a price. “I knocked at the doors of many record labels, but none of them wanted to sign me as they thought I was a beauty queen who just wanted fame. So my manager and I decided to self-produce and self-fund our first mini EP album,” she says. Six albums later, Wincci (who sings in Malay, Chinese, and English) defines her style as “surprising” and “innovative.” She strives to bring “new things” to both her audience and the industry.
Wincci says that she was tone deaf when she started her musical training, so since the age of 16, she spent seven hours every day practicing her vocal technique. “I used to work hard, with dedication, to keep on polishing my skills. Apart from that, I kept on participating in various singing competitions and auditions to train my stage performance,” she says.
In parallel, her acting career took off when, in 2009, she was cast in a local Chinese sitcom entitled Mr Siao’s Mandarin Class. Later on, she took part in other TV shows and films, like Yasmine and Kau Yang Satu. “I challenged myself on various TV shows and programs, and at the same time, I kept learning new talents. Step by step, I influenced the beauty pageant world and slowly made a name in the industry,” she says.
A Constant Learner
Besides her law degree, Wincci also holds an M.B.A. from the University of Sunshine Coast in Australia, and a Ph.D. in business administration from the Open University of Malaysia. “Education is an important tool for me to be able to analyze the market outside the entertainment niche. It’s also a wake-up call if I ever become blinded by the entertainment industry,” she says. Thanks to education, she managed to acquire essential analytical skills, which come in handy in this “ever-changing industry,” as she describes the entertainment sector. Challenging stereotyped perceptions over beauty pageants is also a motivation that keeps her going.
Wincci’s law and business backgrounds were pivotal when she set up her artist management company, Beyond Artistes, in 2014. “All this background allows me to take a higher position in life. Education kept me more focused on my dreams and adds strategic and measurable formulas and a methodology, which I incorporated to manage other artists and help them build their dreams,” she says.
She came to Berklee after 10 years of working on her music skills in order to establish herself as an artist outside Asia. “I decided to challenge myself as a music producer, to set a new trend for the music industry while creating new formulas for artists to be hybrid and self-sufficient,” she says.
Wincci confesses that the three first months were tough. “I was sleeping just two hours every day because I don’t have any background in audio engineering and production, so I had a lot of catch-up to do. The faculty, staff, and students really helped me so much during my transitional period,” she says. She found the support she needed by receiving extra advice and more hours in the studios as well as learning from more experienced classmates. Also, due to the time difference with Asia, she was managing her company at night while attending the lectures during the day. “However, I decided to close down my company during the winter break, and I’m now fully focused on my studies. During the weekends, I still travel back to Malaysia or China for major TV shows or recordings. I am trying to adjust every term as new opportunities keep arising,” she adds.
She praises the campus facilities and the convenience of the studios. “I can get things done in a shorter time as everything is within a close distance. Also, I make full use of all the facilities, and I totally love all the new equipment and studio rooms,” she says.
Once she graduates, Wincci is planning to apply for a postgraduate fellowship on Berklee’s campus in Valencia. “I want to master my Spanish further to be able to produce my songs in this language while continuing my creative process,” she says. Her future plans include a second Ph.D. at Harvard University, a master’s degree in acting in Korea, launching her songs in different languages, and trying to achieve her latest dream: to receive a Grammy Award for her music.