LUCIANA Francissca Peter, better known as Fran, is undoubtedly one of Malaysia’s most popular female singers.

She first started singing on a part-time basis in pubs to support her family after she finished her high school.

Fran then found fame in the early 1980s after she joined pianist Royston Sta Maria to establish the wildly successful duo, Roy & Fran.

However, after the duo’s second album, Fran decided to break off and begin a solo career. To date, she has recorded two duet albums, 11 solo albums and more than 20 compilation albums.

Her latest album, a compilation titled Francissca Peter & Friends — The Love and Hope Album, feature local artistes such as Juwita Suwito and Daniel Lee.

It is also a charity drive where proceeds from the album goes to World Vision Malaysia, of which Fran is its ambassador.

The Rakyat Postcaught up with Fran for this interview:

Q: You were raised in Ipoh. What was your childhood like?

A: I was born in Klang, but was raised in Ipoh, and I’m the second of four siblings. I spent my childhood in Ipoh but moved to Kuala Lumpur when I was in Form 2.

I went to a convent school in Ipoh but was put in a co-educational school in Kuala Lumpur. I hated it. Boys would call me names because I wore long socks, like the ones footballers use. I used them to cover the 10-sen sized round scars on my legs.

But then I was athletic, too, and the boys treated me like I was one of them. I also loved singing and music during my childhood but, ironically, looking back, I never won any talent contests that I entered.

In terms of ancestry, my dad is Ceylonese but his mother is part-Scottish while my mum is Hainanese.

My parents separated and my mum had to raise all four of us. It was a very difficult time. She was a housewife and started washing clothes for people to make a living.

Q:Did your desire to sing come from the necessity to earn and support your family, or were there other factors at play?

A: I was thrust into singing because it sprang more out of necessity than a desire to showcase my talents. I told my mum that we were so poor and there was a lot to think about financially.

So I went to Federal Hotel, which was a five-star hotel at that time, because the agents there advertised that they were looking for new talents. I was barely 17, but my mum was somehow confident when she saw how determined I was.

I went for one or two auditions, but I think I didn’t make the cut because I was too young and they were looking for racier-looking girls, which I wasn’t.

I come from a conservative family and background and decided to be just myself, not what they wanted. But the agents thought I would do well at pubs, and so they put me at pubs in Petaling Jaya and Damansara (which have closed down).

Q: And when did your collaboration with Royston Sta Maria start?

A: It was gradual as well. I was very young, so I had a good start. When (musician) Michael (Veerapen) asked me to join him in his band at that time, named Delta, I learned to sing light jazz.

But it disbanded soon after that. Michael knew I needed a gig, so he said that there was this guy playing piano at the Merlin Hotel (now occupied by Concorde Hotel) named Royston, who was looking for a singer. I stepped in after his singing partner, singer Khatijah Ibrahim, had to leave.

At one point during our performance, EMI recording company reps came by and were impressed with our performance. We joined the EMI family and had two albums. The rest is history.

Q: Tell me about World Vision. How did your involvement start and what activities were you involved in?

A: You know what it’s like when you leave a country and you have small change with you? I was on Cathay Pacific and leaving Hong Kong.

On the plane, they had these little envelopes written “World Vision” and it was a charity organisation. So the envelope explained that it was like doing your bit for charity and it even explained how you could sponsor a child.

I used to put my small change in it. I love to help others.

Someone in World Vision asked me if I would be interested to be a World Vision (Malaysia) ambassador. Then someone also asked if I’d like to sponsor a child. That was about 10 years ago.

Besides helping with the fundraising activities, I went to India to visit my sponsored child, and also other parts of the world to visit families affected by AIDS.

I learned a lot, such as learning about the importance of proper nutrition for children especially, as well as seeing how people gain skills to better their lives.

Q: You have enjoyed a good career. What’s your secret to success, if any?

A: It’s really very simple. It’s important to have a good heart and to be sincere in what you do. That is all!

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