Interviewing FREDA LIU is like cooking a meal for world-renowned celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, says CHEW SUE LEE who spent some time with the former TV news presenter, and current BFM radio presenter and producer.
Since beginning her stint at BFM in 2009, Freda has interviewed over 3,000 people – that’s an average of 1,000 interviews a year. Though a master interviewer herself, she allowed herself to be interrogated, and shared candidly about her life in a lively and spirited conversation.
No surprise there for anyone who has had the chance to listen to her dynamic business programme, “Enterprise”, on BFM 89.9, weekdays from 10am to 2pm. Stephen Covey, Tony Busan and Julian Assange are just some of the big names Freda has had the privilege to interview on her programme.
With her natural curiosity and interest in learning new things, she would never be short of subjects for her programme. “I’d like to have John C. Maxwell, Anthony Robbins, Malcolm Gladwell and Nelson Mandela on my show some day,” she says. “I enjoy talking to people every day and learning about their lives. I seriously believe it keeps me young.”
Young as she may be, Freda is a veteran in broadcasting with over 20 years of industry experience. While working fulltime public relations jobs at IBM and Edelman, she also worked as a weekend newscaster on RTM 2 for 17 years. While on a break to spend more time with her then seven-year old son in 2009, she was asked to join the newly-established BFM.
“I have always loved radio and believe it’s a powerful medium. So when the station was formed – and so close to where I live – I had a strong urge to join because it brought together my skills from the broadcasting and corporate worlds,” she shares.
Freda was born in Brunei where her father worked with Shell and lived there until she was 14 years old. She spent the rest of her school days at a missionary school in Kuching before moving to Kuala Lumpur for her tertiary education. She then spent a year in Australia where she completed a Marketing degree.
She recalls her growing-up years: “I grew up in a loving family and my parents really set a good foundation for my life by the way they loved each other and us children.”
Perhaps due to her time at a missionary school, Freda had always believed that Jesus was the only way to salvation. “I have always believed, although I only started a personal journey with Christ in 2005.
“At that time my husband was facing a difficult business situation that promised to end disastrously. But when the worst was miraculously averted, I just knew that God had a hand in it. I told my husband that we should go to church to thank God for His blessings.”
Now an active member of Glad Tidings Church, Freda exudes the faith of a strong believer and her life bears the fruits of one rooted in Christ. She has a firm and strong identity in Christ, which influences the way she lives and navigates through life’s difficult circumstances.
Referring to a difficult personal problem she currently faces, Freda says she does not want to let bitterness take root in her heart because bitter root produces bitter fruit. Through a journey of continually seeking to know God and His will, she has fully surrendered herself and her circumstances to Him.
In sharing about her struggle to love and forgive those who have hurt her, she says, “This is not me talking – it’s God. On my own I would not be able to love my enemies and show grace to them.”
As a mother to 10-year old Jude, she also knows that she plays an influential role in modelling life to him. “No matter what I tell him about God, in the end, he’s watching my life. I know I have a limited time to support him and teach him godly values so that he will make the right decisions when he grows up. What is all the tuition and education for if a child does not grow up to be a responsible and God-fearing adult?” Freda asks.
“Right now, I feel that my son needs a solid foundation in his spiritual growth. So apart from Junior Church, he is involved in cell (group) with me plus Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).”
Having recently joined BSF with Jude, Freda sees it as a time of bonding and learning with him. “The children have a separate session on the same topic. Sometimes when I’m stuck answering a question, I check out his answers,” she laughs.
In light of this issue’s focus on social media, she says of her son, “He does not own an iPad or a Facebook account, and I tell him no TV during school days.” Instead, she encourages him to spend time drawing, reading, playing with toys, and talking to her.
“I try to model it to him by putting aside my phone when I’m talking to him so that I can focus on him,” she says.
Faith at Work
Some people may find it difficult to model their faith at the workplace. For Freda however, people’s reaction to her displays of faith at her workplace is not an issue for her.
“My faith has never been a hindrance in my career, though it does affect people around me. Some people feel offended when I place (Bible) verses on my Facebook status. But that has never stopped me.
“I did not get to where I am without my faith. It has kept me sane,” she asserts.
Recognising that words have the power to build up or tear down, Freda realises she plays a crucial role as an edifier in her job as a radio presenter.
“When we talk about our tongue and how it can curse or bless, it’s very true in my role. My approach has always been to edify, and get the truth out of someone without being purposefully direct and hurtful. ‘Innocent as doves but wise as a serpent’ would be a good modus operandi,” she says.
Aside from her role in BFM, Freda finds time to volunteer at her church in the area of promotions and publicity, and in the church’s new ministry – Glad Tidings TV (GTTV).
In February, she went on a short-term mission trip to Sri Lanka with two others where they worked with children in wartorn and disaster-stricken Jaffna.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me. When you hear their stories and what they have been through, you can’t help but think that we have it easy, and that there will always be someone out there who’s had it harder than you. When you think your life is tough, just read Job.” she says.
Being a celebrity in her own right, what does she think about fame? “I don’t see myself as a superstar and I don’t think the station itself puts a big emphasis on presenters. We’re more about the content, which is what I like,” she explains.
As a Christian, she is not afraid to tackle topics that are unknown to her and contrary to her beliefs. “When I’m forced to interview feng shui experts, usually during the Chinese New Year season, I tell them I don’t believe but I let them have their say. Christians can’t be ignorant about what the world believes,” she notes.
When asked if she ever gets tired of talking to people on her programme, she instantly shakes her head.
“I’m having fun! I love the conversations and the interactions I get to have with people every day. I don’t know where I’ll be in 10 years, but I’m taking it one day at a time. I’d like to get more involved in missions, write a book, travel more; but more importantly I think I want to focus on my relationship with God.”