LAST WEDNESDAY afternoon, Deborah Sims sat safely in a haven while a storm approached. The haven was her latest venture, the Face Magic Haven, on the 30th floor of The Centrium. From the beginning of next month, the new business will offer non-invasive cosmetic treatments, such as Botox, to diminish age- and stress-induced wrinkles. The storm was Typhoon Imbudo but, for the metaphor-minded, it might just as easily represent the sense of outrage some people will feel when they see that Sims is once more preparing to launch herself on the Hong Kong scene. At 11am today, she will hold a press conference to unveil Face Magic Haven. It has been 16 months to the day since her last media appearance. On that occasion - March 28, 2002 - she announced that her spa and gym, Body By Deborah (BBD), which had suddenly closed for 'restructuring' two months earlier, would be wound up. Ater five minutes, she was crying so bitterly that the next day's papers were filled with images of her weeping. 'I didn't have to do that press conference,' she says, looking out at Imbudo's rain. 'But I felt I had to make an announcement. It's the toughest press conference I ever did. I didn't want to cry. What happened last year was a major . . .' And here, as she would do several times in the course of two hours, Sims pauses. 'I can't find the right words. Major ... what's the appropriate word?' Several, not all of them complimentary, spring to mind. At the time, there was a sense that BBD's clients and workforce had not been well-served: 100 employees were owed several months' wages and members, who had paid thousands of dollars in fees and prepaid beauty coupons, were never reimbursed. Nor did it help when it was revealed that Sims herself topped the creditors' list. The members' claims were $5.1 million; Sims sought $24.1 million. Given the seething resentment and terrible publicity, you have to wonder if she truly knows what she's letting herself in for by putting her head once more above the parapet. 'I do,' she states. She certainly looks determined - in an unfurrowed, sensationally sculpted way, which may have something to do with the Botox treatments she received when she retreated to Australia after the BBD debacle. 'I'm ready for it. I've done nothing wrong. I lost. This is something that hurt me a lot. Who got hurt? I did. But does anyone know? No. It was because of my clients that I didn't want to give up.' She draws breath, grows increasingly furious at the memory: 'When BBD closed in February last year, I went to everyone - everyone - and I was ready not to take anything from the business as long as someone was willing to take on my business and take care of my clients. I tried. 'What I went through that month and a half ... Did anyone know what I went through? People I never thought I'd ask; I asked.' Did that include Eddie Phillips, co-founder of Phillip Wain and her former husband? She hesitates. 'No. He's happily in Australia.' In fact, having gone through a rocky time during and after their divorce in the mid-1990s, the pair seem to have reached a plateau of understanding. Sims spent much of last year under either Wain's roof, in Byron Bay, or his mother's, in Sydney, looking after their two children, Natasha, 14, and Bogart, 12, who both attend Australian boarding schools. 'We're fine now,' Sims says. 'It's better to love than to hate. I've got over the anger. 'I'm a proud person,' she continues. Her foot has started to waggle up and down, a sort of compensatory agitation for what her face no longer conveys quite so busily. 'I was proud of my business. The first few meetings with these people were very serious, then in the fourth or fifth session, they'd start to say certain things ...' Sims looks down at her teacup. 'I'm not a stupid person, I'd think, 'This is not right'. I'd say, 'What are you guys looking for?' They'd say, 'We want you too.' I'd say, 'Me? Of course, I'll have the responsibility, running everything.' And they'd say, 'No, Deborah, you're an adult, blah, blah.' And . . . and I'd say, 'I'm not here to sell myself.'' She begins to cry. She picks up the teacup and mutters: 'So humiliating.' She is completely silent for a moment, then says: 'It's been a long while.' Even in that scandalised moment (and another sleazy suggestion put to her, unrepeatable here) her brow is still pretty much a crumple-free zone. It is to Sims' credit that when this observation is offered, in a consoling, girlie, shoulder-patting sort of way, she gives a huge laugh through the tears. 'I'm so emotional,' she says. 'I was desperate, desperate. But thank God, I still had sense. It's the humiliation, more than anything else - but that was my bottom line. I wouldn't go further.' So BBD failed. 'But was it a viable business? Yes. I made mistakes - I expanded too quickly [by opening a Central branch, in 2000, in addition to the original Causeway Bay spa which had opened in 1996]. I didn't have reliable staff. It was not a good team.' When asked what has happened to them, Sims' voice hardens: 'The Labour Tribunal took care of it. I feel for my clients. I feel for some of my staff. But a lot of them just took . . . even now they don't have jobs and they probably regret what they did.' No tears there then. What about the debts? 'I had to personally guarantee some of the debts, I'm still paying but I've paid most of them. People said to me, 'Deborah, go bankrupt, so that you can come back,' but I didn't want to do that. At the end, I had no more cash - I had some assets but I couldn't realise them then.' She flew to Australia straight after last year's press conference. 'I couldn't stay here. People look at you in a different way.' Was she verbally abused? 'Fortunately not. I've done nothing wrong. I lost the most. I was the major creditor and I got nothing. Nothing!' It was while she was in Australia, flicking though health and beauty publications, that she read about Botox. 'I've always had strong frown lines which give people the wrong impression, so I tried it in Sydney last October. I think I did another one in February. I was so impressed, my brain starts thinking - I've already recuperated, my kids are going into boarding-school, I think, 'Deborah, what are you going to do with your life?' The answer, it seems, is the haven - or Face By Deborah. Although this time around, it's owned by other investors and as she carefully puts it: 'This is a job. I have to make it work. After the things I've lost ...' She pauses, meaningfully. There's another sort of face on the line here too. Her fung shui master has informed her that her first customer must be treated (by one of three in-house doctors) at 10am on August 1. This naturally begs a question about what the master predicted during last year's crisis. 'When I tried to restructure, he said no, that I wouldn't succeed. I was 95 per cent confident and I didn't believe him ... but he was right.' And now? 'He says that I should go ahead,' she says.