What’s in a Name? – Caitanya Tan

A few months ago I was interviewed by ‘Millennials of Sg‘ for a video that was to represent (for me):

– the sharing of a story regarding my name,

– my dad’s story,

– how he had named me,

– what he’d hoped for me by naming me,

– the triggers for my dislike of it,

– my plans to travel to a place of its origin,

– my first realizations of racism,

– the name with which I finally identified,

– my story.

My. Story.

My personal story misrepresented by a video with a 4min cutoff point.

My lifelong journey in search for my identity, my values, my beliefs, my goals, my philosophies, misrepresented because edits were limited by a 4min cutoff point, and cuts had to be put together within the confines of an angle, which could change the storytelling altogether, whether or not it was intentional.

What started as a dialogue of question and answer was condensed as a monologue, as if I had sat on that stool and aired ‘grievances’.

I’m not going to hide the fact that I said some controversial things that a ‘majority raced’ person should not have said. 


I have an Indian name.


On its own, VERY CONTROVERSIAL.

I imagine this could be how it was interpreted:

Dasa Dharamahsena at his stand-up comedy performance at 17 Ann Siang Hill, who ripped on me for being more infamous than him, causing quite the riot of laughter from his audience. 😂😂🤘🏼🤘🏼

What started out as a dialogue, aired on ‘Millennials of SG’ on July 11th 2017, was received first graciously, then by the encouragement of a couple of urges, opened floodgates to what would be quite difficult to swallow for the next couple of days..

It went viral.

Friends started standing up for me:



This is Prem. I am grateful for your insight and everyone who shared stories of encouragement and support. You are the gems of this earth and I hope I may embrace the grace that was shared and eventually pay it forward. But to Prem, thank you for sticking up for me.

Day 2.

Mothership.sg (a local Facebook news platform) picked it up and shared it on their page. Commendable for the neutral standpoint they took, and to be fair the result was both positive and negative.


Brought up to me by a long-time friend Kannan Jn, captioned in my defense. And thank you for that insight. I AM on mothership.sg now it’s true.

I clicked it.

I shouldn’t have.

Some netizens went straight for the jugular. They executed the lowest of lows by insulting my family. My parents.

This is unacceptable. Because of my father I had the opportunity to go through hardships that SHAPED me. And because of my father, we have beautiful meaningful names that bare the essence of who he wanted us to be. These powerful people in Hindu folklore or the religious stories, whatever you believe in. Kelton65, come out from behind a screen and say this like a man to my face. Identify your cowardice self. You gutless, menial, debilitated, ineffectual, yellow-bellied milksop.

You’re an inappropriate name!

There are some degenerate things on a list somewhere out there, and ‘parent-insulting’ is in that list. In my eyes there is a special place in hell for people who stoop to that level of disrespect.

They also attacked my character, one calling me a ‘slut’, another calling me a ‘racist’, another calling me a ‘victim’.

Bitch. Please.

I may be some other things that disgust (a potty-mouth for one), but the above are NOT things that I am, and for that reason and that reason alone, I will fight.

I will fight as I have fought with how I’ve defined myself for years, by the way society wants to see me.

I will fight as I have fought with myself and the things I liked Vs things that were appropriate to say, be, or do. Not that I’m grossly inappropriate, but controversial by traditional Singaporean standards, quite.

But on my journey of transformation, I softened the once hardened interior, but gave myself a solid centre, my pillar of strength, as I opened myself to the joys of flooding emotions, accompanied with the joys of not giving a fuck (check out previous post – #performerlife the importance of idgaf). With this combination of things, joie de vivre, and a spirit that flows with the wind, I am certain I’ll be ready for the rest of my life. Ups and downs.

There sure are a lot of ‘I’s happening here. Isn’t that a bit self-centered?

No.

It’s VERY self-centered.

But.

I believe vehemently that you’re in charge of your life. I can’t be in your business about your life, because I am not You. In that same token, I don’t judge you because your choices are really none of my business. You’re the one that can make or break you, create and destroy your happiness or sadness, and take charge.. of YOU.

My daddy always told me never to point a finger. That if you were involved even in the slightest, you contributed to the outcome in some way, so to blame someone for my own mistakes was out of the question for me.. 

Boy have I made a LOT of mistakes (the details of which, may be too graphic for my poor parents who will be reading this for sure). I’ve failed plenty of times too.

But this gets me through..


And this is the motto of my life:

Thank you dad.

Everything is a learning opportunity, a moment of reflection, a mini triumph, but all worth celebrating at the end.

Anyway. I digress. Not sure #ADD or #ENFP.

The 2nd day had passed, and the 3rd arrived.

Boom. One more platform had chosen to utilize the ‘virility’ of the video to gain traction. Business-wise, touché! I may or may not have done the same given the circumstances.

But the next thing they did, I would never have done. They stooped to another low.. interpreted the video and ‘summarized’ it to garner hate. We have enough hate going on in the world don’t you think?


It’s easy to take things out of context, and call me ungrateful for a beautiful name with a depth unimaginable, without reading my previous blogpost: ‘Living Up to Your Name‘. And we all know how some people simply read captions and come to conclusions these days.

There is a lot of nuance in there that he didn’t bother to reiterate because it would have, clearly, resulted in less viewership. So again, business-wise, shrewd, bastardy, but touché.

In response, another friend of mine shared it, captioning:


Thank you Tushar; my philosophical Vegetable friend. You stood by me like a real bud. You deserve a shoutout.

His viewers were undecided on the controversial topic, mixed with their own personal hardships growing up, some mockery, some judgements, some insights, but again, missing the point.

I’m not going to lie, It was also interesting for me as a case study (as I often do with life and its dark dark anecdotes), to see the number of people who were commenting about how I SHOULD name myself, that I should embrace the original pronunciation of the name, that by calling myself something else I dishonor my father’s wishes.

While THIS is valid:


This is ALSO valid:


And however we get there is our personal journey of empowerment.

While I see the benefit in all the comments encouraging me to call myself the ‘right’ thing (I truly do, who knows maybe I will one day.. isn’t Snoop Dogg now Snoop Lion or something?).. my belief is that I reserve the right not to. Simply because I don’t want to. And this is a decision that doesn’t affect anybody’s lives negatively (I don’t think).

So…


And it is as much my right to keep it that way, as it is yours to bash me for not doing the ‘right’ thing. I respect your opinion, but I disagree.

This, right here, to me, is the beauty of life. I may be undecided on a lot of things, but it is only because I have had the opportunity to be told  stories that end up validating certain actions/occupations/behaviours in a world where those decisions, unexplained, are judged negatively.

I, too, am ashamed to have once judged those people. From the sheltered convenience of being ‘privileged’ in aspects, I developed flaws that I am still trying to reverse. But so deeply ingrained they are that I, still, need to be forgiven for things that just don’t come out right.

I am unapologetic, imperfect, rough round the edges, but most importantly, to me at least, I am REAL. I strive to be REALer if that can be a word if just for this instance.

I remind myself every day..


Life has taught me so many lessons, and through it I have learnt to be REAL no matter the consequence.

And you know what is really REAL in this situation?

The courage it took for the good people at ‘Millennials of Singapore’ to pull the video, and explain that due to a tragedy in the family, the curation of the video might have had been overlooked, since racial topics are such a sensitive thing afterall, and the final cuts chosen should have been carefully inspected in order to tell the full story as intended (like on my blog).


I have nothing but respect for this company. The way the director had handled the situation was truly commendable even though skepticism still fills the air to a certain extent.

Also part of the story that is poignant, is how I was making plans for a passion project that takes me to India, to experience my father’s footsteps, ending at the grave/birth place of his sitar master, Pandit Ravi Shankar, so that I may see the love of my father’s life, and better understand his impetus.

But until then..

I will not apologize for being myself, for choosing the things I want in life, the things I like, to experience, to do, to be.

You can only deal the best hand with the cards you’re given. This, for me, today, is truer than true.

You may be a nobody to somebody. But do yourself a solid and at least, against all odds, be a somebody to yourself. 

Living up to your name

My father bestowed upon me a name that I am yet to fulfil in uniqueness.

Caitanya.

“What a beautiful name,” people usually say.

Thanks!

But with something as unique and tricky to pronounce as a name like ‘CAITANYA’, one can picture growing-up to be quite a 5-lettered B word.

My Life lessons are best learnt through pain, giving me another understanding of the cliched saying, ‘No pain, no gain’. A phrase so freely utilized by the previous generation to suggest toughing-out to reap the benefits of what is to come from having toughed-out.

I thought it meant studying hard and, as a result, getting good grades (oh ye of asian brain-washing).

Nobody said it would mean something much deeper, and take almost 30 years. Suddenly my respect for the older generation has increased tenfold, simply because these ‘longer-liveds’ probably see layers in overused sayings that just seemed like, well, overused sayings to us youngins.

Primary (elementary) school was the start of the cliques, consisting of ‘Black Chickens’, ‘Brown Chickens’, and ‘Yellow Chickens’ – the innocent awakening of racism in the form of colours and animals.

Being a part of the ‘Yellow Chicken’ clan (75% of Singapore’s racial makeup), I’m of the majority race, which as you can imagine, means a certain ‘Yellow privilege’ in society, or in this case, the quadrangle (schoolyard).

But the moment they found out the origins of my name, it was over.

The name-calling. The obvious, exchanged-glances for approval, from peers, backing their judgmental questions, from both ‘Yellow Chickens’ and ‘Black Chickens’ alike.

Are you Chinese? Are you Indian? If you are Chinese then why do you have an Indian name? If you have an Indian name then how can you be Chinese?

It all sounds so ridiculous now, but 7 year old Caitanya had a different set of ears to the one she now has.

Yes my friends. The name ‘Caitanya’ is of Indian Origins.

Pronounced: Chai-Tan-Ya.

It is also, a MAN’s name.

It belonged to a man who was regarded as a reincarnation of the Lord Krishna, from the Hindu religion originating in India.

You see, my father, is a Musician in the 70s, a hippie; a new-age, yoga-loving, sitar-playing Chinese-raced Singaporean man with a LOVE for Indian music. The serene sounds of the instruments, the meditative trance brought about by the ‘Tanpura’ in the background, keeping a constant drone of sound, like breath, non-stop. The gentle fingering of the ‘Sympathetic strings’ on a Sitar, that insinuates a cascading waterfall. The ‘Dha, Dhin, Ta, Ti, TiRaKiTa, Tin, Tu’ of the Tabla, amongst other sounds, suggesting a range of variety in tempo within the constant pulse of the human heartbeat – painting the perfect, uniquely-interpreted landscape, in the mind’s eye.

It doesn’t have to be your ‘thing’ for you to understand that there IS beauty in this art form – and my papa was intoxicated.

He packed his bags and left on some crazy pilgrimage to India, living the life, soaking up the spirit up like a dehydrated sponge, finding his Sitar master, who turned out to be the great, Pandit (Master) Ravi Shankar.

Just look at my super Chinese bespectacled papa, and this legend of a Sitarist. #proudkidmoment 

Credits to ‘Flame of the Forest‘ for this photo.

He lived the ‘Hari Krishna’ life to dive deeper into the entire culture of the music he loved so dear. A Chinese Singaporean man, in the 70s, voyaging out into what was considered by so many Singaporeans then, to be beneath them. #IDGAF strong in this one. Embracing the opportunity, fulfilling his artistic desires, igniting the spark and setting his soul on musical fire.
Fast forward some years. Under social expectations of his still traditional family, he was to follow the regular milestones of every other existing person in that era; to get a job, find a wife, be a dad, provide for his family.

In his last attempts to retain his beautiful memories, he seeded his children with Hindu names – reminiscent of his musicianship years in India – continuing his legacy, as we were to become his masterpieces.

As fate would have it, all 3 of us developed in his footsteps, becoming artists with obsessions similar and dissimilar to his own.

Krsna Tan (Middle child) on the Electric sitar, the first of its kind, wired up to guitar pedals to create a brand new interpretation to the traditionally perceived Instrument.

Govin Tan (The youngest), who specializes in the Tabla, modernizing the Indian percussion instrument by integrating it with the western drum kit.

Oh, how proud,

my father must be,

that his apples don’t fall

too far from the tree.

Both my brothers have won International Indian music open category competitions in their respective fields of expertise, and now orchestrate a fantastic World Music band (also handed down to them by my father) called ‘Flame of the Forest‘ – writing original, picturesque, cinematic compositions, collaborating with musicians who play both western and Asian instruments.

Appearing in articles and known as the ‘Chinese Brothers with Indian names who specialize in Indian Instruments’. From left: Krsna & Govin Tan, and Chris (the guitarist).

A true celebration of differences, the brain and loin child of my forward thinking father.

That one time we performed together on National Day 2016, where I got to sing with them. What an honour for me, what a proud father moment for my papa.

Listen to their music in Spotify (Marimba dance is my favourite), or support them by buying their EP on iTunes.

Some may know that I took a different route, but just in case:

I studied Musical Theatre as a Degree, but have gone on to all sorts of performances from Disneyland, to TV, to commercials, to touring kids shows, hosting, and managing international performers internationally.

I teared up thinking that in those days, my father couldn’t pull away from societal norms the way I was able to. The way he let me, knowing my wild spirit is residual of his own. The blood coursing through my veins carries the same untamable qualities that he possessed before I was born. He even composed a song for his first-born entitled ‘Caitanya’s Smile’. What an honour it is to be the recipient of such a gift, when all I’d done up to that point was, essentially, putting an end to what made his soul soar.

And yet, growing up, I knew nothing.


I hated my name.

Not because it was a ‘Black Chicken’ name. But because, how could you love something that has caused you so much pain, made you endure such mockery, questioning who you are for such a long time.

But in some way, I am glad that I was born into ‘easy’, and thrown a curveball that I wasn’t about to catch till later years. Simply because if I had it easy all my life, maybe I wouldn’t have had the privilege of walking in the shoes of the minority; experiencing discrimination first hand, developing empathy as the result, and learning to stand adamantly by diversity in as many aspects in life as I can.

Knowing that even through the diversity of things, we’re still quite similar; Adversity, for one, is a shared experience! Eveybody possesses, at least, a part of themselves they haven’t yet developed the courage to acknowledge.

I know what my father intended – for me to possess the virtues that come with the name.

But I know now what I intend for myself.

I prefer now to be known as ‘Kate-Anya’ (a variated pronunciation of the original ‘Chai-Tan-Ya’), which stuck with me since attendance-taking on the first day Musical Theatre School, my true awakening into the #performerlife.



So.

What’s in a name?

For me – it signifies my Papa’s Story, hand in hand with my Own.

An ungrateful misunderstanding for a good part of my childhood, but a lifetime to figure out how best to live up to possesing such a magnificent ‘story’ to tell.

I have a little niece now. Her name is Gaia.

‘Gaia’ translates to ‘mother earth’, also unique with big shoes to fill.

​​Uncle Govin starting the training young.

​​In true sharing of Art, Krsna made a little Sitar for his daughter, and she’s loving it!

Branching from a family with an Auntie and an Uncle with unique names, I hope she will enjoy her childhood reaffirmed that difference is truly a blessing.

Thank you Mummy for this photo of the loves of your life.

Thank you for simply loving us.

#PerformerLife – the importance of IDGAF

First they say, “You’ll never make money,”.

Photo credits: Adam Tun-Aung.

It was never about the money.

Then they say, “You’re not pretty enough,”.


I’ll work harder on my craft then.

Then they say, “You’ll never be good enough,”.


There’s no such thing as ‘good enough’.

Then you graduate, and make your first salary. Twice as much any fresh graduate from an educational institute with a degree ‘more worth getting than the one you got’.

Dor che Wahaha. Disney performer 2010-2012.

And they say, “Its not artistic,”.

When the time felt right, you quit, because you’re 24 and you want to diversify. Afterall:



And they say, “Pfft.. Millennials,”.

You attempt ‘Adulting’, (untraditionally, for a Singaporean) rent an apartment, with a living allowance from your previous 2 year themepark stint (as a benchmark), and a specialty-performing (unable to manage himself businesswise) then-boyfriend, you take the opportunity to learn more about the business side of things, taking a break from ‘performer’ to  travel internationally as someone’s ‘manager’.
International French specialty performer, Mickael Bellemène and his manager, Caitanya Tan.

Fun times, playing dress-up.

The only blazer I ever owned as Manager Cait.

Attended fun events that meant something to us on a personal level. Playeum.

Met and entertained the Prince of Monaco.

Put together these collaterals.

And orchestrated this photoshoot / brochure. Thank you Jon Cancio.

Started my own business, and produced a Laser man show together. Video produced by Jeremiah Su of Cinema Verite Pictures.

And they say, “All that money on a performance degree, and now you want to do business?”.

So you get back in the game, doing what you trained to do, what you ENJOY, which happens to be what you’re great at, getting paid to travel and entertain children.

One of my first kids shows (Hello Kitty Karaoke TV, at Takashimaya) for a swell boss, Ryan Mortimer.

‘Barney’s Birthday Bash’ touring show, 2013, thank you MEI and Ryan Mortimer.

‘A Year with Frog and Toad’, playing the role of ‘Turtle’ at the Kallang Theatre, with ‘The Players Theatre‘.

‘Barney and Friends’ kids show hosting at City Square Mall (3 years in a row).

Barney’s Groovy Party.

‘Ice Age’ kids show hosting at Changi Airport.

BBC’s ‘CBeebies’ Zingzillas’ touring kids show.

​​Video snippet here (if you got kids, or you like this sorta thing).

Come full circle from Disney and back to hosting a Disney gig.

Dinosaur Train, by X-system.

And they say, “When are you ever going to grow up?”.

So I upped my game. Time to diversify again, do more varieties of performances. More varieties of ‘big people’ type of performances.

‘Not Quite the Moulin Rouge’, a comic french-style theatre show by Bellepoque.

Host / Singer for events (this one was for the French Chamber of Commerce, because somehow I managed to learn French, sing in French, and know enough people to get this job).

Merci Arthur Bontemps pour le photo.

Twice in fact!

Went into TV – Whispers of the dead, Channel 5.

​​Sang with my brothers’ world music band (Flame of the Forest) for the ‘Diner en Blanc’ event.

‘Fitness Modeled’ a little bit.

Sang at weddings.

Hosted / sang for the Prince of Monaco.

Did some ‘buzzfeed’ style reaction videos for Swerve Community.

Traveled to Paris for this commercial for Ascott.

Pretended to be a forensics pathologist on Tv series, ‘Point of Entry’ on Channel 5.

Pretended to be corporate bitch on this commercial.

Became ‘Captain Goh’ on Channel 5’s Tv series, ‘Tanglin’.

‘Captain Goh’ a recurring character on a long-form TV series.

Delved into more ‘grown-up’ genre short films.

Now rehearsing for this new show, ‘Scents of Josephine’, a show about international superstar, Josephine Baker, by Bellepoque, opening on the 26th of April 2017 (Tickets now available on Peatix).

Appeared and mocked for being on a recent Visa Commercial, Simmons Mattress Commercial..

And they said, “You’re not even famous,”.

You know what?

Some people don’t get famous. And you should know that that’s alright. Not because I’m an underachiever, not that I’m opposed to being famous, but because there are so. Many. Factors involved in becoming famous.

But not possessing those attributes shouldn’t deter you from doing what you love, especially if you’re able to live quite comfortably from it.

I’m a working actor. A working performer. I’m doing something that you may never understand. The mental strength, the physical expectations, the unrealistic ‘good examples’ one of us needs to set since we appear on TV or social media so much.


I’m grateful for all the experiences I’ve had the opportunity to go through.

So, you look at my Facebook, and you mock the ‘shit’ that I have to do as an actor. But what you don’t see is the emotional growth I’ve gone through, the joy in these childrens’ eyes, the satisfaction one gets from paying rent with performing money, because they all said we’d never survive.

People claim to know what we do, how we do it, calling us good liars because we ‘act’ for a living.

As I get older I am learning to sit and smile, and actively try to see from their perspective as to why they would have such strong opinions about something over which they possess so little knowledge.

Now, of course, to some extent, writing this post was for myself. To address the issues I face as an actor being expected to get skinnier, not swear, be fairer-skinned in my country so that I am more castable (racial makeup is such a hindrance everywhere). 

Yes I’m not J. Law, but the principles still apply. They apply in LIFE.

But I take that responsibility too! In owning the way I live life, the choice I made and am making, as frivolous as they may sound to anyone else.

Reconnect with your own power.

That this is not a real job in singapore, and I’m often being mocked for being a freelancer, which is pretty much like owning a company (with your recurring clients and unsuspecting new ones, hello it’s the same thing).
I always believed this.

That there’s a lifespan to this career choice, and what happens when I’m old and ugly? You mean regular working people don’t get retrenched when they’re older and less relevant to a company?

#empowerment

But throughout years of peoples’ judgments; towards my mother for ‘allowing her child to take this path’, towards me for ‘underutilizing my potential’, towards my father for instigating a tough life for his children (he was a musician too), I kept doing what I wanted, because it felt right.

#passiondriven

#ENFP

#ADD

#labels

I know why I kept doing it, too. What kept me going in times of financial or emotional distress. Knowing that my life is passion-driven, is the beauty of the life I lead.

My father always said.

Through the eyes of my conventional Chinese relatives I may be crazy for my choices. Unfamous, but unaware of when to quit.

Stupid.

But there is so much philosophy in my madness that they don’t see. 

Inside of every grown-up, is a child. 

I get to release that child when I want, because I enjoy the concept of #idgaf.

#idgaf

Midshow #idgaf

#idgaf

Time? Pfft. #idgaf

Hosting for a big corporate fancy schmancy gala event? This is me. #idgaf

Whipped cream wastage? Not to worry, I’ll help you out. #idgaf

Today I am also a turtle. #idgaf

Sometimes I pick fights with penguins. #idgaf

Take a bit out of the banana before the photoshoot begins.

But mostly, 

I feel like a superhero.

Because of this,

This,

And this.

Sometimes I do it for ME.

And sometimes I do it for you.

And this is sorta what I learnt on my journey as an Actress. Probably the same things You’re learning on your journey as a human being.

Sometimes you get your hands dirty,

Sometimes your heart breaks, but at the end of it all..

I guess we’re not that different afterall.

I may not be famous, or successful the way you perceive success. But the distance I’ve traveled from the time you said to me, “You’ll never make money,” is an intri-Cait journey I will always be proud of.

People will say what they want, based on the little they know about you, and the experiences they’ve had in life, so I say..


“Sometimes you just gotta not give a fuck,”.

Thanks Kilo Lounge for your #Voyeurism.

To my mother’s mother – Enjoy those wings

6:15pm, 9th of March 2017, the doctor officially pronounced my grandmother – dead.

Although according to my mother, who, even though hopeful at the time, it could have happened earlier, at 5:05pm.

I never saw my mother cry like this. Leaning on my shoulder, embracing me tightly because she needed me. She was always the strong one. Never really seemed to need a shoulder. I felt so honoured, to be of service to this woman during a rare time of need.

I guess witnessing someone’s death will do it. Someone who, more importantly, gave you life. Something like that must change a person in a way I can only imagine.

Described through furrowed brows, eyes darting around, as she relived each poignant action taken during my grandmother’s final hours of deterioration. The way she reached over and massaged her cold, limp, hand. The way she lifted her shirt to check her skin colour and temperature.. In that physical space between my mother and me, losing herself in the explanation, I could almost See my grandmother still in her death bed.

At first, some phalanges started to turn purple, so my mother massaged them, bringing circulation back to the tips of her toes. It didn’t last long. As my mother lifted the clothes to check, she could see blue and white patches of discoloured skin. She then checked for heartbeats with a stethoscope – faint, but still going, breath sparse, but still going.

A text was blasted to her 7 siblings, “Mother isn’t doing well, it may be time,”.

She then continued to massage the woman who taught her of love, unconditional, as she faded; first, her heartbeat, then finally, her colour, no longer indicating signs of life.

“White. She was completely white,” said my mother.

One brother arrived, panicked, “How certain are you that she is gone? How certain?” He sounded Mad, but frightened. He was afterall his mother’s gem.

My mother couldn’t say. She didn’t want to say. She wanted to have as many final moments with her mother as possible, and she wasn’t confident, or ready, or certain enough to announce that it was over.

As I listened to her describe these moments, losing herself in the narration, I couldn’t help but parallel that feeling to my own (selfish as that may sound). I couldn’t even consider losing my mother, the way she’d lost hers, even though my grandma had been blessed with the fortune of dying from old age.

My mother said, “I was a nurse. I have witnessed plenty of deaths. But not like this. Never like this. This has truly changed my life,”.

Listening to my ‘strong’ almost-traditional Asian mother, on the verge of tears, recounting  stories of her own mother’s kindness, love, resilience. Even when faced with a relative who was unkind to her own children, my grandma persevered, compromised, and defended her blood in a way that, according to my mum “only a mother would know how”.

With carefully chosen words, she described a tyrannical tale that resulted in her grotesque disappointment in that one aunt, who had purposefully driven a rift between her late father and his children. How she, to her mother’s dismay, never spoke to her or acknowledged that side of the family, even till now.

We’re not that different, mum.

You and I. And you should see this as a strength.

I, too, stand up for what I believe in. 

I, too, am a strong woman, like you.

Thinking about the times you tried to hide your flaws from me growing up, I just want to grab you by the shoulders and say, ‘Dammit mum, you didn’t have to! I can handle it. You need to Teach me by Showing me that YOU handled it, as flawed as you thought you did, and overcame it the way you did’.

By sharing this part of her life with me, at the wake of my grandmother, her mother, I had jus learnt so much about myself.

The next generation of women are truly improvements of the previous in that now we Dare. We speak up for ourselves, defend ourselves better. We express our displeasure,  discuss grievances. We put our foots down. And at the same time, we can learn so much from the generations that ‘suffered’ in silence, but without viewing ourselves as a ‘victim’.

We can now anger in silence because we Decided it is the most beautiful way to express emotions. Emotions suppressed by many a still-traditional Singaporean Chinese household, blushed to ‘lose face’, no longer because we cannot express them, but because there is art in ‘control’. It is not a rule to be carried out, but finally a philosophy to understand about the journey of life and death. A choice to be made.

‘From the moment we are born, we begin to die’ ( Janne Teller, Nothing) is a beautiful thought because it amplifies the reason to live life to its fullest since we’re on our way out anyway.

I was probably never the girl my mother wanted. I am not gentle. I am not ‘lady-like’ whatever that means. I do not dream of marrying and birthing like other girls, I longed to live, to explore, to travel, to think and speak freely. I am unlike her, because my mother checked off all her milestones; The job, the man, the 3 children, the car, the house, the garden, the filial piety..

I am not the same.

I am, because I am not the same kind of ‘girl’ my mother sorta was in my grandmother’s eyes, a bad (grand) daughter.

And yet, my perfect mother and flawed I, during the send-off prayers at my grandmother’s wake, sat beside each other, exchanged cheeky glances every so often, as the monks monotonously chanted the scriptures from some Buddhist book.

My mother and I, during those glances, would giggle a little at the pace at which this chant is dragging, without being disrespectful to the somber atmosphere around us, shared a moment in agreement that neither of us were going to last through 236 pages of this thing we couldn’t follow, even with the damn ‘pinyin’ written beside each Chinese character.

(Pinyin is the standard system of romanized spelling for translierating Chinese.)

By page 25 of 236 pages into the monotonous chanting of Buddhist scriptures, consisting of unending 2-page spreads, with 10 lines of 17 characters each; I could no longer sit on the straw mat in the Singaporean humidity with my mourning clothes on top of my regular clothes. Since she attained a higher level of patience and understanding with age, my mother excused me from the prayer mat.

Although I didn’t know much about my grandmother, she certainly made an impact on my life by giving me a complicated woman for a mother. A mother with layers of deeply embedded Singaporean-Chinese values, who gave up ‘occupational expectations’ to accommodate her 3 ‘out of the ordinary’ performing children, and 1 silly man for a husband. A mother dealing with wiggle-waggling blood relatives and her displeased, headstrong, first born child. A mother I will only learn more about in the years to come.

An improvement from a grandmother, to whom I didn’t manage to find a bridge of understanding or communication.
Thanks to my cousin Ruby Tay for this lovely photo.
She gave me relatively bigger eyes (for a Chinese), she gave me the reassurance that I will do my family proud, with my wide hips, by doing my duty and producing them a son. But amongst other silly little things, she gave me my mother – and for that, while I didn’t really know her, I am most grateful.

Enjoy your new wings Ah Mah.

I hope you get your favourite ‘hoong ki’s (cigarettes) in heaven.

A Hong Kong Disneyland friendship for life

I haven’t spoken much about Disney and my experiences there, but now that I have gone back to Hong Kong to visit one of my best friends (that I met while performing there), I’d like to reminisce the magical memories again, share some backstage stories, and of our unchanging friendship.

I recently went on a trip to Hong Kong to meet up with my best friend from Disneyland, Danielle Denquar Chupak, a half British half Thai girl who grew up in Hong Kong. She’d been away in London pursuing her career as a singer, and was recently back for a stint at the Shangri-La lobster lounge, and I thought it would be the perfect moment to make that trip back to see her. After all, It’s been 6 whole years apart.


That’s us 6 years after I left Disney, meeting up again in Hong Kong, spending a nice week together. Finally.

Credits: Shakeball Ho


This was one of us (it was hard to tell in some photos), the little lady at the bottom right of the photo. In the wig and the outfit, our own mothers couldn’t tell us apart. #truestory

We played the same role at Hong Kong Disneyland’s Musical Theatre Show ‘The Golden Mickeys’, at the Storybook Theatre. The premise of this show was cute and simple:

A reporter named ‘Bebe’ (rotated by me, Danielle and 2 other girls) got the opportunity to meet the famous Mickey and Minnie Mouse during an interview, and was invited to tag along on a most magical journey with various ‘friends’ such as Goofy, Lilo & Stitch, Woody and Jessie from Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, and the Little Mermaid to name a few.


2 clearly very different people and our takes on the same role. 


The bestie ‘Bebe’s interviewing Mickey and Minnie Mouse.


Danielle and I as ‘Bebe’ in the ‘Toy Story’ scene.

Me and Danielle in the ‘Lilo & Stitch’ scene.


Me as ‘Bebe’ in the finale of the show.


Danielle in the role of ‘Bebe’ during the finale of ‘The Golden Mickeys’.

Though (accurately) 5 years and 2 days of age apart, we shared Disney as our first professional experience after Musical Theatre School, the same role on stage, birthdates 2 days apart, and a love of deep conversations that begin and end anywhere, everywhere and nowhere.

Even at our young age (18 & 22) we had these ancient souls, and to find each other amongst a sea of good looking people strutting their stuff, was a privilege we enjoyed with each other, to keep our grasps firm on reality. It wasn’t easy for people like us to dodge projectile vomited personalities who masked insecurities with confidence, or who stood on apple boxes to be able to look beneath them in a sea of great looking, talented individuals, addicted to recognition. I’m not saying we’re better than them. Everyone had their own problems, and Danielle and I were lucky to have found each other to cope with it all.


Possibly 2010 (aged 18 & 22), at a ‘Gleek’ themed party in Hong Kong, where we chose to either dress as a ‘Mean Girl’ or a Geek.

This was a photo of Denx and I with a guy who played, or rather was ‘the friend of’ Disney’s ‘Tarzan’. My mother thought he was wearing a muscle suit on stage, but his diet of chicken breast and eggs don’t lie. Check him out on Facebook. He now has his own fitness empire (I’m not surprised), Rick Twombley Fitness.

Between shows, we would go to the ‘Space Mountain’, and pull faces when we know the camera was going to snap the photo.


During Christmas we would take a walk between shows to the Disney Hotel to sit on Santa’s lap and ask for ridiculous presents.


Disney Rules

I remember as a Disney performer we had so many things we could and could not do. Before we started rehearsals and such, we had to go through an intensive course known as ‘Disney University’, to learn about how things work, how you point, give directions, and exclaim in Mickey Mouse splendor.

 Nevertheless, we would always still get in trouble for the littlest things they perhaps didn’t mention. Like getting creative by colouring characters with different-than-original colours, or gothing up the little mermaid on a Disney colouring book we brought one day to pass time between shows.

We all got into so much trouble for doing that, and I mean all the performers who actually did picked up a crayon and initialed their names on their artwork. The Disney colours were so iconic and with the branding thing and all, we, especially being people who worked for the corporation, had to respect it and not indulge in any form of ‘vandalism’ (the word used) on Disney stuff.

To tell the truth I quite enjoy people’s takes, that have surfaced these past few years, on the classic Disney characters.

Like this: Disney Characters reimagined as college students (Cool right?)

Anyway, #lessonlearnt.


Costume Matters
From time to time, our costume pieces accidentally get swapped, and once, it happened to be the outfit where the circumferential difference of that particular body part made it a big deal.

Take the bikini top in this scene for example:


It’s not obvious in this photo, but Danielle got ‘them’ from her mother, who is English. Them people ‘Knock’ it out of the park if you know what I mean.

And me, I’m just, Unendowed. When the costumer buckled me up the back in Danielle’s top, I felt like a half scoop of rice 🍚 in a ramen bowl.

No one’s fault, show must go on, so, I tried not to bend forward as much as I could, OR pretended to do that princess hand gesture thing, where you interlace your fingers, strategically placing it in front of the chest just under the chin, which usually is accompanied by the wide-eyed expression of perpetual disbelief; also known as the ‘Disney Delight’, or ‘double D’, which is indicative of how I had to make up for my lack thereof. #sarcasm

Since then, I started this thing where I told the costumers I’m not the ‘Big Boobied Bebe’, just for s***s and giggles. When your entire life was backstage like this, making the costumers laugh becomes a hobby, but they kept it too! One of them took it to the next level by referring to Me as the ‘Small Boobie Bebe’, which she thought was hilarious so I gave her that for the next year or so.

#rubitinwhydontyou 😂


Cantonese is Tricky
I learnt Mandarin growing up ok. But even 10 years of that didn’t help when I had to learn Cantonese for this show.

Mandarin: 4 tones

Cantonese: 9 tones 😱😱

Even native Cantonese speaker, Danielle, had her fair share of bloopers. At some point in the show we had to say something to introduce ‘Pixar Animation Studios’, and as you know, intonation is key in Chinese languages. Say the same words in the wrong tone and you could end up with:

‘Pixar Animation Studios’ (bei see dong wah) to mean ‘Booger Animation Studios’. Same 4 words, 2 wrong tones. #ridic


Disney Fanclub
Every theme park has its fans. A lot of them are super duper sweet and we still keep in touch with them because they help us document our journeys as Disney performers with their wonderful camera skills and such. Also they’re usually locals who invite us out to meals, and this is always an awesome thing if you like food.


This was just recently while I was in Hong Kong visiting Danielle, where they gathered us all one Sunday for ‘hot pot’ just so we could all get together before another 6-year hiatus. These people make. It. Happen. You know?


This lady, Kathy Chui, compiled a photo of us in 2011, and the recent one of us, and it’s just amazing to see the comparison. #asiandontraisin #yellowdontmellow

This boy was my little fan, and was 5 when I left Hong Kong, and now he’s 11. Also, he doubled in height and it’s crazy to see him again like this.

This is Tony. He’s my main man. Supported me through the entire Disney contract, I’m so flattered. And he came to the airport twice (Long story, I’ll explain below) to see me off. He also took me to his place of work, and showed me around. Check out the video where I get to ‘Fly A Plane‘.

But we also had crazy fans at Disney. The most infamous one being the one who would know our schedules before we did. To this day, we have no idea how she managed to discover we’ve switched shows, before we even get word of it ourselves.

This girl would come into the theatre on crutches, in a wheelchair, with a cast on her arm / leg, neck-braced etc.. just so she could sit in the front and scream our names. She even followed some people home. That, was the scary part. Whenever she would spot us around the park she would shout our names and come sprinting toward us (if she wasn’t all crutched up during that day). When we would go into the park between shows we would often play the unspoken game of how to avoid her. It was a stressful game tbh.

Look, I understand she probably lacked something in her life and she needed this as an outlet, but when she would show up at your private parties, you wouldn’t know what to do either, know what I mean? In fact this little taste of fandom is quite bittersweet in a sense that it was nice to have people support your endeavours as an artist, but at the same time, you understood how people in the REAL limelight should be cut some slack too. Nobody likes to be followed around and be snapped photos of while they’re dozing off on the train, drooling on the arm they’re resting their head upon, after the exhaustion of a 4-show day.

#letsbereal


Chinese Tourists
Let’s be frank. The Chinese from mainland china aren’t known for their manners. But I have had some outrageous and eye-opening first experiences in Hong Kong with the Mainland Chinese.

*disclaimer: some of you who have read my first post know that Oliver from FuJian province has since changed my mind about generalizing the 1 billion population, but I’m just sharing some pretty riveting stories from when I was performing at Hong Kong Disneyland.

My first experience was in my show alone. As the ‘host’ of the Golden Mickeys show, I had to sort of ‘open’ the show among the audience. This was projected LIVE on a screen off stage right.


The opening sequence of the show I did in Hong Kong Disneyland, projected LIVE on a screen, while I stand among the audience.

At this juncture of every show here, ‘Bebe’ is wide open to heckling that ranges from wig-touching, to arm-grabbing for a selfie, to violent waving in her direction to get attention for special photos. Probably my worst experience, no doubt, was when a guest, yelling at me in mandarin, attempted to acquire the microphone I was holding by snatching it from me. A local audience member sitting near by came to my rescue and pushed the woman back into her seat, as I finished my spiel, and made a dash back on stage to continue the show. I had to write a ‘statement’ about that for HR of course. #eyeroll

Another day when I was taking a stroll in the park between shows I noticed a little child, gleefully running around in crotchless + arseless pants. Maybe they ran out of fabric at the factory or something, maybe the person sewing it just forgot the material, or was sick of their job, or was blind, or facing some sort of family problems or something, that they simply forgot to stitch the crotchal region of those pants.

I pretended not to stare, but I had to look twice.

Definitely the full ‘ding-a-ling’ show happening there.

I started brainstorming reasons to make sense of it all:

  1. Maybe the diapers go between skin and fabric. Makes changing them easier. Brilliant! But where are the diapers.
  2. Maybe boy was running around and lost his underpants or something. Surely those must have caught on, undies, even in China.
  3. Maybe he just did a poopoo and after cleaning him with wet wipes they’re just airing his little bottom.

I could speculate all day, but I’d rather find out. So I turned to the closest Chinese person and asked in mandarin, “Why does that boy’s pants have a big hole like that [gestures]?”

She pretty much responded like this:

Lady: Is it a boy or a girl? 《他是小男孩还是小女孩?》

Me: Boy. 《小男孩。》

Lady: That’s why. 《就是这个原因。》

😳😳😳😳😳😳

No. Way.

He’s wearing crotchless arseless pants because they want people to know that their ONE CHILD is a BOY.

No. Way.

I asked someone else backstage and confirmed this. Ok, if you have some other reason please feel free to let me know, but I’m telling you, this was what was said.

You never forget something like that.

Maybe that Chinese lady was a famous comedian or something, but if that was the case, daym girl, #badass. 🤘🏼🤘🏼


Mickael Bellemène and Nico Pires, 2 of the french ‘clowns’ that Disney hired to entertain the streets with their tomfoolery and high energy Diabolo skills.

Disney hires seasonal street styled performers to rove the ‘lands’ at specific times to entertain their roaming guests. I watched one of their ‘Diabolo’ performances one time, and, I feared for the safety of some of these Chinese kids. 

There is a trick with the Diabolo called the ‘Excalibur’, a badass name for a badass trick. Mickael does very well to explain this in this promo video ‘Diabolo – Chinese YoYo with a French Touch‘, where he slo-moed at (2:40) to show you the badassness and precision of the trick.

In case you don’t have time to watch the video, let me explain this ‘Excalibur’ to you. The performer ‘accelerates’ the ball bearings in the giant YoYo to make it spin really fast, throws it in the air, and as it spins in mid-air, he whips the string around him and catches the prop before it falls to the ground. Imagine the speed and strength at which he would have needed to whip that thing around him and catch a giant yoyo in mid-air. The whipping sound is even terrifying to observe.

Which is why, during his show segment, he explains clearly with gestures (since language is a barrier), before he executes the trick, that the audience need to stay as far as he’s directed them, by walking them backwards in a giant human circle around his show area. He does this very well in fact.

But at this one particular show, as he was just about to execute this ‘Excalibur’, one Chinese woman pushes her kid forward and eggs him to stand beside Mickael for a photo. Thankfully, the kid fell forward from the strength of his own mother’s push, and landed on his face, as the Diabolo string and stick whipped (with a loud light-saber force double SWISH-ing sound) just above his head, catching the Diabolo in mid-air as was intended by the stunned performer, who stood there in disbelief at the stupidity of this woman.

The gravity of this was clearly understood, and Mickael had to write a statement for HR in case anyone made a complaint against him. I volunteered to write a witnessing statement just in case. 

We fell in love. And out of love 4 years later but that’s another story to be told.
These were some of my biggest most memorable experiences during my 2-3 years in Hong Kong as a Disney Performer.

Back to Danielle. My best friend.

I left in 2012. Left her to continue one more year as ‘Bebe’ while I stole Mickael to Singapore / South-East Asia pretty much, transforming him from regular old Mickael, to some sort of sought after entertainer, performing internationally, living the life!

Danielle went to London, lived various struggling artist experiences, heartache, successes, toured as a hotel singer, finally back to Hong Kong before she heads back to London again to record an EP.

Don’t take it from me. You can find and follow her on her Instagram / Facebook to find out more about what she’s been up to in detail.

Me, I’d stayed around Asia managing first that Internationally performing French Artist, then after returning from some more training in Los Angeles, managed myself as an actress for screen / commercials / hosting / musical theatre / theatre (aka the everything girl).

Even after 6 years of being apart and hardly contacting each other, Danielle and I reconnected in person in Hong Kong, and it was like neither of us had left. We just had So Much to share, so much to reminisce.


A photog sesh we had with a collaborator photographer friend who wanted to help document our friendship. Thanks Shakeball Ho


This is us now, nothing changed, sharing a tiny studio and a tiny bed during my 7 day stay, like nothing changed.


Funny story

My flight was on the 22nd of Feb 2017, but because we had so much fun, we got muddled with the numbers and I ended up at the airport, teary-eyed, and sad to leave, on the 21st. So I decided to play a prank on Denquar. In a nutshell, I told her I was going to get on the next flight, but really, I went to surprise her at her gig at the Shangri-La.

But prior to that, because my main man Tony as mentioned above, came to the airport to see me off and discovered my ENFP / ADD / Dyslexia with dates, he decided to make my day by bringing me to his workplace – Cathay Pacific City, to enjoy an excellent excellent pilot training simulator!

​​Watch full video HERE on YouTube.

After that riveting surprise, we all decided to meet some more Disney fan friends but taking the train (the MTR) the long way round, making a pit stop at the first suburb I was living in when I moved to Hong Kong 8 years ago!

​​Tung Chung. A station away from Disneyland, 30mins away from the city centre on the Yellow line (Tung Chung Line). I loved the memories.

Then we made our way to Tseun Wan, met up with these guys, and had dinner!
Left to Right: Patrick, Wah, Caitanya, Tony. Another reunion.

We ate Taiwanese food!

I actually enjoyed the sweet and sour pork even though I don’t even eat pork. This version of it had huge chunks of pineapple, dragon fruit, grapes and strawberries, which is really unique (coming from singapore where ours has onions, green and red peppers, so it’s more savoury than sweet). Hot fruits aren’t half bad! Then came the dessert. 😱

Seriously, Hong Kong people know how to make pretty impressive share plate desserts.

It was lovely to be able to dig into a plate with your friends as opposed to the individual dessert type plating. To me there is a sense of loving in sharing your food. This was the way my parents brought me up, maybe it’s an Asian thing, but I find a certain warmth in this culture that is still very much a gesture of love as is a hug or a cuddle.

Check out the surprise inside!

Cubes of bread toasted with honey and butter, making it all crispy and golden brown.

After dinner, we bade each other farewell, and headed for the Shangri-La to surprise Denquar!

​​She was so shocked to see me! ❤

I left the next day (the right day), uneventful, but grateful for every little stupid second we spent together. Who knows how many more opportunities we will ever get to spend time like this once life gets in the way again. But this trip made me realize the groundedness of our friendship. 6 years we’ve been apart, and still, bam, it was like we’d never left.

What’s that quote?

Something like that..

I hope we’re friends until we die. And then I hope we become Ghost friends, and walk through walls and scare the shit out of people together. Photo Credits: Shakeball Ho

Please remember this when I’m not there to remind you.

Credits: Shakeball Ho

Distance isn’t that bad thanks to technology. Not the same as being face to face, but makes it a little easier.

We’re been friends for so long now I don’t know which of us is the bad influence.

Denx, you’re the sister I never had, and you will always be in my life, my heart, my soul. I’m glad we met in the happiest place on earth, and I hope when we meet it will always be the happiest place no matter where we are on earth.

So.

Shall we meet in Amsterdam like we discussed then?

So Chinese: I love you. So, Eat, for goodness’ sake!

Feeding is my language of love. For myself, and for my family and friends.

Being a performer I remember when I was still in Musical Theatre school, and we were always told that nutrition and exercise were of utmost importance to lengthen the lifespan of our careers. The reality didn’t kick in until I started performing for Disney.


Performing as the lead singing, dancing host for HongKong Disneyland’s ‘Golden Mickeys show’ (2010-2010).

For 2 years I had to cook for myself, and I learned so much about food and making those choices that’ll make you feel better after consumption, Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I’m no expert on what’s good for YOU, but I can say with certainty that I’m an expert on foods for ME.

Because realistically, nothing will be authentic, I try to substitute the actual vegetables from the dish of choice with whatever’s left over in the fridge. Or cook up a random storm. I’m also not big in presentation, but I’m putting in some effort now.
Today in this post, I’m going to take you around the world with food made at Club 0501!

Baked rice, Singapore’s fauxangna (fake lasagna 😂).

Last night, we had a rice bake. But instead of regular old rice, I used an 11-grain mix. The sauce was homemade tomato sauce with onions, garlic, green peppers and beef leftover from the day before when we didn’t use it, topped with cheese!

Not so Yucky soba, Japanese inspired fried noodles.

When I came back from Japan, I cooked this fake yaki-soba, or fried noodles, replacing the yellow noodles with rice noodles. #glutenfree. It’s got egg, cabbage, carrots, and chicken slices. Sauces used were Mirin, Cooking Sake, and gluten-free soy. A squeeze of lemon at the end, and it was a perfectly light meal for the famfam.

I did another version of this with okra, bean sprouts, cabbage, eggs,  and 2 types of rice noodles (because supermarket leftovers), and was feeding my friends who gathered at my place before we headed out together. Feeding friendsy!!

Most of the time I cook, but sometimes my Italian roomie chips in with his take on food from home. Which I find utterly sinfully delicious!

Homemade REAL carbonara, Italian by an Italian.

Carbonara by Davide, our handsome Italian Bar Manager, currently opening Ong Beng Seng’s ‘Como‘ at Dempsey Hill. He makes this with freshly beaten whole eggs, and with this lovely Paccheri pasta, a gift from his supplier friend Andrea Vasintoni, of enjoy-italy.asia.


Homemade from scratch Ramen, Japanese inspired.

To thank my friends for helping me take care of my kitty cat ‘Aria the Siberian Cat‘, I made sorta Ramen for them, which is a Japanese pork bone soup with noodles. It took me about 7hrs to boil the stock, but the flavour made the effort completely work it.

Speaking of soups, I love boiling them from scratch since I work from home. I monitor them from time to time between getting work done, and it’s sort of my way to relax too. One of my flatmates (Estelle) is a Vietnamese girl from France, and I decided to try making Pho that evening.


Pho Ga, or Vietnamese inspired chicken noodle soup.



Another Davide creation, Italian by an Italian.

Some nights we have some special ‘Pasta di Gragnano’ (thank you Andrea of ‘Enjoy Italy‘ for this excellent meal staple) Paccheri pasta, simply with award winning, organic ‘Olivastro’ Olive Oil with fresh cherry tomatoes and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano, paired with one of the healthiest, tastiest beers (Collesi) I’ve ever had, made with spring water from Italy’s Monte Nerone. Quality ingredients for a clean, fresh simple dinner with friends.

My meals are usually consist of a healthier twist. Either by mixing rice with a substantial proportion of 11-grain mix, or what I enjoy most, ‘eating a rainbow’, where you pick vegetables of different colours, to add vibrancy to the dish, fiber, and the nutrients that come with the natural colour. This is a way to make eating vegetables fun for my friends children (fortunately).


Sushi, Japanese inspired with 11-grain rice mix. #healthierchoices

With fresh salmon from a seafood specialty store, cucumbers, avocado and homemade mayonnaise, wrapped around a laver sheet. Super fun to make!


Sometimes I attempt to attempt a general Asian-flavoured dish. Full of fiber, and nutrients.

This dish has got shaved carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts and some chicken mushroom in soy sauce stirfry, covering fiber, protein, and carb components that I believe make a balanced meal. #eatarainbow


I make bread from scratch and prefer it to store bought bread for reasons of, I know exactly what’s inside my bread.

It’s taken years to achieve bread that does anything and it was the BEST journey I have to date, another post on that one day soon. This bread has flax seeds, chiaseeds, and oatmeal, and is still relatively soft on the inside and bounces even though it doesn’t look like it from the photo.

The same bread mix is used to make..


This cinnamon ring.


That tears apart so beautifully!! 😍😍


Another attempt at cinnamon rolls not in a ring.


Homemade pizza dough.. which I LOVE because it takes ‘make your own pizza’ to the next level, and it’s so so simple once you have a good dough recipe you can count on.


This is Leia, my friend’s beautiful 4 year old, who made her own pizza and was extremely proud of herself. Auntie Cait is proud of her too!


Howsabout a cheese overload with fresh rosemary. Mmmmmm.. satisfying!


Breadrolls with deliciously ripe avocados from ‘Farm to Table‘. Simple and delicious!

I’ve stuffed bread with loads of things, banana, chocolate, Nutella, cheese.. I get carried away.


Bonjour! Some really fresh Mussels brought home by my roomie Remi, in dry white wine shallot sauce with a side of roasted potatoes. 


Aloha! How about a Hawaiian Poké salad for fresh and eating a rainbow?


Vegetarian dhaal with the 11 grain rice mix. Indian food with a twist.

Basically split peas boiled with any vegetable left over in the fridge. Splitpeas lower the cholesterol, manage blood-sugar levels, and are a great source of fiber from the legume family. They’re also delicious!

Popsicle made from puréed kiwi and berries. Really really fresh and delicious, and look at those colours!

I learnt to do this when I was in Los Angeles, where healthy eating is a trend and everybody was in on it. Of all the trends in the world, loving your body has got to be the best kind.

I was so inspired by all the pancake art I decided to do one of my own and it turned out alright I think. Sandy Cheeks from Spongebob!

Food, like travel is supposed to be fun, shared, and loving. I’m going to write one post dedicated especially to bread making, because it is not hard to do, and everybody deserves a little bit less preservatives in their diet.

Look out for it, and I hope this inspires you a little to make healthier choices when cooking. Use less salt and sugar, and in just a few short weeks you will see the different in the way you feel, and your journey through life will change so drastically for the better!

More importantly, have fun!

Storytime – The Word.

I’d like to share a story about the relevance of  cultural exchange, the importance of travel and the beauty of diversity.

A few years ago, while I was still managing an incredible French international performing artist, Mickael Bellemène, and while he was still based and performing in Singapore, he had the opportunity to create a show for Universal Studios Singapore during one of their Halloween seasons.

On one night that he was performing, I got word from my roomie, at that time, that a girl he was dating would be at the park and she would like to catch the show. This show was happening at steady intervals at the ‘Ancient Egypt’ section of the park, where the face-characters would interact with the crowd and gather into a choreographed dance on the performance platform.

As I met with the girl, Patty, she and her friends wanted to grab some photos with one of my performer friends, the stunning ‘Raven Queen’, who happened to be played by an American woman of half white/black heritage, named Tiffany.


Photo in USS Anciet Egypt section, from that particular Halloween Season: (left to right) Nadia, Caitanya, Tiffany, Mickael, henchwoman I don’t know.

I left her in the section to get her photos taken, turned around to face the stage, just to make sure my performer was ready for the show, when I heard from behind me, someone shouting, “You do NOT use such language in my land. Be Gone!”. I turned around to see the ‘Raven Queen’ storming off with her 2 henchmaidens flanking her, completely in character; the strength with which they exited was so perfect I didn’t even suspect anything was wrong. Then I looked towards Patty, whose eyes at this time were wide with shock, half giggling to mask her embarrassment.

Knowing that the ‘Raven Queen’ was meant to be an evil character, I hurried to console Patty, thinking  she’d been rejected for a photo. “It’s almost time for the show to start,” I said. “She probably had to go prep,”.

I looked over my shoulder in the direction that the ‘Raven Queen’ had exited, as I knew what had happened wasn’t part of the show. And walking towards me, calmly but clearly unimpressed, was the section supervisor, a beautiful man, also American, named Guy.

“What the hell happened Patty,” I quickly turned to her. “What did you say to her? The F word?”

“No,” she responded, wide-eyed and innocently defensive. “I just said N***a.”

😲😲😲😲😲😲

I understood the importance of the word enough to not say it in a parkful of you-could-be-from-anywheres, who could be offended by it. But also, *gasp* Tiffany.

By that time, the section manager had arrived and as I turned to face him, he firmly, but professionally, said that the language was offensive and should not be used in the park or anywhere.

I was remorseful on behalf of my roomie’s ignorant date. And frankly, embarrassed that I was associated to her in that moment.

“I’m really sorry,” I said, to a silently displeased Guy, “but, it’s not a thing that Asians understand in particular as a word related to anything other than being ‘cool’,”.

Guy understood this, having lived in Singapore  for almost 3 years. We don’t link the word to the slavery. We associate the word with some hip hop dude with a sideways cap, pants so low (how he walk?), massive blingage so that when he’d run, it’d knock out some pearly whites, which is the reason for the gold teeth replacements, ‘butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth’ sort of thing. Snoop Dogg comes to mind, not Jesse Washington.

Sure enough, Patty didn’t know. “She’s half black,” I said. “You can’t say that,”.

“Say what?” she looked puzzled.

“The ‘N’ word,” I said sternly, hushed.

But the truth is, a lot of people who have never understood American history, will never understand this. In fact, Non-black people can probably only empathize. We can watch as many movies about slavery as Hollywood puts out, but we will never fully understand the gravitas of that word.

What would be relevant to us were the Japanese who were bastards in the war. But people are embracing J-pop culture these days and nobody cares anymore. And it’s not even the same thing. Racial discrimination is one thing, but to value so little the very existence of an entire race of people, writing them off as ‘dispensable’, and then acting upon it as seen so often in the news, even to this day.. That makes it notable. That makes the word more untouchable, and the people more sensitive.

I think about a few key words that people have labeled me as a person growing up; Everybody has One of those, at least.

For example, for me one of those words would be ‘crazy’. When someone says I’m ‘crazy’, I immediately get extremely conscious of myself. Sometimes I try to stop doing what I’m doing, being more aware of it. Sometimes I become extremely shy, sensitive and overly aware of the rest of my actions that follow. On good days, I retort, “I’m not crazy, you just don’t understand my genius,”. All this, even though the word ‘crazy’ could be an excellent thing to certain people who enjoy my company, Because of it. 

Maybe that’s just the actor in me, “..an amazing combination of narcissism and a total lack of self-worth,” as summed up by actor, Ben Kingsley

I guess what I’m saying is, we all have these trigger words that, like flicking a switch, sends us flying towards one emotion.

In truth, I felt bad, at the ignorance of this girl, for even saying that word, out loud, in an American-based theme park of all places. And while I could understand that you only know what you know, I cannot understand that she didn’t KNOW not to say it, at all.

For any Singaporean reading this who is thinking, “it’s just a word,” think about it this way – we will probably never get it. But we still need to Respect it.

If people could put themselves in the shoes of the people they met, nobody would be assholes. 

The next time you meet someone you’re about to judge (smally or bigly 😂😂) based on their race, ask for a story instead. Through traveling and meeting so many people I wouldn’t have expected to meet, I’m learning about the world in a more in depth way than simply visiting gorgeous monuments and shit.

Buildings are history, people are the present, live now, widen your understanding of the world through living experiences.

This, to me, is one of the most exciting things (next to food, duh!) about traveling.