When I Grow Up, I Wanna... Work in the Media

I wanted the next person I profiled for When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be... series to be someone who's established her career and someone we can easily look up to, and having worked with Anita Kapoor recently, the answer was obvious. The sassy Anita will be hosting the second season of Can You Serve? a reality TV program on Channel 5 about customer service in Singapore. I met Anita on my first week at my internship at a magazine back in 2004. My editor then, Phin Wong, had me interview the cast of The Vagina Monologues, one of whom, was Anita. Over the years, as I've grown older, Anita seems to have figured out age reversal and grew way hot. Of course, she's more than just a pretty face, as this interview will tell ya.

You're quite the media tycoon doing so many things and taking over the world all at one go. Tell thedramadiaries about yourself?

Thanks for the awesome title thedramadiaries, but really I see myself as someone with a short attention span who loves new challenges. Everything I do is an extension of performance - it's my own drama diary! I've performed since I was a kid; but came to TV in a round about way, after spending time on the flip side, as a magazine editor. All my experiences in the media industry so far: TV, radio, magazines, online have served to inspire me professionally, and personally.

Did you always know you want to work in the media? How did your working at Elle Singapore transform to your taking over the world?

Yes, I always knew that my life would be about performance, sharing information, and being involved with people, I just hadn't a clue then it would all fall into place as it has, or that people would give me the opportunities I have received. Always thankful.

My first serious editorial job was at ELLE Singapore, and I can honestly say it was mind blowing at the time. I learnt everything (good) I had ever needed to know about writing, art direction, running a magazine and managing people, at ELLE. I had great teachers at the time, to whom I am forever thankful to. And, I really grew up there too.

Is there something you like doing more than all the others? TV over all the others maybe? And why?

I adore TV. It bring everything together: performance, quick thinking, humour, and an opportunity to tell a great visual story. Radio comes a close second ;-). Writing will always be my first love, but how I do it and how I imagine its next stage is very different from how I started writing.

How should one go about developing a career in TV?

Fearlessly. With integrity and commitment. Develop that first, before you enter the fray. Obviously, you need to be comfortable performing and being on display - in fact, performance should pretty much be your high or you're not going to love it. Practically, get your image out there, develop your abilities, go to auditions, network, get in front of the right people. Who you know is important: not to kiss ass, but to understand how it all works, who's doing what, and where you fit in. And remember: it's fleeting. Be thankful for the opportunities and experience.

There are a lot of bobble-head skinny b*tches in the industry you're in - how hard is it not to be bothered with not being a size that they are even though you're obviously fit and healthy?

Honestly? I've never cared much. I've never thought myself anything but normal sized, and I'm happy with it. Lollipops aren't the only candy in the shop, eh? Everyone is a different flavour.. room for all, really.

Tell us the truth - does life get easier as you get older?

Absofuckinglutely. You get more direct with yourself, and everyone else. No more bullshit. No more capacity for other people's bullshit. But you also become more thoughtful and less reactive. Instead, you buy a voodoo doll?

Tell us something funny that happened on a job!

There have been so many, where do I begin hahaha! Two do come to mind. I was on my first series of Bare Beauty, part of which was filmed in my home. We were working on a segment that showed me relaxing in a chair, legs hanging over the edge. It went on for a bit. When the director yelled cut, I jumped up, forgetting that my legs had gone numb, and went down like a pack of cards. We laughed till we cried, it was hilarious.

Second was when I was filming for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in Australia. The scene involved me taking a helicopter ride over some hills to a beautiful spot, to get into a four wheel drive to travel to Queensland's beautiful rain forests. Somehow the pilot got his co-ordinates about 400M wrong, and, we landed in the grounds of a low security hillside prison instead. Till today, the look on all our faces is imprinted in my memory - I am laughing hard as I type this.

There are obviously things you have to suck up and do for the sake of paying your bills. But there are others that you enjoy - tell us what are your favourite things about your job!

I don't suck anything to paying bills, sista! LOL. Quite simply, I love my crews. Without them, you don't happen. There are great crew here in Singapore, and I always feel extremely disappointed and annoyed when I hear they've been stiffed by production houses - especially the big names - but really, by anyone for that matter. It's a shockingly disrespectful occurrence, that should never be allowed to happen.

How has your sense of style developed since you've been in front of the camera?

I do most of my shopping when I am working hahaha! It makes sense. You know it looks good, on and off camera, buy it, dammit!

What makes a good tv show?

Me? Kidding. The sum of parts: great crew chosen for their particular ability in regards to the show genre - picking crew is a fine art; a professional production house with a good track record for producing superior work with excellent production values. A great idea: everything has been done, it's how you do it that makes it sparkle.

Tell us a beauty secret!

Great makeup artists who really know their craft. Andrea Claire. Celestine Sng. Beno Lim. I've worked with them all, and if they can make me look good, well! When I'm left to my own devices: MAC Studio Sculpt Concealer. And a slightly hysterical smile.

Radio, TV, Print - what else is to come in Anita World?

Stand up comedy? No, seriously. Do you think it's allowed in Hong Lim Park?

Anita Kapoor hosts Season 2 of Can you Serve on Channel 5, starting 26th July 9PM. Catch the show, bitches!

Dark Skinned Girls Part II

Dark, and proud of it.

I am humbled and honoured by all the Facebook Likes, retweets, and reposting of this blog, especially because it took me a long time to actually come up and write about, and it's something that's close to heart. I am also proud of all the women and men who wrote to me expressing the discrimination they have experienced as a darker-skinned person, or someone who has been discriminated by the colour of our skin.

You know the mosaic I made from photos online in the first post? I couldn't believe how hard it was to look for photos of dark-skinned Indian women online - Google would show me hundreds and hundreds of results of women, in the words of my friend Dewi, "the shade of Aishwarya Rai". That's why you get a photo of me plonked on top of this post instead.

Or flip through VOGUE India, flip through Singaporean and Malaysian magazines, Indians get barely any representation, even less so darker Indians. Don't even get me started on how impossible it is to get foundation my colour. Are there even Bollywood actresses who are dark? God knows.

It's time we rise above this, and be visually-impaired. Being blind to skin colour is a quality to be celebrated and taught to our children, and our children's children. Your skin colour does not make you any better, or any less human than anybody else.

Rise, Dark Girls, Rise.

Menon

I am an Indian but being dark skinned affected me more because of my dialect group, Malayalee. That's cause apparently, Malayalees are believed to be fairer in complexion and people have often given me the weird stare followed by a skeptical query like "Really?".

Well, I do contradict the whole stereotype bullshit about Malayalees being only fair. Clearly, they have not heard about the dark Malayalee in town. I have learnt to accept myself for who I am. Although, it did take a long time, thanks to the insensitive environment I was growing up in.

I am dark skinned, always have been, and growing up in Singapore with racist morons didn't help my esteem at all. Just like you mentioned, I remember my primary school teachers letting the black/keling joke/comment slip by [What the hell were they thinking?]. I totally agree that Singapore can be a racist country (And I cannot wait for you to write that story soon! ;)) I am proud of myself for surviving all that crap during my younger days. It definitely made me that much stronger. Nevertheless, it is unhealthy for kids to be treated that way with all that hate.

Nisha

Singapore definitely is a racist country. It’s not so bad that we have to fear for our lives but it’s there. I’ve had the regular garden-variety idiots who have told me that because I’m black [I’m a caramel type of brown], I’m dirty. Then there was Apu Neneh. So classy. When I was in Primary 6, my art teacher actually critiqued one classmate’s art work and said, “Aiyah. Looks like indian shit.” Yes, this was the type of educators we had. No wonder people in our generation grew up pretty screwed up in the head.

You know how it is with Indians as well.

I was fair as a baby and toddler. When i started primary school and swimming classes, it meant i spent a great deal of time in the sun and started getting darker. My grams, who was a wonderful woman, got worried that i was getting dark and asked my mum to get me the stupid “Fair and Lovely” cream. I wore it and my skin suffered. I have no hard evidence but i believe its the reason i have pigment patches on my skin today.

That said, I think things are somewhat better. In our community anyway. Nowadays most Indians realise skin colour is not a good representative of beauty. We still have a long-ass way to go though where skin colour and racism are concerned, though. Except, now I’d call it xenophobia, not racism.

Lilyana Gan

I’ve had this thought since secondary school, but could not find the words to articulate it without sounding angry (or fear being judged by what I had to say).

I think I inherited my father’s genes (altho’ he is Chinese) – i tan easily and when out in the sun for hours, can come out looking baked. I could not have the nice orangey tan my girl friend had and often felt left out and was made the butt of jokes in class (even by my teacher). I love the outdoors but that would leave me dark by day’s end… and all the jokes that came after only made me feel like an ugly duckling (jokes even came with racial undertones).

Now that i’m older, i think my skin colour has settled into the “teh-susu” tone. I still feel for dark girls who are made fun of. And to date, skin colour for me is still a personal topic. I don’t make fun of girls with dark skin because I was there before. But now, more than ever (esp with your entry), being dark skinned I feel, is nothing to be ashamed of. I have seen girls looking beautiful and regal with the colour they have.

Thank you for writing this.

Nadia Daeng, PR Guru Extrordinaire

I don't like the how society insinuates being fairer is better & dark is bad. So many of these ad campaigns talk about "the beauty of having fairer & lighter skin" but what the hell does beauty mean? Isn't it subjective? Someone I used to work with claimed "oh, I don't want white skin. I want translucent skin." Yeah - ok, whatever.

Everytime I see these ads on TV or in magazines, I flip to the next one cos' I just don't want to put up with hearing any of it. Don't use "safety of skin health & fighting skin cancer" as an excuse. If someone is naturally tanned, that's fucking awesome. People pay good money to not look pastey white.

Jules Greenleaf, Malaysia

I have tanned skin tone and it likes to play jokes on me. I can't go out in the sun without getting at least a shade darker and it always bugs me. Growing up in an almost all Chinese primary was probably one of the worst experiences of my life. I was teased mercilessly by the vicious, with teachers joining in on the 'fun'. But I fought back. Physically and mentally. It gave me an intense satisfaction when I bettered them in almost everything. I also traveled with father on business trips and whenever I visited those beautiful countries, no one ever said I was 'ugly' or that I would look beautiful if only I had lighter skin. EVERYONE wanted my skin colour and some would go to the extent of dragging me to the nearest store to buy tanning foundation matching my skin tone. I was happy being away from my country and my people.

In secondary school, I moved around a lot so that means I get a new wave of back hand teasing and loud whispers when I go to a new school. Again, those travels overseas saved my sanity at least. Every guy I met overseas wanted to date me but not many men in my hometown would want to be seen with me. My skin tone is caramel and peanut butterish brown and men still wanted me to get fairer so I'd look beautiful.

The past is so hard to forget and the worst part is when your extended family used to treat you like shit because you're not white like them. When I was a child, I never questioned why I always ate last. Now, my mouth shoots off whenever some uneducated fool talks about 'the only way to look beautiful is to become fair' crap.

I love my skin tone now, yet getting darker is out of the freaking question. I'd still lather on a bucketful of sun block whenever I'm outside. Haha!

Men are not spared either...

Jeremy Gopalan, Deputy Editor at Men's Folio

Jeremy is a Chindian - a Chinese-Indian mix who went to Chinese schools all his life still experienced racism. "They called me orh kui - black ghost in hokkien!"

Dark Skinned Girls

This is not a sob story. I don't do sob stories.

I grew up with racist remarks and insults hurled at me. Right from primary school, I had my peers call me various names: hitam [black in Malay], keling [derogatory for Indians in Malay] and various other things that made me resent myself.

In primary school, people hung out in their racial groups - the Malays with the Malays, the Chinese with the Chinese, and the Indians with the Indians - and they'd all usually converse in their mother tongues. Of course, it didn't help that I'm an Indian girl who couldn't speak an Indian language - I speak Malay, and I was much too tall and too big to have fitted in anywhere. I didn't belong.

It came to a point where during Malay class, we were assigned to write poems, and a boy wrote a poem about me. A nasty, hurtful poem that I can recall till today - and he wasn't penalised for it. The teacher laughed. There was also a teacher who, after class, told me that she wouldn't call me out in class when I raised my hand to answer because I was "black".

Of course, I was a kid. I didn't know these things were wrong. Today, if I were to bump into these teachers on the street, I'd tell them what cunts and what unsuitable educators they are, and they should be ashamed of the lives they have negatively affected.

Secondary school wasn't any better. I remember overhearing a conversation amongst the boys in my class. One of whom said, "Fazillah would be pretty if only she were fair." If only.

Everyday, for ten years of my life I recited the Singapore pledge with the whole school. Everyday, I knew it was a lie when everybody said "Regardless of race, language or religion."

Singapore is a racist country - but that's another story for another time.

At a recent media trip over dinner, someone asked when each of best times of our lives were, and most people loved their teenage years, or when they were kids. The best time of my life is now - I love my skin, I have accepted my body for how it is, and I enjoy looking the way I look. I do admit I go to extents not to get any darker - SPF 100, staying out of the sun, and a hat whenever I'm on a beach vacation. I like the way I look - but getting darker is unfathomable.

People fight for gay rights, people fight for the rights of women, people fight for the rights of animals. Magazines put plus-sized girls on the covers of magazines to stop the skinny = beautiful stereotype, designers stop using fur in their clothes - but who's going to start saying that black [or Nutella, as I refer my skin colour as!] is beautiful?

It starts with us - the dark-skinned girls. It's us who have to stop thinking that fairer skin would make us more beautiful, it's us who have to stop teaching our kids that their skin is not perfect, it's us who have to start making the difference. And it's also us who have to stand up for ourselves.

I watched this clip on Gala Darling's blog, and even though most, if not all of the women in the clip are of African American descent, it resonated with me. It is a documentary "exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin colour---particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture."

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Watch it, and help this movie get made.

"Rise, Dark Girls, Rise."

P.S.: I'm writing Part II of this article - if you're a dark-skinned girl and if you have something to say, or if you've something to say no matter what colour your skin is, email me: faz@thedramadiaries.com

Insensitivity & Stupidity

I've been keeping up with the updates on the quakes, tsunamis and aftershocks.

  • In the northern Japanese town of Minamisanriku 9,500 people were missing
  • The Japanese government confirmed today that officials were battling to avert a disastrous nuclear meltdown as locals were urged to stay indoors and avoid drinking tap water. They were told to cover their faces with masks and wet towels if they are outside as shocking footage emerged of plumes of smoke exploding out of the reactor building.
  • More than 215,000 people were living in 1,350 temporary shelters in five regions and over 1million people were left without water.
  • The sheer destruction was estimated to top £7billion.

What fucking disgusts me is how people can make light of the situation. Whether it's jokes, sales opportunities, or passing insensitive remarks, I'm appalled by it all. Thousands of people have lost homes, people they love, the very institution that they have called home and are a part of their day-to-day lives, I don't know how people can joke about these things.

Of course, on the home front, the Singapore Parliament has quietly moved to increase the selected president's salary to $4,267,500, a hefty 20.8% quantum jump of $890,700. That's double the percentage increase of the financial assistance package for the poor, which was recently adjusted from $360 to $400 per month. [source] This much fucking money in the Parliament and guess who we send to Japan? 5 fucking rescue dogs. Ridiculous.

While I go run my rage off, here's a video of the cutest animal alive that will take your mind off the apocalypse that's about to happen in Japan when all the nuclear reactors explode [which will be pretty much like atomic bombs exploding]:

When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be... Pimping Spain

I started this awhile ago, and I'd like to continue doing this regularly because I know so many people with badass jobs. In the second instalment of When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be..., I'd like to introduce thedramadiaries readers to my good friend [also one of the funniest people I know], Denise Tan, without whom I would have been to Spain a few times, fallen in love with the food, the language, amongst many other things. Delve deep into Denise's realm of tortilla, sangria and everything else in between...

Tell us about what you do.

I work at the Spain Tourism Board, I promote Spain as a tourism destination to our markets in South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand through advertising, publicity and events.

What does an average day at work look like for you?

Organising press trips for journalists from our markets, dealing with image/information requests by journalists, researching on the latest marketing methods and what’s new in society (very important to know what’s going on in the world to see if it can apply to promoting Spain), clipping articles, sending out press releases, organizing events, networking, deciding what media to advertise with.

Is this what you wanted to do as a child? Did you end up in this job by “accident” or was it a planned career choice?

Definitely not. I wanted to be a biologist or a zookeeper. Then I got practical when I was 13 and wanted to be a writer or an animator but I failed art for my O’levels because I couldn’t do a damn “batik”. How is that fair? I can draw but I can’t wax a stupid cloth. Sorry, I am angrily digressing. Anyway, ended up with this job by accident. I always wanted to learn a third language and picked Spanish because it’s the third most spoken language in the world after English and Mandarin Chinese and one day, my dad saw an ad in the paper and thinking there was some relevance, he passed it on to me. I went to the interview for fun.

What kind of education do you have?

I only have an advanced diploma from MDIS – grateful to them. Was one of the first batches of students when they opened and they were willing to give me a chance. Our education system decided for me that I was “right” for nursing. Hell no. I am not changing anyone’s diapers besides my baby’s or my parents'.

Do you think official qualifications are important for someone entering your industry? Yes and no. You definitely need to have a background in PR and Marketing to learn the basics but you also need experience and street savvy, something that schools will never be able to teach you.

What do you think is the best thing about what you do?

I get to meet people from all over the world and I get to travel to Spain / Europe pretty often!

What’s the worst thing?

Working with people who think that the whole world should revolve around them. And people who think the tourism board is a tourism agency - there's a difference, people!

Are you a workaholic?

When I first started, I was a workaholic but only because I had something to prove. I started out at the office very young (20) and though my director was doubtful, he gave me a chance. Now that I have stabilized myself, I take time off for my friends, family and myself – this is important because if you aren’t happy, no “great” job in the world can satisfy you either.

What would your number one suggestion be for someone who wants to do what you do?

You have to be willing to sacrifice – sometimes it’s not about the money you have to pay to get experience, I was willing to invest my time and effort to get experience. I got the current job at 20 but I started working since I was 17. I remember even offering to work at a production house for free though they said no, they wanted to pay me.

...How about a second pointer?

You also have to be open-minded, for example I was hammering nails into the floor in abandoned hangars when they were building sets for shoots. It doesn’t apply to my job now but at least I know how to handle a hammer. You also need to learn to have fun while doing menial jobs. All clichés but there’s always truths in them.

What do you wish you had known when you first started out?

Nothing really… [Faz's note: Maybe she would've like to have known what complete teases a lot of Spanish boys are!]

Above: Denise's room at Hotel Puerta América, Madrid

Are there any major misconceptions about your job or industry?

That it’s glamorous – it can be, I won’t deny that but there are times when you have to suck it up, roll your sleeves and pick up the muck.

What is the best thing that’s happened to you as a consequence of the work you do?

The people I have met.

What motivates you to keep doing what you’re doing?

No Spain, No Gain. Haha!! No I am sorry… making my mother and myself proud of what I am doing. Things such as projects and events that I have handled personally gets picked up and shown to the board of directors in Spain. Now that’s – motivation. Do you think you’ll continue doing this for the rest of your life?

Who knows…? Rather not think about that now.

P.S.: Have a cool job, or know someone with a cool job? Email me at faz@thedramadiaries.com!