Is being thick-skinned the new route to success? Four women tell us how putting themselves out there won them love, fame and fortune.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Is being thick-skinned the new route to success? Four women tell us how putting themselves out there won them love, fame and fortune. 

My Reading Room
Anne*, 41, illustrator
To woo her boyfriend (now husband), Anne…

Ate guavas and jogged for two hours every day to lose 13kg.

Baked cookies, wrote love notes, and made him mixed CDs for a month.

Made a snap decision to migrate to Singapore.

“I’m from Hong Kong but moved to Canada for art school when I was 18. I lived in an apartment with four housemates, one of whom would become my future husband. It was instant attraction for me. Unfortunately, he wasn’t interested because I was fat! (I was a size L then). I was undeterred. I always knew I’d have to work extra hard to find love.

So I started jogging for two hours every day and ate only guavas for lunch and dinner. I lost 13kg within six months. Looking back, it was bad for my health, but I was young and foolish.

I also skipped classes just to bump into him at the door and walk with him to the train station. One day, I mustered the courage to grab his hand. To my surprise, he did not pull away. However, he also locked himself in his room for the next few days! He told me he needed time as he had just got out of an eight-year relationship. I said I’d wait.

Every day for the next month, I left mixed CDs, handmade cookies and handwritten messages at his door. He eventually came around, and we started dating. My trick was persistence!

After completing our studies, he returned to Singapore, and I, to Hong Kong. I couldn’t stand being away from him, so after two months, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Singapore. Only my mum knew. I left so suddenly that even my dad didn’t realise I’d gone – he was so mad he didn’t speak to me for six months!

I moved in with my boyfriend, with no job, and no clue. I hadn’t realised his home was the smallest I’d ever seen – and that I’d end up sharing the two-bedroom HDB flat with his parents and two cats for three years! When my mother flew over, she was shocked by our cramped living space and cried for an entire day.

Looking back, it was such a risk. But I suppose it was because I was a daring 23-year-old.

After 18 years of marriage, we have our ups and downs, but he’ll sweetly say how it sometimes feels as though we just met. I’m glad that when I fell in love, I loved fiercely. If I hadn’t made the first move, who knows who would’ve snapped him up first?”

My Reading Room


Michelle Lee and Charlotte Tan, 22 and 23, Instagram influencers and Youtube content producers
How they got more than 52,000 followers on Instagram:

Filmed one of them acting like a dolphin in a swimming pool.

Did tai chi in the middle of Orchard Road.

Put on “drag queen” makeup.

Result: Local news portal www.mothership.sg called them “the only Instagram account in Singapore you need to follow” and “funny as heck”.

“We entertain each other’s madness. We’ve been friends since meeting at Lasalle College of the Arts when we got hooked on the app, Dubsmash, which lets you film yourself lip-synching to songs.

Our friends loved the clips so much that we created an Instagram account (@ youtiao666) just for them. Things blew up and a string of our videos went viral.

One of them was of us walking down a road moving our lips to the sound of emergency car sirens. The title of the video? ‘Just a pair of… sirens’. It got more than 60 million views and was picked up by the Daily Mail. Online news portal Must Share News described us as ‘hilarious, legit and shameless’.

Other things we’ve done: Performed tai chi in Orchard Road to a song from Power Rangers; made ourselves up to look like drag queens; and filmed ourselves ‘tripping’ and spitting water in the middle of a crowd. The aim of our videos is to create humour, satirise pop culture, and serve as a kind of social commentary.

We probably stand out because we dare to be ‘not pretty’. A lot of girls on Instagram are very imageconscious, but we like a raw aesthetic and want our feed to look ‘homemade’ – like we don’t care.

We used to feel selfconscious when filming in public, but we’ve got over that. Now when passers-by stare, it’s out of curiosity or because they know who we are and want to take pictures. We’ve already established that we’re crazy. Michelle’s mum loves our videos. She shows them to people at the hairdresser’s! Charlotte’s parents were more apprehensive until they saw that we could support ourselves financially.

We’ve worked with various brands, including Tiger Beer, Maybelline and Netflix to produce videos and endorse makeup products. We now make almost $10,000 a month.

We know there’s no longevity in what we do, but it’ll be stupid to throw [our popularity] away for now. Our ultimate dream? To get behind the camera and produce.”

My Reading Room


Gabrielle*, 27, co-founder of a beauty e-commerce start-up
To promote her four-year-old start-up, Gabrielle…

Turned up uninvited at networking parties.

Did her own publicity, cold called journalists, and e-mailed one persistently for six months.

Saved money by crashing on acquaintances’ couches while on work trips.

“Some women don’t want to appear aggressive. But if you want to promote your business, you have to throw away all those inhibitions and do whatever works.

For instance, if being a woman lets me get into networking events more easily, why not? My business is a beauty e-commerce app, and I try to attend industry conferences to network. These conferences sometimes have ‘unofficial after-parties’ that allow me to gain high-value business contacts. To get on the guest list, I have to aggressively reach out to my Facebook connections. Sometimes I just show up and charm my way in!

I travel at least once a month in search of potential business partners and investors. When cash flow was tight, I would pester distant acquaintances to let me crash in their rooms or on their couches so I could save money.

I also do my own publicity. After working with a public relations agency for two months, I felt that messages could get lost in translation. So I took things into my own hands. I exploited all my networks to get connected to the people I wanted to connect to. I would try my best to get the contact details of reporters, and reach out to them.

I never got any response 99 per cent of the time, but for that 1 per cent, the outreach was worth it. Once, I contacted a journalist who wrote for a renowned business magazine. I dropped her a message on Linkedin and followed up over the next six months. Never once did she reply. Then, late last year, she finally responded, saying she was going to nominate me for an inaugural list of young game-changers to be featured in her magazine!

I used to think that putting myself out there was so embarrassing. But I’ve realised that the most others can do is to ignore or reject me. And with more than 100,000 app downloads today, I’m glad I got over my hesitance. Who cares about face?”

*Names have been changed.