For many of us, home is a sanctuary to eat, chill and sleep.
But for ex-beauty queen Jaime Teo, home is also her gym, art room, music studio, and food experiment lab where she bakes up a storm. She tells ESTELLE LOW how she spends most of her waking hours in her 1,100 sq ft apartment, doing productive things that are, quite frankly, out of this world.
Hype It Up Jacket and Play Off The Pleat skirt, from Lululemon. Sneakers, from MBT.
I'M AT THE HAPPIEST, MOST INDEPENDENT POINT OF MY LIFE. I FEEL MOST CENTRED NOW.
Jaime just turned 42 in April, but you would never guess it from her taut, glowing skin. And from the way she jumps and planks and twists in the slew of workout videos she’s put up on her Instagram page (@jmeteo). If you haven’t seen her account before, log on now for some serious ﬁtspiration.
Warning: It’s gonna be addictive. You won’t just see her burning a year’s worth of calories, but also her pretty bakes, awe-inspiring paintings, and envy-inducing music making that involves playing the piano and guitar, as well as singing.
If all these sound like superhuman achievements, it’s because they are. Many of us plan fancy bucket lists, only to chuck them because “there’s no time” or “it’s too hard”. In Jaime’s world, nothing is too time-consuming, or too hot to handle, as we ﬁnd out during this shoot and interview – done at her house, no less, because that's where all the magic happens for this self-declared homebody.
First, special mention needs to be made to Jaime’s hosting skills. Not the event hosting that she does as a Fly Entertainment artiste, but actually hosting us, kaypoh media (who have nothing much in common with her except for our love for ﬁtness and good food), in the immaculate, Pinterest-worthy three-bedroom apartment she's been living in since mid-2018.
During the nine hours we were there on day one, she pulled out all the stops to make sure everyone was at ease – making coffee and hardboiled eggs, offering drinks throughout, demonstrating her favourite Les Mills Sh’bam dance routines, letting us move furniture freely for the shoot, serenading us with her guitar, doing a spontaneous show-and-tell of her latest paintings… it was almost like catching up with a long-lost friend, or that celebrity neighbour we wish we had.
On day two when we went over for a workout and dance challenge shoot (ﬁnd out more on www.shape.com.sg), Jaime even offered to cook chicken nuggets on the spot for our starving makeup artist (who rejected vehemently and ordered McDonald’s instead), after already baking us a banana cake and a lychee Swiss roll. Heavenly, by the way.
It’s our ﬁrst time doing a shoot and interview at a celeb’s house. Should there be a next time, can we just say, Jaime you’ve set the bar so high?
In case you're wondering, the pictures you see in these pages are indeed what Jaime's house looks like on a typical day: clean, tidy, and in tip-top condition. Consider this your most intimate preview of Jaime in her private space. You're welcome.
Lame knit pullover and polyester printed pleat skirt, from Bimba Y Lola. Sneakers, from Pinko.
SHAPE: Your house is the stuff of dreams, Jaime. Very impressive.
Jaime: Thanks! I’m a homebody, so my house has to be very comfortable. I renovated this place by myself, without an interior designer. The house-moving I’ve done over the years – 10 times in 10 years – has helped me develop a good eye. I sourced and bought everything myself, from tiles to drawer knobs. Really, it’s all in the soft ﬁnishings. Have a wooden ﬂooring, put some plants around, buy some nice throws and cushions, and the place will look done up.
S: We see you have different zones for your favourite activities: working out, painting, playing piano and guitar, and baking. Which of these spark the most joy for you?
J: Everything that I do successfully makes me happy. A good cookie makes me happy. Yes, I have baking fails – but I don’t post them. A nice painting makes me happy. It’s about trying every day. I’m in a very special and fortunate phase where I can do the things I enjoy, and get an income from it. Honestly, I’m at the happiest, most independent point of my life. I feel most centred now.
S: How were things on the personal front three years ago, when we ﬁrst interviewed you?
J: There were many changes at that point. Daniel and I had already separated but I didn’t talk about it. We were also selling off Twelve Cupcakes, so there was a lot of closure in my life. Working out was my way to de-stress, and I felt I had to be stronger then. I’m glad to still be on this ﬁtness journey. I’ve seen how physical ﬁtness translates to emotional strength that I didn’t know I had.
S: How has life been for you and your daughter Renee post-divorce? (Jaime announced her divorce from ex-radio DJ Daniel Ong in December 2016.)
J: I get a lot of me time, now that we’re co-parenting Renee. She’s with him on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. With Dan, she gets to do a lot of fun, outdoorsy stuff that I don’t do with her, like catching worms, playing with spiders, learning to ride the Segway… she loves it. It’s a good balance, I suppose. He’s the fun parent, I’m the policeman. So far, this arrangement has worked out well.
S: So what do you do with Renee? Do you guys work out together?
J: We do everything indoors, because I don’t like being in the sun! Sadly, we don’t work out together. Renee’s always been her own person. She likes singing, drawing comics, making slime, and editing videos on mobile apps. I’m quite easy with what she wants to do, as long as she’s not always on the iPad. And oh, ting xie (Chinese spelling)! I spend a lot of time coaching her on that.
Polyester printed blouse, cotton bandeau top and cotton ruffled skirt, from Topshop. PVC sneakers, from Melissa.
S: Speaking of time, what does a typical day for you look like?
J: On a regular weekday, I wake up at 6.30am, prepare Renee for school and send her off at 7ish. I’d go back, do my social media stuff, and then work out. That would be either squash, dance, HIIT or a strengthening workout. For lunch, I’d cook or head out to eat. In the afternoon, I’d ﬁnd something to do, like paint, cook, bake or play mahjong. Sometimes I’d go to Fly for work. I’d also schedule meetings with my mum. My days are very free-ﬂow, but one thing’s for sure: I cannot sit still.
S: About your paintings… how did you get started?
J: I’d never been interested in painting before. I’d always thought I couldn’t draw until my friends brought me to Arteastiq one day to try painting. Then I realised that it was actually quite fun. A blank canvas became something I’d never imagined I could do. Painting opened up so many possibilities. It’s so empowering, knowing that I can do anything I want if I set my mind to it. Since then, I’ve sold more than 100 paintings (via @thejmespace), and I now have a gallery in *Scape to showcase my works. That’s quite a milestone for me.
S: On the kitchen front, what are you up to these days?
J: Nowadays I like baking rum cakes, banana cakes, cookies and Swiss rolls. I love creating things, so I bake every other day. I'd usually give them away.
S: Is that how you stay in shape? Do you eat your own bakes at all?
J: I do, in moderation! I watch my diet closely, and have a rough calorie counter in my head. If I have had a couple of cookies, I’d eat less carbs at the next meal, or skip the meal entirely. It’s very easy to overeat, especially after a workout. Having been through eating disorders when I was younger, I must say I have a much healthier relationship with food now.
S: Having tried your hand at so many things, is there anything you absolutely wouldn’t do?
J: If there’s something new to learn, workout routine out of whack. Unlike my younger days, when I felt invincible and learnt to do handstands and other gymnastics moves from YouTube, I don’t seek that adrenaline rush anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m on my own now, and I have a kid to look after.
S: What about workouts? Anything you wouldn’t do?
J: I like efficient workouts, those that burn a lot of calories in a very short time. When it comes to slower-paced stuff like yoga, I cannot… Recently I tried hatha yoga with (celeb friends) Michelle Chia and Jamie Yeo, and it felt like a stretch for me. Even aerial yoga didn’t give me a burn. My idea of a good workout? I’ve to perspire, and my heart rate needs to go up.
S: Who are your ﬁtness inspirations?
J: Popsugar Fitness, Fitness Blender and BodyRock are still my favourites. I admire how they have managed to sustain their platforms for so long, unlike fads. The consistency of their content is very praise-worthy.
PAINTING OPENED UP SO MANY POSSIBILITIES. IT'S SO EMPOWERING, KNOWING THAT I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT IF I SET MY MIND TO IT.
Cotton tee, cotton printed shorts and nylon sporty jacket with lace details, from Pinko.
FITNESS IS FOR LIFE. I WON'T FORCE MYSELF TO WORK OUT IF MY BODY ISN'T FEELING UP TO IT. NOR WOULD I BEAT MYSELF UP IF I MISS A HIIT OR STRENGTHENING SESSION. I'D JUST DO IT THE NEXT DAY.
S: Would you be producing your own ﬁtness videos anytime soon?
J: I’ve thought about it, but it’s going to be quite time-consuming and intensive. For those workout videos I upload on Instagram, it takes at least 15 minutes to edit and add captions, depending on the duration of the actual workout. I’m working with Fly to launch a workout segment on their video platform FlyFlickz, so I’ll get support in video production. Workout videos are aplenty on YouTube, but I hope to inspire my followers to do those moves along with me when they watch my videos. It’d be closer to home.
S: You got your personal trainer certiﬁcation in 2016. Have you done anything with it?
J: Not really. I went to get certiﬁed in the hope that I could give more informed feedback to my Instagram followers, who were asking me all sorts of exercise-related questions. Ironically, being certiﬁed has taught me not to dispense advice, because I’m missing a lot of background information. There’s no one-size-ﬁts-all approach, and everybody should get assessed by a professional if they’re concerned about an injury or trying a new workout. My advice: If your knee or ankle or hips hurt, go see somebody. Don’t try to do or modify my routine – you might harm yourself in the process.
S: Has your attitude towards ﬁtness changed?
J: To be honest, I don’t feel as strong now compared to three years ago. I recently did the 12-minute circuit training workout that I recommended to Shape, and died the next day! I was more unforgiving when I started out. Now, I hold a more relaxed mentality, and a longer-term view of ﬁtness. Fitness is for life. I won’t force myself to work out if my body isn’t feeling up to it. Nor would I beat myself up if I miss a HIIT or strengthening session. I’d just do it the next day. Having said that, I wouldn’t stop exercising for too long for fear of the intertia to start. The longest I’ve gone without a workout is three days! I like being strong and able to do things for myself, like pick up a table and move it to the side effortlessly.
S: How do you squeeze in a workout when you’re travelling or super busy?
J: When I travel, I bring my TRX suspension trainer or jump rope along. Or I’d do 20 reps of whatever bodyweight exercise comes to mind – usually those I hate, like burpees, switch lunges and reverse plank toe touches. When I was chatting with Michelle and Jamie on how we stay ﬁt, I realised that there’s one thing we all do when we have been inactive that day: squats in the shower while waiting for our hair conditioner to take effect! It’s funny how we are all closet bathroom exercisers! I usually do three sets of 20 reps.
S: Whoa whoa whoa. This is a whole new level of working out. Are there any other exercises you do while in the shower?
J: On a wet ﬂoor, I’d do squats, standing side crunches and wall sits – nothing that requires big movements or jumping. On a dry ﬂoor, I’d do plank variation exercises and push-ups. Trust me, there’s a lot of pain you can inﬂict on yourself when you’re alone in the bathroom!
S: Hold on. Why do you even work out in the bathroom?
J: I hate to wash my hair when I don’t work out. So, I’d make sure to do something just before my shower, to break a sweat or get warm. In the bathroom, I can exercise naked or in my undies, without having to change into activewear. Less laundry! Of course, I'd avoid bouncing or jumping movements since my chest is not supported. And I don’t do this every day.
S: Okay, TMI! We get it. What’s your ﬁtness message to followers then?
J: Do some kind of exercise every day, because it’s good to be fit and strong. My new hashtag is #remindertoworkout. Honestly, anyone can spare a few minutes, even if it’s in the shower!
PHOTOS DARREN CHANG STYLING DOLPHIN YEO
ART DIRECTION RAY TICSAY
HAIR EILEEN KOH/HAIR PHILOSOPHY, USING KEVIN MURPHY
MAKEUP KEITH BRYANT LEE, USING LANCOME