Marie, Shentonista Of The Year 2016 winner, Dog Behaviourist. Hat, top, and pants from Club Monaco.
Meeting Marie in person, you’re instantly caught up in how endlessly inspiring she is. She’s always dressed to the nines (even when she’s geared up for another gruelling session in the gym or on a trail), but besides that, she’s constantly pushing her own limits and trying to find ways to give back to both people and man’s best friend. Clearly, it’s not just us who were impressed; Marie garnered the most votes in our Shentonista Of The Year 2016 contest, making her a truly deserving winner of the title. We caught up with her on set:
What have you been you up to lately?
Just training a lot, really. I have a new focus this year and hopefully it’ll inspire other people, too. The past few years I always thought I was just exercising and keeping fit, but this year it’s not exercising anymore, it’s about training. Because when you think like an athlete, you train like one. And you don’t give up when it’s hard, so it’s training with a purpose. This year my goal is to complete the Spartan Race; it’s my first one. Because I’ve always thought I’m not good enough and that I had no strength. I need to work on that. I’m also working towards my first handstand—I have two personal trainers this year and one of them is a calisthenics teacher and he has high hopes for me. (laughs) I’d like to get strong and toned and be an athlete with good endurance. I’ve never liked to use the word ‘athlete’ as I’ve always felt like I’m not good enough. So this year I’m going to change my mindset!
Tell us more about the project that you’ve been working on recently.
This year, I’m running my first ultra trail race in Hong Kong so I’m dedicating it to Save Our Street Dogs. My fundraising ends at the end of March. I believe in doing something different every year, and this year it’s more suffering! The race is across 50km of mountain trails. I have to train 4-5 times every week, and then on weekends I do long runs. I spend 3–4 hours at Bukit Timah Hill, covering about 18–21 km, and I do stairs and trails over and over again. Then I go to Skyville at Dawson and I climb 47 stories, six times. My muscles need to get conditioned, you see—if you don’t do now, you’re going to suffer! I still don’t know if I’m training enough but I’m trying my best. I just want to finish it.
You previously worked in Fashion PR. Why the sudden change to work with dogs?
I’ve always wanted to work with dogs and I think volunteering at the dog shelter really inspired me to learn more and help these rescue dogs because they’re quite hidden away from the public. I had an interest and the ability to do so, so I thought it would be nice. I wouldn’t say it’s a sudden change; it was more gradual. After learning about and volunteering at dog shelters, I wanted to do more instead of being a keyboard warrior—oh, you know, like writing about dog abusers. I just wanted to do something in my own little way—from going down every week, and then studying more—I did a six-month correspondence course—so it felt very organic.
How was the change like for you?
It was different. I’d always thought it would be much easier to work with dogs but when I deal with dogs I also have to deal with people: their owners, their helpers. So the skills that I acquired as a PR professional helped a lot. It helped me to speak differently to different people and help them digest the information. I can’t be talking down to egoistic owners, for example. I have to make them realise things on their own.
Why fashion PR in the first place?
I actually did a diploma in Banking at Singapore Polytechnic but after I graduated I went over to London to study Fashion Project Management. I had to do everything: fashion design, fashion cutting, management, and accounting. After I graduated, I knew that I wasn’t going to be the next Alexander McQueen, so I thought, let me go back to Singapore and see what I can find. I got a job offer to do marketing and retail operations for (the now-defunct Singaporean brand) M)phosis. From there, I got headhunted to go to Shanghai to do business development, and when I came back to Singapore, I was given a job at FJ Benjamin as the head of Marketing Communications. I think I was just lucky!
You wear many hats, literally and figuratively—you’re also a lecturer at LASALLE College of the Arts. How do you cope?
Well, it’s not that bad as I lecture only two days a week. I teach about fashion industry projects and project management to the Fashion diploma students in their final year. I also have a new component which is about equipping yourself in the freelance market. Teaching is very inspiring. You know, all these years working in the industry, right—now I can share my experience with the younger generation and see them benefit from that. It’s just a fulfilling way to give back to society.
What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
To retire from my PR agency. After retiring I had the time to pursue what I wanted to do, like running. I never thought I could do so many things like running a marathon or training for an ultra race. As much as I loved my job as a PR professional, there was still a degree of having to agree with everybody, in a way. I had to make sure I pleased the media, clients, socialites, and guests coming to my events, but when I decided to leave the world of PR, I could truly be myself. I’m an introvert! When I run, I run alone—unless I need protection from the monkeys (laughs)—and I don’t need anyone to get me up to run. I wake up at 6AM and I go for a run myself; I’m that disciplined. I love doing things alone. I know it’s hard to believe that I’m an introvert but it’s really because of all my years in PR when I was out talking to people.
Who inspires you on a daily basis?
Other athletes, but also ordinary people. On Instagram, I follow people who are into fitness. Some of them are top athletes, and I see their struggles and how they train to be as good as they are. I follow ordinary people, too, even friends who used to be obese and are now really fit. I know how it feels like because it’s not easy—when I first started I couldn’t even run 2km.
When we last met you, you mentioned that you used to be afraid of water, but now you dive.
Yes, I was afraid to the point where I couldn’t even put my head below water!
63 diving trips later—what’s your most memorable?
I have a few memorable ones. I saw manta rays for the first time in the Maldives, and they came very close. There was also the time I saw a whale shark—wow, it was so amazing! That was my third diving trip and I was still a new diver. Some people have been diving for years and years and years, and they’ve never seen a whale shark, but there I was, seeing one on my third trip! We were in Phuket, Thailand, and we were supposed to see a shipwreck, not a whale shark. That was the last dive of the trip and we were supposed to go down deep. The whale shark came by to check us out, and circled around us for 45 minutes. I was scared! It had a huge mouth, and when it swam towards me, I was like, “What should I do, what should I do?!” They’re vegetarian though. (laughs)
Marie is raising funds for Save Our Street Dogs (Singapore) and building awareness about rescue dogs by taking part in the TransLantau Race in Hong Kong on 11th March, covering 50km in under 13 hours. For more information and to make a donation, visit here. Fundraising ends at the end of March.
Special thanks to our friends at Club Monaco for being a part of this project.
Also, a big thank you to all the people we worked with last year for coming on board: SPRMRKT, GOODSTUPH, Grain Traders, Kilo, Camp Kilo Charcoal Club, CLUB MONACO, The Library, The Market Grill, LongPlay, & Ordinarypeoplesg.