Shentonista Of The Year 2020: Ode To Joy
While we’d fail to encapsulate George in just a singular word, perhaps ‘memorable’ comes close to it; after all, he is the winner of our Most Memorable Shentonista category. We first met George in what feels like a different time all together—we photographed George on the streets, maskless, right before the first Circuit Breaker cloaked us, and reconnecting with him was a welcome throwback for us. George and his mother brought a picnic basket with a bottle of bubbly and cupcakes to our studio, reminding us of the importance of bringing an element of fun into any event, and that joie de vivre seeps effortlessly into their relationship as well. When asked why he chose his mother for the shoot, Vanessa answered on her son’s behalf: “Who else would he bring?”
From an intimate studio shoot to a cooking class at the beautiful One Kind House, we tagged along with the duo while capturing some unforgettable memories. Read on more about their experience below, kicking off with our catch-up with George.
What was the biggest change that occurred in your life since we met you last year?
The Covid weight gain. It’s real.
How has your career changed since the last time we spoke?
I’m still in the midst of my law training—so not much! Check back in a month or two for any updates (no seriously, a lot of changes incoming). I’ve gained so much experience on the job, and have been developing a more rational view of the law while being less emotionally invested in cases. The great thing about law is that there are new cases coming in every day, with a whole new set of things to learn. Not ideal in terms of the workload, but amazing for the exposure.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice before 2020 started, what would it be?
“Just be grateful.” I know that 2020 was a very difficult year for many people, and it was for my family as well. That said, I’m aware of how lucky I am to be able to look back at the year and know that I had a great time. We had so much time together as a family, throwing themed birthdays and viewing parties.
I spent most of my lockdown helping my mother’s company complete a successful charity drive for migrant workers during the Covid-19 crisis, which really opened our eyes to the other realities of people going through lockdown. The response from the public was honestly overwhelmingly positive and restored faith in the community that can sometimes seem so lacking today. Lockdown even eased up enough for my friends and I to celebrate my favourite holiday—Halloween! So yeah, I’d just tell myself to enjoy each moment, and be grateful for all the ups and downs that we had.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I’d say it’s very 1960’s Singaporean uncle going to Beauty World, the 1998 Star Charity musical version.
I usually draw my fashion inspiration from ’90’s Versace and Mugler. I’m quite obsessed with the idea of fashion being tacky but with a hard, glam rock edge to it. I love being tacky.
How do you think your relationship with your mother has changed over time?
My mum is really the real-life equivalent of Regina George’s mum (you know, very I’m A Cool Mom™ vibes) but in the best way. As I got older, our relationship became more friend-like rather than a parent-child type of relationship. All my friends love her, and it’s the same for my sisters and I. She really tries to understand the younger generation, and you couldn’t ask for more. On my end, I think I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have her as my mum, and so in the case of any disagreements, we know that at the end of the day, it’s just love on both sides. Due to this, we’ve definitely become a lot more patient with each other, so yay for growth!
The Shentonista team also had the chance to sit down with them to learn about their dynamic (and uncover some fun secrets along the way).
If you could change one habit about the other person, what would it be?
George (G): Snacking before dinner time! Whenever my sisters or I spend all day making an amazing meal, we’ll end up walking over and seeing her eating Khong Guan biscuits or something. Then she’d put on this Puss in Boots, act-cute face to try and get out of trouble!
Vanessa (V): George has recently taken to modifying dolls like the kid in Toy Story 1. This involves removing their heads in order to pluck out their hair with a pair of tweezers. They’ll probably look beautiful in the end but I wished he wouldn’t do his surgery on my dining table!
What’s an alternative job that the other person is best suited for, in your opinion?
G: A YouTube influencer. People constantly stop her to ask where she gets her outfits from (it’s all Lai Chan) and where she does her hair (it’s natural). She has now become the egg distributor of our estate. It’s about six houses, but we all gotta start somewhere.
V: I would say that he knows everything there is to know about pop culture, so the entertainment industry would be an exciting one for him.
If you could have a skill that the other person has, what would it be?
G: Her people skills. She says she’s an introvert, but she’s such a natural at speaking to people.
V: George always gets the timing of his steaks perfectly right. I’d love to be able to do that.
What was the last disagreement both of you had?
G: Me being unable to eat my mum’s claypot rice. I saw myself as allergic, my mum saw myself as not.
What are some ways you’ve noticed them expressing their love for you?
G: She expresses her love for me by loving and caring for all my friends. She really acts as another mother to so many of my friends, and it’s probably one of the things I love most about her.
V: George’s love language is acts of service. He does the groceries, helps me look after his grandmother, and cooks for us. He is very attentive to my needs, and picks up on the little things, even something as simple as getting me a drink.
George shared with us before the shoot that the family loved to cook together, and the kitchen was often where they might spend their time together. It was only fitting that their experience took place at One Kind House, a nostalgic cooking school/urban farm that was as bright and lively as George and Vanessa.
How was your experience at One Kind House? What was your favourite part of the experience?
G: We had such a blast in that kitchen! The amount of space and the plants everywhere was just incredible. We love Peranakan food, so to be surrounded by all those ingredients was a dream. One of my highlights was watching the Chef, Mummy Soh, using a blowtorch on her okra; I definitely want to get one of those. I think my mother was very inspired by the garden; she’s one of the Singaporeans that turned into a gardener during the Covid-19 lockdown, so you could definitely see the gears turning in her head on how to level up our garden at home!
There’s this idea that Asian families or parents tend to show their love through food—do you agree?
G: Food is definitely the love language in our family—both on our Asian and Western sides. It’s really a time for us to all come together and have a drink while preparing a fancy dinner, or just to chit chat and hang out. My parents really cultivated the importance of family meals by cooking dinner every night, and making the most amazing Christmas dinner spreads. Now that we’ve grown up, we’ve taken over that job, so the kitchen kind of goes into chaos-mode, but we wouldn’t want it any other way. Our grandma tried giving us a cooking class on how to make her iconic Nyonya Changs during Lockdown 1.0: I took about an hour just to wrap two, so maybe dumpling-making just isn’t in my genes.
Do you have a family recipe?
G: I think we all have one dish that we eachexcel at. One of my sisters is good at roast pork, which is my dad’s speciality that she picked up, while my other sister’s is jajangmyeon. Mine is bolognese.
Note: Our shoots and cooking class with George, Vanessa and One Kind House were conducted before the second tightening of Covid-19 safe management measures that came into effect from 16th May 2021.
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