The Art of Being Bald

Reuelwrites documents his journey, stereotypes and the confronting of his inner demons as a bald human being.

Hi, I’m Reuel Eugene. I’m a Singaporean Chinese. I write pretty well and I was a finalist for best OMY individual blog 2015. I’m as healthy as an ox. I give my level best to my clients as a property agent and I’m pretty good at speaking too. I love to do backpacking, I appreciate art, I am good with holding my own in conversation, and some ladies say my one-liners are pretty smooth. Oh, and I’m bald.

Awkward silence. Balding is often viewed (by both the individual and third parties as being) on the same level as a death sentence, and I sure felt like it was the end of the world for me as I went through this condition. What’s wrong with being bald? Are we any lesser than other human beings with a head full of hair? Before we go further, let me share my own story of how I came to be the One-Punch Man a baldie.

I grew up in a family where everyone in my paternal grandparent’s side of the family had to contend with hair loss. But when you’re a kid and you have a head full of hair, the thought that you could be dealing with hair loss one day just never occurred. There was even a point of time in my adolescent years when I was cussing for having thick wavy hair. As I turned 18, I began to notice more hair in the hair trap of the shower drain. I thought to myself, “It’s just a little more than usual.” The incident became an issue which eventually turned into a crisis of sorts the year that I was in bible school in 2011. I was only 22 then. I noticed that there is a very significant void (aka no hair) at the crown of my head and the ever-receding hairline.

Having dealt with low self-esteem since my childhood days, experiencing hair loss even before reaching adulthood was a big blow to my esteem and I honestly struggled to contain my emotions. That same year, I enlisted into national service. Needless to say, my hairstyle and I was the butt of jokes for the assholes. Struggling to mitigate the problem, I turned to prayer, hair loss shampoos and even Yun Nam (which costed a fortune). All was ineffective until I found Caboki.

Caboki is a hair concealer and it worked like a charm. How it works is that, its fibers will stick onto your existing hair, making the bald spots look that much fuller. I perfected the art of using Caboki (it requires some skill) and managed to conceal my hair loss for a good two years. But I know that the solution was only temporary and I have to face this condition again eventually. As my hair continues to shed, it was becoming increasingly difficult to conceal the hair loss. Plus, I felt like I was living a lie. I felt terrible that I had to measure up to the social norms of a ‘healthy body image’.

I felt so lousy about myself and I always asked (God) why it has to be me, at this young age? I engaged in much negative self-talk, allowing my inner demon to beat the pulp out of me, telling me I’m worthless and ugly.

PHOTO: Caboki.com

In October 2015, as I prepared myself for my jaw surgery, I told myself that I don’t want to live a lie anymore. I want to love myself for who I am. So what if I’m bald? So what if people will stare? So what? Does that make me a lesser human being? Should people’s judgement over me matter that much to me? With that, I took the plunge and shaved my head the day that I admitted into hospital for the surgery. The experience was liberating in the first few days but it quickly died off as I struggled with my self image and esteem.

I hid behind my post-surgery excuse as cover, staying at home and not going out so that I don’t have to see anyone – or to be seen by anyone for that matter. My church members were caring and they came to visit, even though I wasn’t comfortable with being seen in my ‘state’. But eventually, I knew that I can’t hide forever, since I already decided to bare, or should I say bald it all? (Laughs)

The day that I decided to go to church, I met my dear friend Serene on the way and she encouraged me repeatedly that I looked fine (when you get the approval from a beautiful air stewardess, things gets better lol). I never realised how important it was to me to look right to people and stepping to church was tough (stemming from my lifelong struggle with self-esteem, I always felt the need to impress the people I know in church). Slowly but surely, I began to heal.

I went on two backpacking trips (read my guide to Vietnam here) and met so many travellers, strangers who have never saw the full-headed me. We hung out, had fun and drank (quite a bit). Today, I am proud to say that I have confronted my inner demons (and won). I love myself, with and without hair. Honestly, there will still be days where I wish I still have a head full of hair, but I am thankful nevertheless even without it.

1. Bald People Cannot Succeed

It’s damn irritating when people call me ‘One Punch Man’. Trust me, if I really was the character, I will punch you | PHOTO: taringa.net

Have you ever heard from people that being bald is bad for business? I have. Being a real estate agent that I am, I have heard clients, friends and even relatives telling me that I shouldn’t shave as it’s ‘not good for business especially my line of work’. Firstly, I disagree. Not just because I am in the sales line, but I refused to accept that I cannot succeed just because I am bald. According to many researches online, it was reported that guys with shaved heads are also seen as 13% stronger, taller and having greater leadership potential than guys with a full head or thinning hair.

Rather than being viewed as incompetent, men who go bald are viewed to be dominant, people who take charge, people who end up as the helm and main decision-makers of top companies. I’m not saying that being bald is a prerequisite to being successful, but that we have equal chances of being successful – if we put in the same amount of hard work and effort.

2. Bald People Are Not Attractive

bald

For too long, we were conditioned to believe that a beautiful woman is one who has long silky hair like those Pantene models, and men should have manbuns (currently trending). Hair loss is like contracting Aids. Suddenly, you become the lowest lifeform, the undesirable, the scum of the earth. But as we look back at history, we know beauty to be subjective – influenced by popular culture and sentiments of the time.

Take plump for example. European women who were plump during the Renaissance period (14th to 17th century) were often viewed as attractive. This is not the sentiment shared by people of our times because of our conditioning of beauty via the television media since young. Just like the unhealthy body image of wanting to match up in slimness, it is unhealthy to despise oneself just because one is bald. In history, the Manchurians (Chinese), Japanese and several other races were known for practising the bald culture.

There are also plenty of attractive-looking (and successful) bald people portrayed in the media as well. Examples include the likes of Bruce Willis, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, The Rock Dwayne Johnson, Patrick Stewart, Michael Jordan, Samuel L Jackson, Sean Connery, Ben Kingsley, to name a few.

Of course, not everyone can rock the bald look but it takes balls guts to go bald in a world that is defined by the media according to how stylish your hair is, how big your biceps is, how thin your thighs are and how big your boobs are. I think that courage is attractive.

3. Bald People Can’t Find Life Partners

PHOTO: Returnofkings.com

I take offense with this because I want to get married someday and show filial piety by giving my parents the grandchildren that they have been longing for (Laughs). Someone recently told me that I should wear a wig because girls don’t like guys who are bald. I found that to be offensive and absurd really. Firstly, that is saying that girls (or guys) are shallow and can only go out with a guy for how he looks and not for his character. Today, we are often told (by the media) to value image over character and everything else

In an exaggerated example, Guy A has Brad Pitt looks but treats you like shit, while Guy B is bald but he knows how to treat a lady right. Whom would you prefer? For too long we have been conditioned to view baldness as a disease. Hair treatment companies bombard us with their hair loss treatments over television, and the media tells us that people with hair loss are ‘ugly’… When there is nothing wrong with being bald.

I don’t know about you, but I believe love should be about passion and commitment, not about how much hair one has on his or her head, isn’t it? In some extreme post-natal scenario, women experiences hair-loss after giving birth. But you don’t see men forsaking their wives do you?

Of course a balding man/woman might not look as good as a ‘normal’ man/woman, but baldness doesn’t make them any less of a lover. Period.

4. Bald People Should Seek Treatment

PHOTO: Plusizekitten.com

First of all, we must establish if balding is really a terrible disease? For some people, balding is in the genes and they simply can’t help losing hair – unless they pay tens of thousands of dollars on hair loss treatments, all of which can be better invested in properties for future dividends (let me know if you want to invest in a property in Singapore!). For some, balding was an inevitable process after seeking treatment (Chemotherapy for example).

Being a traveller and having participated in social work through the years, I know that balding is a negligible condition compared to people with bigger problems and illnesses. Problems like poverty and starvation. Illnesses like cancer, celebral palsy, heart disease, loss of limb, et cetera. These are the real illnesses and problems that require full, immediate attention. Not hair-loss. One might lose hair (early as in my case), but that shouldn’t stop us from living a full and enriching life that many others are deprived of, especially those in impoverished countries.

Today, there might be some of you brothers and sisters who are struggling with hair-loss just as I had and are considering your options. Yes, you can try the hair-loss treatments, yes you can buy Caboki to conceal your hair-loss, yes you can wear a wig or a cap, but at the end of the day, all I want to tell you is, You got to learn to love yourself for who you are, not how you look. Only when you love yourself, can healing take place. You are no lesser than every other human being! So what if you don’t have hair?

In the end, we all want happiness and we will all eventually return to the earth as dusts. I don’t want to remember for how much hair I managed to retain on my head, but how loving I was to my family and friends, and my contribution to society. RW

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Their Kampung Stories: “I went swimming before O levels”

Reuelwrites speaks to his mother to get a sense of what life was like living in a kampung.

Have you ever wonder what life was like for your parents and grandparents? Life before the comfortable HDB flat, condominium apartment or landed property which we call home? Life in 1960s Singapore when futures were uncertain and people lived in kampungs? Often, the people who can give us a snapshot of the stories and sentiments from that forgotten era are none other than the people closest to us – our parents, elders and grandparents. Inspired by Singaporean director Jack Neo’s latest movie ‘Long, Long Time Ago’, I asked my mother about life back in the kampung.

This article is the result of the interactions with my mom. The story in itself was hilarious and shocking for me. Before they became our parents, uncles, aunts, or grandparents all strict and orderly, they might have lived a different life not unlike how we lived ours.

What are the stories of your parents and/or grandparents? Speak to them, emphasise with them, and document their stories on your Instagram with #theirkampungstories. RW

IMG_1106(edited)

 

RW: What did your parents (my grandparents) work as back when they were living in a kampung?

JN: My father was a taxi driver while my mother reared pigs, chickens and other farm animals. I lived in a kampung with my parents, two elder brothers, two elder sisters, and a younger brother. Life was tough, especially for my mother. She worked 3 to 4 jobs to supplement the household income. I was the youngest daughter and I was always helping my mother with everything. We grew durians and rambutans, we went fishing for prawns and crabs, we sticked the ‘gold’ on incense papers, and we peeled the feathers off ducks (for duck owners), all so that we can make more money – however little they may be – for the household.

It was dangerous for her to go fishing alone, so I decided to go with her. We had to transverse through the mud and all at night. As for the incense papers, they were also so smelly and dusty – I had to tie a cloth around my face to block out the dust. The payment for the incense job was only $0.30 per stack. In those days, the duck owners will pay us some money for helping them de-feather their ducks so that they can be sold. I helped my mom with that too.  

I did so many things when I was young. I even went picking durians and rambutans with my mother while everyone was sleeping in the middle of the night.

IMG_0688

RW: Wasn’t it dangerous to do so at night?

JN: It was. Besides worrying that we might get hit by falling durians, there were also snakes. But it was also the best time to collect them (the fruits ripen and detach themselves from the trees at night). If we didn’t pick them, other people might trespass and steal them in the dead of the night. There was once, my mother wanted to leap from one tree to another to pick the rambutan. She fell off the tree instead and was immobilised. I had to go get help from my father.

RW: Why didn’t the other siblings help out?

JN: My sisters dislike all these work because they are dirty! I couldn’t bear to see my mom suffering so I helped her with everything. I also fed the pigs and chickens. It was a scary experience killing the chickens! And my 2nd sister practically did nothing! But my mom doted on her, I don’t know why. To my elder sister’s credit, she did cook and do the laundry. I didn’t do any of those!

RW: Did your parents (my grandparents) favour boys more than girls?

JN: Just a little.

IMG_9180

RW: Did the 1969 floods affect your kampung?

JN: Yup, but we weren’t as affected as other villages.

RW: Did your mother (my grandmother) discipline (read: cane) you a lot?

JN: Mother used to hit me a lot! I was very naughty. I always ran out of the house to have fun with my friends. I also skipped school at times. On Saturdays, I would tell my mom that we have classes when there wasn’t any – so that I need not stay home and help with the chores. But we would go ‘gai gai’ at Beauty World. We would watch movies too.

The day before my O level exams, I went swimming at the beach in Sembawang Park – without any change of clothes! We were soaking wet after that. Ironically, I had the highest qualification (O levels) amongst all my siblings. They didn’t complete their secondary education, they didn’t like to study.

RW: Were you from an all-girls school?

JN: Mixed school.

RW: Did any of the guys tried to date you out?

JN: Of course they did! (Laughs).

Exclusive: My First Experience At A Dating Event

Reuelwrites goes undercover at a dating event and weighs in on the top 5 myths surrounding singles’ dating events.

Finding the right one can be a pressurising affair in 21st century Singapore. For most singles of marriageable age (21 years and older), we are reminded by our aged relatives at every Chinese New Year almost without fail. Of course after you find the right one, there are also other levels (read: pressure) to pass such as getting married, have a kid, and then more kids. But we will save that topic for another day. The minimum threshold to ‘saving one’s face’ (read: avoid humiliation) is to get married and the fear of being ‘left on the shelf’ is very real.

But what happens when you are a good number of years past the ‘marriageable’ age? What if there’re no potential singles of the opposite gender in your workplace and circle of influence? Gone are the days where your mom will arrange blind dates for you too. Uh Oh. What do you do then?

Would you maybe.. try a dating agency?

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo.”

Screams someone from across the room. That’s like telling everyone, “I am a failure who can’t find my spouse without using a dating agency.” And then there are other thoughts like “Dating events are ineffective”, “What if someone finds out?” or “The people there are ‘not good’ one leh (often what we mean is not rich, pretty or handsome)” Social stigma and stereotypes are still very much prevalent in Singapore but this is not good news for the country even as more people are marrying later, or not marrying altogether.

Honestly, I am a sceptic myself when it comes to approaching a dating agency for help. But the good people at Love Express and Relationship Studio approached me to come check out one of their dating events. So I thought, “Why not? No harm in going for one, right?”

Here Are My Thoughts On The Dating Event.

I will also examine the top 5 myths surrounding dating events. *Names of actual people mentioned in the story has been changed.

1. ‘Dating Events Are Boring’

GIF: spotmegirl.com

The high-tea event was held at a rather atas restaurant in central Orchard. Once there, we are given a list of names of the other attendees and some writing materials to exchange our contact info with the opposite gender. We are then seated by the organiser at one of the tables. Once done, I’m on my own. There are equal number of ladies and gentlemen at each table and I have to break the ice with the lady seated opposite me to get things going. Taking away the initial daunting fear that I had to be very extroverted, the conversations weren’t for the most part, boring at all.

You will meet people with rather interesting backstories and similar interests. I met Matilda, a good looking banker who shares the same interest as me; backpacking. She shared that she’s backpacking to Europe the following month (I think she’s in Amsterdam now). Of course high-tea isn’t the only event organised by dating agencies like Love Express. There are many different activities for you to participate in; from outdoor adventure activities to movie outings and such. Click here.

2. ‘I’m Stuck With A Person I Don’t Like At A Dating Event’

GIF: the odysseyonline.com

I’m not so sure about other dating agencies. For Love Express, once past a certain time, it’s off to the next table (the guys will do the moving) and you have to start your self-introductions again. According to Glamour, an average woman will kiss 15 men (doesn’t say if they are in a relationship but let’s assume half are) before finding the right one. I’m going to double this amount to 30 people for both the men and women whom you will have to meet before finding your right one.

Assuming that you are a shy-shy type and you won’t talk to any other ladies or gentlemen other than the one opposite you at the dating event, you would have met at least ten other singles who are more or less ready for a serious relationship. The odds of you finding the special someone in one meeting isn’t too bad at all. Okay, my logic is very flawed but you get what I mean right?

I’m not going to sugarcoat my words. There will be some attendees you would love to spend more time with, and some you wish you don’t! It will work either way but that’s the fun part about the event isn’t it? You will never know what kind of person you are going to meet and talk to next.

“What about that lady/gentlemen I wanted to spend more time with?” Well, you do have his/her number don’t you? Time to make a move.

3. ‘Dating Events Are Expensive’

GIF: nicolegoldfarb.wordpress.com

The event that I went to was not held at some coffeeshop hor. It was held at a rather expensive restaurant. Besides paying the membership fee (which happens to be waived when you join before December 2015 – you can thank me later) the high-tea event costs only $49.

The cost for dating events and activities varies depending on what you signed up for. But personally, I think the price is justifiable since you will be meeting other paying singles who are serious about dating and meeting new people. And let’s say you do meet the right one at such an event, he or she has the financial capability to proceed with the wedding too.

4. ‘Only Losers Go To Dating Events’

GIF: socialsneaker.com

This is perhaps one of my biggest bias. I mean, we are conditioned to desire living the ‘perfect life’. Anyone who uses a dating agency has got to be quite a failure isn’t it? Wrong. Through the multiple conversations with the attendees, I found that many of these attendees are actually doing quite well. One of the guys there hold an MBA while another works for a research company at Biopolis. As mentioned earlier, there’s Matilda the banker, Janet the HR manager, Cherie who’s working in the compliance line.

I didn’t have the chance to talk to Cindy who was seated next to me until just before I was about to leave my seat for the next table. Interestingly in that short minute or so, we discovered that we both love the arts. Cindy is a drama teacher and she is also very enthusiastic about the Singapore International Festival of Arts! I asked if she caught Dementia and she lamented that she couldn’t catch it because her students can’t watch a M18 show. Unfortunately, I had to switch tables in the absence of time, but it was the best conversation on the arts I have had with someone in a while.

Many of the attendees fare well in looks too. Often it’s not that these individuals aren’t capable, but they have placed their priorities on their career than on finding the right one during their younger days. As cost and standard of living increases, more Singaporean men and women are opting to focus on their careers before starting a family. You would also be surprised to find younger men and women (in their late twenties) at such events.

5. ‘Nothing Materialises From A Dating Event’

GIF: gifsgallery.com

No dating agency – in their right mind – will ever promise that you will find the right one while using their services (that’s subjecting themselves to a lawsuit if you don’t find one). But that doesn’t mean you can’t make new friends and meet new people. The organiser sets a time for us to mingle with others at each table before informing us that we are switching tables. I thought that what was nice was that, regardless of whether you meet someone interesting or not, everyone’s nice and courteous to one another.

Lionel who works for the biotech company shared that he finds these events fruitful because he gets to meet new people even if he doesn’t find the right one in that particular event.

All in all, it was an interesting experience for me personally. These dating events are definitely helpful for Singaporeans who are increasingly cash-rich and time-poor. The stereotypes pertaining to dating events will remain, but those who desire to find love shouldn’t be deterred by other people’s opinions. After all, it’s your own happiness you should be concerned about, not the opinions of others. RW

About Love Express

Founded by Ms Deon Chan in 2007, Love Express is one of the leading event-based accredited dating agencies in Singapore. Love Express organises more than 100 events each year and has since reached out to over 10,000 singles in Singapore. For more information, visit www.loveexpress.com.sg.

Ms Deon Chan, an accredited dating practitioner, has been interviewed and quoted by major news media; Straits Times, Business Times, MyPaper, Today et cetera, as well as leading magazines (Her World and 8 Days). She has also been invited to Radio programmes (MediaCorp Love 97.2FM, Kiss 92 and LIVE 93.8),  and TV programmes (Good Morning Singapore and Frontline) to share about her experience and insights about helping singles to date successfully.”

About Relationship Studio

Founded by Ms Cindy Leong in 2013, Relationship Studio is a date coaching agency committed to helping singles excel in all areas of their personal and professional relationships, from dating to marriage as well as relationships with colleagues and superiors. For more information, visit www.relationshipstudio.sg.

Cindy is an SDN-Accredited dating practitioner, dating and relationship coach. Cindy is also a writer for online Sex & Sexuality Magazine, SimplySxy, and has published her first book “SuffeRing or ConqueRing – Happy Marriages in Singapore”. She has been invited by several radio stations and magazines as a guest consultant to provide insights into the seemingly simple yet complex local dating industry.

Exclusive: Interview with Dick Lee The Mad Chinaman

Reuelwrites speaks to the Mad Chinaman himself in an exclusive email interview.

Reviving his legendary show, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman, the one-night only concert to be performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 22 September will see Dick Lee bringing back his sold out show.

Singapore’s favourite singing sensation is a name befitting the music juggernaut known as Dick Lee. Lee first gained regional prominence when his 1989 album The Mad Chinaman achieved platinum status in Singapore. Lee chalked up accolades after accolades since then.

Lee composed songs for Asia’s top singing talents such as Jackie Cheung, Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui and Stephanie Sun. Lee was also the brains behind the tunes for sellout musicals like Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991, 2010), Forbidden City (2003) to name a few.THE MAD CHINAMAN

It was also the Cultural Medallion recipient who composed the heart-stirring 1998 National Day Parade song, Home (家) performed by local singer, Kit Chan. The song remains as Singaporeans’ top favourite NDP song of all times, with it being sung most recently by Chan at the SG50 National Day Parade. Lee also composed the songs for the 2015 sold-out show, The LKY Musical starring Adrian Pang and Sharon Au.

The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first performed in 2011. The concert performance recounts his incredible musical journey from his childhood in the ‘60s to the debut of his 1989 alter ego, The Mad Chinaman. Reuniting with renowned director Jonathan Lim from the show’s debut staging, the upsized version will be greater and grander than ever before.

Check out my interview with the man himself below. RW

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

Hi Dick,

It’s a pleasure to interview you. Before we proceed further, I would like to extend a big CONGRATULATIONS to you for a resoundingly successful The LKY Musical! The music scores were a perfect fit for the musical.

  1. Dick, we have seen you as a singer, composer, songwriter and even a playwright. You’re a man of many talents. But if you could only choose one ‘talent’, which would you choose and why?

The first three you named are all linked to music, so I’d say music, as its my first love, and my most reliable means of expressing myself.

  1. Tell me something about you which nobody knows about.

I can’t ride a bicycle.

  1. The adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first staged in 2011. What has changed since then? What other adventures did the ‘Mad Chinaman’ go through in the past 4 years?

The first production ended in 1990 when I went to Japan, but this year’s show goes further to reveal my exploits in Japan and Hong Kong. I still end the show at around the late nineties so that I have more material for my next run.

  1. You started this musical journey since the 60s – way before many of us yappies were even born – and came up with the alter-ego ‘The Mad Chinaman’ in 1989. How did the idea of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ came about?

The whole show is about how that came to be, so I suggest you watch the concert to find out. (You can also read my autobiography upon which the show is based). Anyway, the Mad Chinaman is the name of my breakthrough album released in 1989.

  1. Tell me about one production you were involved in which you felt was the ‘defining moment’ in your career. What was your role in that production?

The release of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ was the turning point in my career. After its success, I was able to go full-time into music (I ran an events company prior to that), and it also launched my career in Asia.

  1. 40 years is a long time. Were there any moments that you felt unsure about this career path? Where would you be if you haven’t pursue music?

There have been several moments in my career when I was unsure if music was the right choice for me. However, these moments forced me to re-invent myself, and opened up new doors and broadened my experience.

  1. Finally, what can we expect from this Upsized, musical version of your life story? (raw, personal, intimate, etc)

The 2011 production was very intimate as it was held in a much smaller venue. This time, I need to fill the Esplanade Concert Hall with my songs and story, and I have a nine-piece band to help me with the music. But as for the story-telling part- well, I’ll just have to rely on my personality to pull it off.

Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized

Esplanade Concert Hall

Opens 3 September 2015 (One day only)

Dick Lee brings back his sold out show which recounts his musical journey from his childhood in the 60s to the debut of his alter-ego The Mad Chinaman in 1989. Illustrating his story with songs from his 40-year career, the UPSIZED version features a band of Singapore’s top musicians and an extended storyline which includes his adventures in Asia as The Mad Chinaman.

Ticket Pricing: $38 – $78 (Discounts available – visit the web link)

Web Link: Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized

FIVE Things You Need To Run A Successful Blog

Google no more. Here are five simple things you need to sustain a successful blog.

2015 has been a rather interesting year for Reuelwrites ever since I changed my editorial direction at the start of the year. I’ve been writing for my jobs and for leisure for a number of years now, but never have I been ‘recognised’. I mean, I do have people telling me that they like what I wrote for City News, and people telling me that an event was well-run. But being shortlisted in an awards ceremony instead of hosting/organising it? That’s the first.

Earlier in July, Reuelwrites was in the running for OMY’s Singapore Blog Awards 2015, Best Individual Blog. The finals took place on the 23rd of July and I met other blogger friends there. I met blogger friend, Tiffany whom I hosted at a food-tasting event who asked, “You are running the event?” (Laughs) Even though I didn’t win (congratulations Eternality Tan!), it was a humbling experience to just be a contestant together with other more-seasoned bloggers.

SCREENSHOT: OMY Singapore Blog Awards 2015

SCREENSHOT: OMY Singapore Blog Awards 2015

Anyway, this entry is long overdue. But after writing for quite a long time, I thought it did be interesting to dissect and analyse everything that makes successful blogs successful. For the purpose of this entry, the definition of successful can be defined as being publicly recognised (news media and blog awards) and receiving relatively high page views (more than 1,000 every month) on a consistent basis.

So what does it take to run a successful blog? What are the ingredients necessary to making your blog successful? Here are five absolute must-haves.

1. Find Your Niche

There are plenty of genres from family to fashion, from food & beverages to travel, from beauty to health & wellness. This list is non-exhaustive since we all have our own interests and preferences. Travel and beauty blogs always gets you the visitor counts, and food blogs are insanely popular in Singapore. But beyond these, you must find your own niche; what you’re really good at.

PHOTO: The LKY Musical. My forte is in the area of the arts.

PHOTO: The LKY Musical. My forte is in the area of the arts.

For example, food blogger Brad Lau’s ladyironchef is crazily good at what he does, publishing food reviews and stories that gets us hungry all the time. Lau has 600,000 followers on Instagram alone, and is perhaps Singapore’s best known food blogger. According to The Straits Times reporting, Lau is allegedly paid $3,800 PER review. To demand such an exorbitant figure for a review, Lau’s monthly visitor counts must be off the charts, I tell you. Blogger Alvinology asserted that ladyironchef has approximately 690,000 monthly visits.

You want to write like Lau. You want to be successful like Lau. But get this, you’re not Lau. Often, many people jumped into something without determining if they are good at it. Food blogs may be popular – and there’re so many out there – but how good are you with describing your wanton mee? Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Instead of writing or starting a blog on a popular genre which you may be ill-prepared to write, cover a genre which you are actually good at.

I particularly enjoy reading blogger Fiona Cher’s blog entries on Singapore Budget Babe. Money management is something we all know to be necessary. But it’s also not something that gets us pumping our fists in the air. Cher’s entries encourages us to save money by debunking the myths about money management, showing us step-by-step how we can also make progress towards financial freedom.

2. Content Is King

PHOTO: Social Media Today

You can throw many gimmicks like giveaways and what not in your blog but it’s your content that keeps your readers coming back regularly. Having said that, how are your blog entries adding value to your readers? Does your blog entries entertain? How original is your content? Does your blog entries reveal something nobody else knows?

A blog is a very personal thing and you’re free to write and do whatever you want with it. But if you want to run a successful blog, you have to run it like an online ‘news media’. I can’t stress enough the importance of grammar and spell check. If I can be brutally frank, don’t expect to have a following if you can’t write properly.

Local politician Desmond Lim from the Singapore Democratic Alliance experienced that firsthand. Lim has been faithfully serving and contesting for Punggol GRC for many years (23 if I’m not wrong). But his 2013 dissing video proved to be his undoing. An edited video of Lim speaking ‘very poor English’ went viral and he was publicly ridiculed. This proves that if you can’t verbalise or pen out your thoughts accurately, it’s best not to do it.

PHOTO: Asia One

“So how do I improve my command of English?” Read, a lot. Read books and newspapers. I make it a point to read The Straits Times to improve myself and get a sense of Singapore’s arts scene as well as Singapore and the world’s current state of affairs. A good blogger is someone who is well-read, and knows his genre and current affairs relatively well.

Also, are you doing research for your blog entries? Say for example, if you are making a claim that Cafe A makes the best coffee in Singapore, have you checked out Cafe B to Z? Did you find out why Cafe A makes such good coffee? Maybe it’s because their barista was a finalist at the World Barista Championship? That adds value and credibility, giving your readers extra incentive to check out Cafe A.

3. Visuals Are A Must-have

We are living in a world where there are so many things fighting for our attention at any given time. This consequentially causes us to have extremely short attention span. Perhaps as you are reading this post, your phone is ringing with Whatsapp messages, your emails are coming in, and someone is Facebooking you all at the same time.

PHOTO: Reuelwrites

PHOTO: Reuelwrites. Recipe and hand model: Sheryl

Visuals creates staying power for your blog. Nobody wants to read a 1,000 word article that has no pictures at all unless it’s for their Masters’ thesis. Top blogs like Xiaxue, Brad Lau’s ladyironchef and Daniel’s Danielfooddiary all have one thing in common. Their photos help to tell the story of their articles. And their photos are gorgeous too. It’s true when they say ‘A picture tells a thousand words.’

Invest in a digital camera if you can. I’m personally using an entry level DSLR, Canon 600D with kit lens and a 50mm f/ 1.4 prime lens. You don’t have to get a DSLR, but a good digital camera will do just fine. Sony has a range of pretty awesome cameras that are light in weight but packs a punch. Not to mention that Sony also uses the mirrorless technology, making their DSLR cameras a faction of the weight of Canon and Nikon’s DSLR.

If you opt to take photos off the internet, make sure you get permission from the original owner. There isn’t really any issue using photos from online news media, but if you are taking photos from other blog sites like mine, make sure you have gotten the necessary permission and credit the owners or you may just be liable for a copyright infringement lawsuit.

4. Consistency is Key

You now know your niche, you know you need to produce good content, and you know the importance of visual rhetoric. You must now be consistent in your blogging. Unfortunately, nothing last forever. A popular boyband will be forgotten if they don’t produce any album for 5 years. It’s just the way the world works. Don’t expect your readership to be intact if you’re only blogging once every two months.

PHOTO: Communist Leaders from Singapore Art Museum's After Utopia exhibition. I usually run stories on Wednesday and Sunday.

PHOTO: Communist Leaders from Singapore Art Museum’s After Utopia exhibition. I usually run stories on Wednesday and Sunday.

Decide how often you want to blog. Twice a week? Once a week? Once every two weeks? Naturally, blogs with new content always gets more page views. Next, the day and time you upload the blog entry is also very crucial. Publishing a blog entry on a Friday night may not be a wise idea since many of your readers may be out partying after the last workday of the week.

I would suggest uploading your blog entries during weekday lunch time (between 12 to 1pm) or on weeknights excluding Friday and Saturday (from 10 to 11pm)

5. It’s All About The Passion

At the end of the day, it’s all about the passion. I have had people asking me, “Wah so good! You get media passes to catch this musical and that production! I also want to get free media passes!” Face palm. Because I wasn’t schooled in literature or the creative arts, sometimes I have to spend as much as 4 to 5 hours to research and write the review. But I do it because I love the arts.

OMY Best Individual Blog winner Eternality Tan has published more than 1,200 movie reviews on his blog. I mean, assuming you’re super good at writing reviews and can write one everyday, you would need more than 3 years to even be close to the amount of reviews he has written. Now imagine how many hours Tan has put into writing these reviews.

PHOTO: Reuelwrites. Beauty and the Beast exhibition.

PHOTO: Reuelwrites. Beauty and the Beast Musical.

Yes it’s true that bloggers do get free stuff, are invited to events, and some are even paid to publish a review (not me), but it takes a lot of effort, time and research to pull off a successful blog. And most importantly, these bloggers are passionate about what they are writing about, regardless of the genre.

Are you ready to invest your time in writing a reviews? Are you ready to put in 2 hours of research, all so that you can publish a well-researched article? Are you really in love with food, fashion, arts, photography, travel and so forth? Don’t start something which you are incapable to sustain because you just aren’t interested in it to begin with.

But if you’re really passionate about something, and you don’t mind putting in the hard work to sustaining it on a long-term basis, go for it! I wish you all the best in your blogging journey and perhaps, we might meet at the next blogging awards event! RW

Humans of CHC: Fostering a Caring Community That Dares to Be ‘Real’

Humans of CHC was featured on City News’ CHC 26th Anniversary issue. The human behind Humans of CHC tells it all.

Words by Reuel Eugene Tay. View the entire 26th Anniversary issue here.

Personally, it has been quite a journey for me since starting Humans of City Harvest Church (HOCHC) at the beginning of this year. I am extremely grateful to every individual who has shared their stories with me. Thank you for sharing with me (and everyone else in the HOCHC community) stories that are personal and dear to you. It’s unfathomable that anyone would share intimate accounts of their lives with a stranger, but you did. Know that this platform would not exist without your input.

I appreciate your trust in me as custodian of your story and photo. As a tribute piece to all who have contributed (or will be contributing) to the initiative, I would like to share with you how did HOCHC came about, my visions for HOCHC and all other matters related to HOCHC.

This article is also for those who has made HOCHC possible and for those who has encouraged me along the way.

PHOTO: Humans of CHC on City News CHC's 26 Anniversary Issue

PHOTO: Humans of CHC on City News CHC’s 26 Anniversary Issue

How did HOCHC came about?

Serving in ministries can literally impact your life and others around you. Prior to starting HOCHC, I have been serving (and working for a short period) in City News as a journalist and writer. Covering events and interviewing people to get my articles out laid the foundation for my interview skills which came in handy when I started interviewing people for HOCHC.

I was very blessed by Brandon Stantlon’s Humans of New York project. I thought that it was very brave of him to ask ordinary New Yorkers (hard-hitting) questions like “What is your saddest moment in life”, etc. I was and still am interested in anthropology (study of humans) and I love the stories so much that I even bought a copy of Humans of New York coffee table book off Book Depository.

That was when I decided to set up Humans of Singapore. However, someone has already started Humans of Singapore. I mentioned my intention to my cell group member, Elijah Tan who commented casually, “Then you do a Humans of CHC la.” At that time, I retorted him with a “Siao ah?” But the conversation stuck with me and I thought, why don’t I go ahead with Humans of CHC which was essentially combining two things I love; hearing people’s stories, and my church?

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Is HOCHC modeled after Humans of New York?

Yes it definitely is. Unlike some pages which pretend not to be influenced by HONY, I don’t deny getting the idea off HONY. In fact, I want to associate the ideals of HOCHC with HONY. I watched Brandon’s videos on how he conducted his interviews and understood what were his aspirations before I went out to conduct my own interviews.

I do hope that HOCHC will have similar impact in the lives of all who’ve seen the photos and have read the stories as that of HONY – to build a community of the ‘best peoples’ who looks out for one another.

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What kind of stories am I looking for?

Unlike The Straits Times, Today and The New Paper, I do not have a news angle in mind when I interview my interviewees. Every interviewee is free to express themselves without fear of being ‘censored’. HOCHC is and should remain as a platform for members to be ‘real’ with themselves, their family members and their peers.

In a day and age where everything is so superficial (see social media for example), I hope that we can be more open to share our burdens and matters of the heart with family and friends (not necessarily on HOCHC). Being an introvert who finds it hard to share his own thoughts and feelings even with his close friends, running HOCHC has been a journey of discovery even for myself – to be more open to people.

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What kind of question do I typically ask and why?

No two person is the same. Everyone is different and so are my questions to them. I ask questions like “What is your happiest moment in life?”, “What is your saddest moment in life?”, “Tell me about your passion”, “If you can give a piece of advice to a large group of people, what would you tell them?”, “What is your greatest struggle right now?” – to name a few. But the variety of questions are non-exhaustive really. Each question presents interviewees with the opportunity to share with me (and HOCHC community) snippets and glimpses into their lives.

I have had interviewees who told me “This question (happiest moment) is so difficult.” That really challenged and inspired me to keep speaking to these members. Sometimes we don’t think about questions like our happiest or saddest moments, but all these make us who we are – uniquely different individuals.

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What is my vision for HOCHC?

Many people thanked me for starting this initiative. Some also shared with me that HOCHC is a ‘good counter to CHC Confessions’, some ‘Untold stories of ordinary CHC members’, ‘Inspiring stories from our members’, so on and so forth. While I nod in agreement to everything that’s said of HOCHC, I do not have a single absolute objective, vision or direction for HOCHC.

Rather, members should form their own narrative on what HOCHC is to them. But if I can share a ‘vision’ for HOCHC, that would be to foster a community – that runs in tandem to the larger CHC community – where members care for one another and dare to be ‘real’.

I would like to see members helping, encouraging and praying for one another just like the community of HONY. As the church enters version 2.0, may our members also ‘upgrade’ ourselves in building a community that cares for one another. That members who are better off can extend jobs to interviewees who are jobless, encourage one another, or perhaps even find their other halves through HOCHC.

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Am I doing this alone?

HOCHC was a one-man show for a good 4 months. But as the stories became more intimate, personal and longer, it was becoming difficult to keep HOCHC as a one-man outfit. I am very thankful for my members and beloved friends; Jia Yen, Jia Xyn, Jeremy, Xue Li and Joey who has and is helping me in the transcribing of the stories. Currently, I am doing the interviewing, photography, editing, photo processing and scheduling of posts on Facebook and Instagram while my members are helping with transcribing. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank these dear friends for contributing to HOCHC. The stories will not be published without your help.

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Where do you see HOCHC 2 years from now?

I started HOCHC as a one year project. Depending on the response, I may or may not continue HOCHC. Quite frankly, HOCHC is a very time-consuming project. Besides the interviewing and photographing of interviewees before and after services on Saturday and Sunday, countless hours are also spent transcribing, photo-processing, editing and proofreading the stories. If you like the stories, do like them, tag your friends who may need to read that story, and share them on your own social media accounts.

If you like the stories and photos from HOCHC, give me a shout-out on social media or direct message, and I will know that I have your vote of support. RW

Humans of CHC

Humans of CHC documents the lives of City Harvesters, one story at a time. Find humourous, tragic, happy, sad and inspiring stories and intimate accounts from the members here. Humans of CHC seeks to foster a community that cares and dares to be real. Check out the stories on Facebook and Instagram.