23s, Student

My name is Belle. I'm turning 23 this year, and I am a full time student in LaSalle.

What’s your family’s cultural background?

My grandma is full Chinese, but she was given away by her family during World War Two to a Malay family, close to Malaysia. It's along the border of Singapore that time. She got married to a Sabah men. It was a pretty much arranged marriage where she was 16 and he was 30. So my mom is half Chinese half Sabah. I think during that time, there was also forced migration, because of the separation of Singapore and in Malaysia at a time that wasn't really unspoken, but happened during the war. That also included my dad before he moved fully to Singapore, where he eventually got married to my mom. He was from Malaysia, Johor area.

"That sort of puts me in this weird disposition, where it makes me wonder like, if I look a certain way, do I play a part in this race? Or is it based on what I grew up with?"

What’s your relationship with the Singaporean identity?

I was born on Malay. But because of how I look, a lot of people speak to me in Chinese, especially the Hawker uncles or aunties. That sort of puts me in this weird disposition, where it makes me wonder like, if I look a certain way, do I play a part in this race? Or is it based on what I grew up with?I’d say I resonate with Singapore’s meritocracy. It allows me to pursue things greatly, as compared to any other cultures around the world, where we sort of are taught to strive in whatever we do, or else we will fail in life. This can also be seen in having to work hard in primary school until getting a degree, I do pursue it. But other than that, I find it hard to relate with other people, because I find it hard to even express myself or even see people expressing themselves in the most authentic way possible without having a motif where they have to do something to get further in life.

Tell us about your chosen objects

I chose this balloon skirt because it reminds me a lot of 90s anti-fashion. It actually resembles a lot of COMME des GARÇONS 90s collection when they were thriving. And it really spoke to me because of this idea of like, booming self expression during that time, where fashion, or like runways during that period was booming and seen as luxury.

This whole concept of anti fashion during that time really pushed boundaries to how far a person or designer could express themselves to mass media or just in general. And it really spoke to me in a way where like, you don't, you do not have to conform to get to a higher place or a better place in life, but more of like having genuine self expression.

Are there any external influences that have shaped your cultural identity?

Dropping off secondary school allowed me to meet people from different walks of life. Surprisingly, when I was 18, I managed to come across eccentric and inspiring people from the creative world, getting to know them. It's sort of like open up this whole new perspective of like being authentic and self expression. I didn't thought you could do that before.I was interning at Rice Media at that time. I met this lady called Maurice, she does art and I didn't know that you could actually pursue something like that in Singapore. My grandma has this traditional mindset is like, why would you study Art? What can you do with it in the future?The reason why I'm even having this perspective where I'm just pushing all this cultural thing aside is because, like, as I was growing up, I felt very rejected from the community. I think it has to do everyone in school knowing I didn't have a dad. The Muslim and Malay mums are just think though that child not to hang out with me.

What are your thoughts on labels placed on one's racial or ethnic identity? 

Labels such as, like, negative or positive connotation. I feel like it's kind of irrelevant now. Because there's a lot of racial ambiguity that's being pushed today. Like everyone's moving around, and I don't think there's any particular word they can put to a culture anymore.