Beatrice Tan is easily the most recognisable face in the commercial blog industry in Singapore, having been among the pioneer batch of blogshop models in the mid 2000s. She also recently started her own venture, Klarra.
Read on for snippets of my interview with Beatrice about her career, her readership, sneaks from photo shoots, and... a brush with a stalker!
Crys: So, how did you become a blogger?
Bea: Okay I think for me when I started that was about… six, seven years ago? So during my first year of my poly… you know females like to take pictures... I took pictures with my friends and decided to put it up on a website… put some captions on small entries just for fun… slowly I realized that my friends read them...
I like to do design as well, so I make my pictures into collages to make it nicer, and my friends actually commented... they said, oh blog more, blog more, it’s very nice, that kind of thing… so slowly I began to blog more frequently and after a while I realized there were more than my friends coming in…
How did I gauge that? They would drop comments like, oh umm where did you get that thing, or they would tell me to keep blogging… I felt very encouraged and kept doing that…
Bea: Way back, these small little blogshops realized that I have a pool of readers… they offered me apparel for free to wear them, take photographs, and put small captions... at first I was damn excited! But slowly I notice there were more blogshops doing that… or there were more individuals doing that as well… it did get a bit overwhelming…
Crys: How do you handle your advertorials? Are there many restrictions?
Bea: I guess we have to know what things to say... we have to protect the brand image… but we have to be credible as well... we can’t say that everything is so good just because we are getting paid… if we do so and people go and try the product and it’s otherwise, it’s not very credible for us... and people won’t trust us next time when we blog right… so… we have to make sure we protect the brand image yet give honest opinion to the readers as well
Connecting with the readership
Crys: Do you ever feel a burden because you never asked for the fame when you started blogging?
Bea: Umm I won’t really feel a burden because I think it’s a … I’m very thankful... I think it’s a gift that people actually kind of like look up to me in some ways and that I can help them in some ways... it’s a nice thing to do although I don’t really think I’m am really that good... so, I just try my best to help with what I know... I feel very encouraged that they actually recognize my efforts...
Crys: So have you received any kind remarks or compliments from your readers?
Bea: Yah sometimes! But I feel bad because I can't really get to get reply to all of them, or every time they need my help...
Crys: So on average how many emails or comments do you get a day?
Bea: Maybe um… I’m not very sure but I think maybe… a low few hundreds
Crys: And you have to respond to all of them?
Bea: The thing is... I actually quit my job to do this full time and I wanted to make it a 9 to 5 job as well, yah I wanna make it more disciplined... so I try to wake up in the morning like 8, 9 and do my blog stuff until the evening or night... and then get off work... but the thing for the blog industry is... I feel like people will require you to reply very promptly even on weekends... I feel bad about that cos sometimes I really have to go out and I cannot get in touch with my emails and all in time so… there's no "paid leave"...
Bea: Anyway! So I went to Korea and readers actually emailed me to tell me that they saw me at this shopping mall in Korea?!
Bea: So far away and they still recognize me… in Korea some more, at the same time... so we just talked online... I said they should have come up to say hi! It’s quite fun!
And the gritty bits...
Crys: So as I was mentioning earlier, have you met any stalkers before?
Bea: Yah! There was once I went to work at an event, like an expo fare... this guy actually came up to me and he kept walking around me. I just got really confused and then, at night he actually sent me an email saying oh I saw you working at this room! I didn’t reply... it was kinda scary.
I worked for that exhibition for three days and on the third day he actually got someone to deliver a bouquet of flowers to me and it’s like 50 stalks of roses... then after that he actually identified himself and showed me his pictures and told me who he is, that kind of thing… it’s quite scary
Crys: How did you manage that situation?
Bea: Yah I didn't reply but he sent an email everyday... but this kind of thing you just ignore for a while cos if you reply they will just keep replying
Crys: Does this happen often?
Bea: Not really... cos I don’t think guys really read blogs that much!
The blogshop industry's most recognized face
Crys: So, how did you start blogshop modeling?
Bea: When I started blogging I was in polytechnic... in year three there was a variety show on TV... I represented my polytechnic so it actually gave us a bit of publicity individually and my blog hits actually increase a bit from there as well… anyway, when I went to uni I went to shop at a flea market in my school in NUS…
Crys: The Central Forum?
Bea: Yah… I bought a dress at a shop and I think the owner saw me and recognized me from the show... they were a blogshop, and later on she said I could try out modeling for them... they emailed me via my blog, I think... At that time this was a new thing for blogshops... And I didn't know what a blogshop was! I thought, okay it seems fun it’s a part time job right, so why not!
Crys: Bonito Chico?
Bea: Yah, they started out as Bonito Chico then they rebranded themselves as Love Bonito…
Crys: I've read many blogs and some readers were actually quite mean. I was wondering if you have faced nasty comments before?
Bea: Yah definitely! They would tell me that I’m getting fatter and all these people are… behind the screens... they will know that you don’t know who they are... but I suppose whenever they say has some truth to it... maybe it’s just that other people are nice enough not to say that... normally I will take note of it because I want to do well...
I mean it’s definitely hurtful, i’ll just get quite… disappointed with myself or get really sad throughout the whole day… but I have to take it in and see whether is it true and if it’s true I have to, you know, improve or something like that…
Crys: How do you manage to keep your own privacy or protect yourself, cos so much of yourself is already online?
Bea: ... my blog will be more on what do I do and umm… what’s new and stuff like that… but actually emotions, or all these more sensitive issues I won’t really put up online. Or maybe sometimes if I really need a space to vent my anger or whatever, I will put up but I will make sure like it doesn’t hurt anybody else, or it’s more like a thought process than… than a trying to put down somebody or put something kinda thing
Bea: For outdoor shoots... we actually went to different places that doesn’t look like Singapore…
Crys: From some angles?
Bea: Yah some angles… maybe it's just Punggol, or a rural area, or a place like Sentosa... it depends on what’s the theme of the shoot
Crys: Then you must be very adventurous yourself to be able to try everything?
Bea: I suppose... Once there was a winter clothing feature... I mean it's Singapore! You don’t have the chance to wear these clothes, but we actually had to wear the winter clothing in Punggol... this grass field… it’s really hot, really humid but we have to act like wow! hahaha, so cold... that kind of thing yah that was kind of interesting
Crys: Any other hardship for all these outdoor shoots? Any injuries?
Bea: The fields! You have to walk in five inches of muddy ground... and doing shoots for like four hours, basically four hours of standing up... it's a bit tough, you will feel your legs aching... it's tiring but the blogshop owners will make sure you get your breaks as well... they will take care of me!