All posts by Alden Boon

Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.

8 Times Friends Made Us Cry

Friends is a comedy sitcom that stars six characters with different idiosyncrasies. There are Ross Gellar, Monica Gellar, Chandler Bing, Rachel Green, Phoebe Buffay and Joey Tribbiani. The show is replete with laugh-out-loud antics, heightened-reality moments and what not.

But what makes the show so truly endearing is that there are also many tearjerker moments. The writers so deftly blend the comedic element with the emotional stakes, so that we the viewers come to care about these characters.

Here is our list of Friends moments that opened the floodgates of tears. Hardly comprehensive, we know, but a few of the best. 

The One with the Prom Video, Season 2 Episode 14

Will they, or won’t they? For two seasons Ross and Rachel’s relationship was a tease and in limbo. Ross had for years harboured unrequited love for Rachel. In the prom video, high-school mates Rachel and Monica were preparing for their big prom night. Rachel was having a meltdown as Chip Matthews, her date, seemingly bailed on her. At Jack and Judy Gellar’s behest, a mustached and afro-haired Ross rose to the occasion — it was his chance to rescue the damsel in distress. Donning his dad’s tuxedo, Ross steeled himself and even picked out a bouquet of flowers for Rachel.

However, Chip eventually showed up to whisk Rachel away to prom night. For years, Rachel never knew about this selfless gesture her future husband (?) did for her. Until the timeline in this episode. And then they kissed.

4x2Photo Credit: Tumblr/watsonista

The One with the Cat, Season 4 Episode 2

Phoebe is an oddball, but given her past it’s no surprise how the pancake turned out. Her dad ran out of her and her mother Lily killed herself. She was a street urchin who had a penchant for mugging “preteen comic book nerds”. Throughout the show’s entire run, she was a chanteuse at the iconic Central Perk, where she would perform pithy, thought-provoking songs like Smelly Cat and An Ode to a Pubic Hair (Little Black Curly Hair).

One day, a cat ran into the cafe and beelined for her opened guitar case, which was lined with orange felt. Not any ordinary cat like the one she paid tribute to in Smelly Cat; this cat bore the spirit of her late mother. For the next few days, Phoebe would call the cat her mother and spend time with her.

This rubbed the always-rational Ross the wrong way, especially when a notice for the missing male cat showed up. The tension culminated when the group broke the news that the cat belonged to a little girl. Phoebe insisted her feline mother found her, and thus she should keep her. Ross then compelled Phoebe to return the cat, leading to this lump-in-the-throat moment.

Phoebe: “Ross, how many parents have you lost?” 

Ross: “None.” 

Phoebe: “Okay then you don’t know how it feels like when one of them comes back, do you? I believe this is my mother. Even if I’m wrong, who cares? Just be a friend, okay? Be supportive.”

enhanced-buzz-22868-1378247096-9Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

The One Hundredth, Season 5 Episode 3

Phoebe is a free spirit, and that’s why she had her brother’s triplets. Don’t worry, nothing taboo. It’s her half-brother’s. Just kidding. She was only a surrogate. She was a selfless vegetarian who put her body through a lot just so her half-brother and his middle-aged teacher/lover could start a family. Like craving and eventually eating meat.

But Phoebe being Phoebe, she wanted to keep one of the triples, and even implored Rachel to broach the topic with her brother. It was a no-go, of course. And coming to terms with the most painful thing she ever had to do, Phoebe had a touching conversation where she said she’d just settle for being their favourite aunt.

4.14.3 4.4 4.5Photo Credit: This Blog Rules

The One with the Proposal, Part 2, Season 6 Episode 25

Chandler and Monica’s love story has got to be one of the best plot developments in FRIENDS. In the early seasons, Chandler was a callow commitment-phobe working a dead-end job. Monica was wandering aimlessly, taking odd jobs that required wearing fake boobs. Of polarising opposites, the two felt like an odd pairing at first, but quickly became a dynamite couple that had us all rooting for them.

In this two-part episode, Chandler went out of his way to make his proposal a surprise. To throw Monica off the scent, he lamented the ludicrousness of marriage. It worked, for a while and perhaps a little too well, until the return of Monica’s erstwhile lover Richard and his consequential admission that he still had feelings for her threw a wedge in that plan.

Chandler went around trying to fix the mess, but to no avail. Dejected, he came home, and Joey aided the reverse proposal with a little lie that Monica had already upped and left. Chandler opened the door to a room lined with lit candles. And then Monica genuflected and proposed.

phoebe bikePhoto credit: 

The One with All the Candy, Season 7 Episode 9 

The episode began with Ben, Ross’s son, out in the park enjoying his first bike experience. Phoebe then revealed that she never had a bike because of her impoverished past. She did get a hand-me-down box of a bike from a girl across the street. She would ride astride the box and her stepdad would drag her around the backyard. This revelation hit Ross so hard that he went out to get a pink bike — almost the same one in Phoebe’s childhood memory — just for her.

Sweet move, one that’s a testament to Ross’s thoughtfulness.

The One After I Do, Season 8 Episode 1

When Rachel found out she was pregnant (out of wedlock), she first felt consternation.  The new broke, and the girls got her to retake a pregnancy test. The result was negative, according to Phoebe. Rachel felt relief — but belying that was a sad pensive longing. The ever-cunning Phoebe then revealed she had hoodwinked her friend, so that the latter could know how she really felt about her new addition.

 The One with the Secret Closet, Season 8 Episode 13

For all his jejune behaviours, Joey is a real stand-up guy. The womaniser found himself in unfamiliar territory when he had feelings for Rachel,his then-roommate. No biggie, except she was pregnant. With one of his best friend’s child. But when Ross was missing out on many milestones — doctor’s appointments; baby’s first kicks — Joey put aside his feelings and selflessly suggested that Rachel move in with Ross. That longing breath he heaved when Ross and Rachel embraced each other really tugged at heartstrings.

tumblr_mfvq4ccm2j1qda93ho1_500Photo Credit: Wifflegif

 The One with the Fertility Test, Season 9 Episode 21

Remember how I said Chandler and Monica were the couple we rooted for? We were of course hoping they could start a family and have little Bings fill the house with joy and just a little mess that would titillate but not agonise the obsessive Monica. But they had been trying for a baby for a year with no luck, and so the two decided to go for a fertility test. The news were not good.

Chandler had to break the news to Monica, and in that second crush her dreams of becoming a mother. The usually-goofy Chandler got all sentimental and had to comfort — at the time, futilely — Monica that everything was going to be all right.

What other Friends moments got to you? Let us know in the comments below!

Banner photo credit: Huffingtonpost

Making it as a Freelancer Series: 50 Actionable Tips to Take

Made the decision to be a freelancer? Well there’re many things for you to cross off! Here are 50 actionable tips for you to carve out a successful freelance career!Plants



Open the windows and holler at the top of your lungs: I’M A FREELANCER!

You are now your biggest asset. So make sure you’ve adequate insurance.

Sign up a new email account, because a username like ‘hunkylover2858’ no longer cuts it. Setting up a business account? I’d recommend Gmail For Work. Many email servers experience downtime — and technical help is only available during office hours — and have limitations like 10mb emails (really?!).

Make sure you have all the software programmes and tools you need.

Set up a PO Box address — this helps protect your privacy and you don’t have to divulge your home address. Don’t want ’em obsessive and besotted clients knockin’ on your door, do ya?

Decorate your home office. Scented candles, diffusers, ergonomic chairs, and what have you. Mine is a Tolkien / Lord of the Rings man cave. You will be spending a lot of time in it, so make it lovely!

Connect with moguls who are more experienced than you are. Or freelancers who have been in the field longer than you have. Find a mentor — the mentorship doesn’t have to be official. These folks can really expand your horizons.

Play nice. If you’re not a nice person by nature, act nice. There’s no way around it.

Being nice does not equate to being a pushover. Master the art of tactfully but firmly saying ‘no’ to a ridiculous request.



Set a realistic financial goal. A six-digital income is not out of the question, but are you able to achieve it in your first year?

Based on your financial goal, determine your hourly rate.

Determine your rates for different project types.

Decide if you want to be paid upfront — in full or partially — or upon project completion.

Create a quote template.

Create an invoice template. Or you can consider cloud accounting platforms like Due, FreshBooks, or Zoho. These subscription-based platforms can help streamline your processes.

Set up a separate business account, preferably one that allows you to issue cheques. As a spendthrift who’s terrible with his money, I can vouch for the effectiveness of having your money be out of sight, out of mind.

On that note, save your money! Pay your taxes!

Set up a PayPal account — this makes it easy for international clients to pay you.

Start tracking your work-related expenses and payments. Know what is tax deductible and what isn’t.

New Year, new resolutions, new you, new fees. Up your fees at the start of every year. With long-term accounts, review and adjust your billings periodically.


Create a professional name card. Stand out by being creative!

Update your résumé. Include your references and testimonials if you have them.

Update your LinkedIn profile.

Create a portfolio comprising your best original works. If you’re a neophyte, then create spec work to showcase your skill sets.

Create a boilerplate template for a pitch letter. Then, tweak the content to suit the agency / client you’re targeting. Once done, start sending out (positive thoughts and) your collaterals.

Set up a website. An online presence makes it easier for your clients to find you; and with a bit of fairy dust you can reach international clients!

It’s not enough to create a stagnant website. You need content to drive traffic to it. So set up a blog and share your expertise!

Consider advertising your services on classified pages. Online medium works better than print, as your online ad has a longer life span.



Understand more about non-disclosure agreements.

Understand more about non-solicitation clauses.

Know your copyright clauses.

Determine your terms and conditions. What are the payment stipulations? What are the payment methods? Insert these terms and conditions in your contract or quote.

Include the payment due date on your invoice.

Do it. Insert a late payment clause. Just do it.  It will send shivers down your spine but that feeling too shall pass.

Always have a contract or have your quote signed by the correspondent before you begin work.

Lead Generation

Scour the recruitment sites for freelance opportunities. If you come across big agencies that are seeking new hires — even if they’re looking for full-timers — drop them a note too.

Reach out to agencies that are not in your field. There are design agencies that don’t have an in-house copywriter. Editorial companies need designers, web programmers, always.

Attend networking events or related seminars. Be ready to hand out your name card like it’s candy on Halloween.

Head over to sites like Guru,, UpworkElance. It’s slim pickings on these sites, BUT once in a while you do get a gem of a project. More important, many local clients turn to these sites to source for freelancers. Create a profile to get noticed.

See a newsletter that’s poorly designed? Feel the urge to gorge your eyes out because a website’s replete with grammatical errors? These are your opportunities! Reach out to the businesses and offer your services.

Know of a non-profit organisation whose cause is close to your heart? Strike up a partnership and offer your services pro-bono. Non-profit organisations are always happy to give you credit, and your work will be seen by their members and even their high-powered sponsors.

Get in touch with your ex colleagues and let them know you’re happy to offer your services. That’s right, going freelance doesn’t mean you can start burning your bridges. It’s not the zombie apocalypse, yet!


Keep to a healthy diet.

Be active. Pencil in a walk, a run or a gym session.

It’s going to be hard, but make time for social gatherings. If you find yourself cancelling on your friends, it’s time to pull back — a little — on the work!

If things get too hectic, start farming out your projects piecemeal. This gives you more bandwidth to undertake even bigger projects. Slowly but surely, you’ve turned your freelance career into a business.

A freelancer I know heads into the office of an agency she works with even though she’s not required to. It’s for her own “sanity” she says. It’s nice to be around people, sometimes. You also need to cultivate your relationships and not take them for granted.

If a client is causing you distress, and is the reason for your drastic hair or weight loss, weed him out.

Take time out to see the world. You’ll come back feeling rejuvenated and inspired!

At the end of every year, do a review. What have you learnt this year? Did you step out of your comfort zone? In what ways did you fall short? Remember, this is going to be your lifelong career: you cannot be stuck in the same humdrum or you will not go far!


Making It As A Freelancer Series: Success Strategies

My journey as a freelance writer wasn’t always smooth-sailing. I reached the nadir circa June 2011, when I lost two projects — one recurring; and one ad-hoc — in one day. Yes, it was double whammy! Later that evening I went to a Body Combat class and released my festering anger with many air punches and kicks.

And for the next six months, I would have no projects and was merely surviving on my savings, which weren’t a lot to begin with. To make matters worse, I had planned a year-end trip to Auckland with my two besties! I was counting pennies while I was on that trip, and I was on the verge of giving up.

Thankfully, the tides changed in December 2011 when I was asked to do a two-week stint at a design agency; and the next year began with a big bang as I clinched a partnership with a public relations agency. Till this day, I still work with both agencies closely.

In retrospect, I now know what went wrong. I was a somewhat decent writer, but not an exceptional professional. My drafts would come back in a sea of red ink, and I mixed up many homophobes homophones.

The setback was a hard one, but it changed the way I operated. Here are the lessons on freelance success that I picked up. 

You’ve to be good at your job

Suffice it to say that aptitude is a requisite if you want to soar. There is no way around it. If you’re a writer, then you must be au fait with the ironclad grammar rules. Accountants must excel at Excel; photographers need to know all the ins and outs of apertures, ISO certifications and whatnot. Designers need to know how to make their masterpieces pop.

You must be able to do your work in your sleep. Unless of course you’re a neurosurgeon, in which case I’d prefer that you stay awake. Doing what you do is second nature — there will be stumbling blocks along the way, but nothing should be insurmountable.

Know your own worth

Many freelancers start out unsure of their potential. They test the waters and they end up low-balling themselves. I was the same way too. My rate, four years into the job, was $25/hour. Only when I spoke to another freelance writer did I realise I’d been undercharging all along. Needless to say my fees skyrocketed after that conversation. Talk to others in your field(s) and get a feel of the market rates.

If you know you’re good at what you do, then inflate your ego a little. People may shake you down: they have you believe they’re doing you a favour and giving you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build your portfolio or résumé. But if they are knocking on your doors, then that means they need you. And you should always be compensated for your efforts.

And do not work for free. Not even if said client is a relative. Not even if the task would only take 10 minutes of your time. (There are exceptions, which I’ve mentioned below.)

Freelance Success Tip

Have a charming personality

The very first piece of career advice I received came from a then Business Development Manager working at CLS Communication. It was my very first editorial meeting with a client. I got into his two-door, too-small (I’m burly) car, and I expressed my consternation. I said it was my first-ever project, and I wondered if I could make something of it. He replied, “A lot of writers can be a prima donna. Just be a professional and you’ll do fine.”

The advice was golden. It wasn’t too difficult for me; I’ve always been an easy-going and funny person. When I first became a freelance writer, the portfolio I sent out comprised blog entries like “What’s So Happy About a Birthday?” I had never managed a newsletter until someone tasked me with one. And I never knew why companies were willing to take a chance with me.

Until I had to work with other writers who were prima donnas.  And creatives who were overly defensive even when they messed up. And people who had such insipid personalities — “Ok.” — you wonder if they were sedated.

Personality is just as important as talent. There is no lack of talents out there; and there will always be people who are much more experienced and astute than you are. Why should an agency or a client work with you? Because you’re dependable. Because talking to you doesn’t make them wish they were having root canal. Consider this: would you want to work with a tyrant? Probably not.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou 

And because you’re self-motivated, you’ll put forth your best efforts to deliver great work. And because you’re self-reliant, you know where to get the resources you need to make a breakthrough.

Get on retainer!

No, I’m not suggesting expensive dental surgery. The only reason freelancers fail is unstable income. The bills pile up, and the stress mounts when the bank balance whittles. You can have 10 projects in the pipeline and still struggle to pay the bills. Why? Because a project, leastways not the big ones, will never wrap up so quickly. There will always be delays, radio silence, etc. And then comes the pain of chasing for your payments, which is a story for another day.

Hence, it is imperative that you have steady streams of funds to anchor your salary. Write to companies that you’ve always wanted to work for! You’ll be surprised at how many full-fledged agencies do not have the wherewithal to staff a full-time creative, and hence turn to freelancers. An agency may require you to work on-site two days a week — the part-time salary should help. When seeking new projects, actively pitch for monthly newsletters, quarterly magazines and the like. Therein lies the assurance of long-term income.

Never put all your eggs in one basket. You never know when your partnering agency will go belly-up. Or when a change of management on your client’s end takes place. Always be on the lookout for job openings, continuously write to agencies and strike up new partnerships. The loss of one account would be a blow, but ultimately it should not derail your entire freelance career.

Freelance Success

Strive to be indispensable 

Freelancers are like mercenaries: we go where the money is. We call the shots, we fire clients if we wish to. We collect our pay cheques and then we’re out the front door. Adieus! That is why it doesn’t matter if our work is sub-par, right?

In the business world, it’s harder to get new customers than to please repeat ones. Think about all the legwork when an agency or client drops you: to replace that income, you’ve to do cold calling, go for pitches that might not always be successful, get used to a new learning curve, etc. (The steps are necessary when you want to land new accounts, but at least your salary burgeons in this scenario.) And words travel. It’s not that big a world, so your notoriety will quickly spread.

After you’ve struck up a partnership, be it with an agency or client, you have to become the go-to person. Give every assignment your 100%. Do what others won’t, or can’t, or don’t even think about doing. As a freelance writer, I have the time to proofread my works at least twice before submission. I can sleep on an article and spend time pondering about more-captivating angles, whereas a full-time writer may not have the same luxury.

What about you? What can you do to prove your worth? What can you bring to the table? While I may not be indispensable —  no one really is — I do believe I’ve made it an uphill climb for my partnering agencies to find my replacement.

And not forgetting one thing: when you are a bona fide professional who meets deadlines and does good work and you have a charming personality to boot, other people will readily refer you to their network of contacts. Referrals are everything in the world of freelancing.

Freelance Success Tips

“Try never be the smartest person in the room. And if you are, I suggest you invite smarter people… or find a different room. ” Michael Dell 

Find a mentor, or someone who can challenge you

By the year 2012 my freelance career was revving up. Clients loved my work, but there was always a nagging feeling. Is the work really good? How can I improve the draft that I submitted? See, clients are not discerning writers, and while it’s always nice to hear a compliment, I wasn’t sure I was worthy of the title “writer”.

It wasn’t until I worked with the two editors at Karen & Karen that I became more confident and assured as a writer. As a freelancer, it’s important for you to connect with experts in your fields and then learn from them. You don’t even need to get sentimental and make it official — just observe how they do things, handle clients and manage projects.

Another benefit of having de-facto mentors? They can push you off a cliff  take you out of your comfort zone. Earn their trust, and you will get to undertake their projects — projects that are out of your league. Accounts that you can’t yet land on your own merits, but one day will. Since working with my two editors, my portfolio has gotten a lot more impressive, and I have the moxie to take on more-challenging projects.

That’s how you develop your skills and grow. Having the guidance of luminaries will help pave the way to success and sustainability.

Ask for things

Going through a dry spell and hoping someone would toss you a project, even if it’s a carcass? Been working for a client for sometime now and you reckon it’s time for a raise? Hit a creative block and need advice? You won’t actually get what you want unless you ask for it!

Since becoming a freelancer I’ve grown three slabs of skin. I have no qualms approaching others for help. Likewise, if you want something, make it happen. But in order for you to receive help, you must have rendered help at some point. So whenever you can, help your clients or partners out of a jam. Is there an urgent piece of work  — one that doesn’t take up too much of your time? Do it for free (note: I only do free stuff for long-term! These little things will go a long way in cultivating your relationships.

Of course, these are just broad strokes and big-picture talk. Stay tuned for the next article on Actionable Tips to Achieve Success!


Making It As A Freelancer Series: The Pros and Cons

I was 23 when I became a freelance writer. This decision I made when I was working at a video production house, and I became privy to how much a freelance cameraman was paid: the salary for a day’s work was half my monthly salary.

Some would say it’s a bold decision; I’m of the opinion it was reckless. I hadn’t worked in a publishing house or for a fastidious editor; and had never helmed my own newsdesk. With zilch experience and only a “fervent passion for writing”, I was a rouge wandering in the great unknown. It was easy back then: I had no financial obligations and I could always go back to finding a full-time job if need be.

Many people I come across are surprised at my career choice. Jetting off to far-flung places of the world… Working along pristine beaches with the wind in your hair… This is a rosy picture some freelancers might have once foisted upon you. Is being a freelancer really that peachy? Let’s ferret the truths out.

Pro: Make your own success

Sustainability and sustenance are without question apex priorities for anyone looking to become a freelancer. It’s a rocky road to stability, and indeed it’s a journey replete with many agonising moments that call for Rocky Road. But in this day and age, when loyalty is no longer insurance, market volatility the norm, who can say holding down a full-time job is tantamount to stability?

At my last day job, I was ferrying buckets of water and my shoulder was once used as a tripod for a hand model perched on a stool. Not that the work was beneath me, but it simply wasn’t why I had forayed into the video production industry — I didn’t study film when I was in school. And I thought then: if my boss, being the superbly-nice fella that he is, doesn’t rank my career advancement as top priority… what will other bosses, who might not be as kind as he is, do for me?

The best thing about being a freelancer is that you chart your own path to success. Freelancers don’t wait for career advancement; we make it happen. Let’s face it: in the workplace, in order for you to rise through the ranks to become a manager, someone else would have to vacate that position. Why should your personal success hinge on job availability?

Con: You are a one-man show

It’s a precursory step to what I love the most — getting paid — but this step is one I hate the most: invoicing. Until you are in a position to afford additional help, you have to take care of all the nitty gritty yourself. Not a people person? Well, tough! You’ll need to be the face of your company and attend meetings with clients. An illness can also put a crimp in your schedule. Come tax season, you’ll probably reminisce about that one brief conversation you had with your accountant and how dearly you miss his services that you once took for granted.

Freelancing Income

Pro: You are in a position to shatter that income ceiling

When I first started out, my pay cheques were very forgettable. I was naive, and for a while I was charging 10 cents per word. I did not dare charge any higher because I questioned my own value. “What if the clients reject the work?”

Slowly, I built my network of contacts and agencies kept coming back to me with new projects.  That was when I knew my worth: I may not be the world’s best writer, but I sure am a dependable one. And I do pretty-good work: many projects of mine go swimmingly without a hitch. So I began testing the waters and upped my fees. Today, I have more recurring projects than when I first started out; and my annual income has seen a year-on-year increase.

Consider the converse: I only have a diploma, and I have no intentions of furthering my studies. That means if I got a full-time job, my salary would range somewhere between $2,500 to $3,000, if I’m lucky. It would remain stagnant for a couple of years too.

As long as you’re good at what you do, and you do not rest on your laurels, you will become the trusted freelancer agencies and clients tap.

Con: My loneliness is killing me

My peers are ascending the ladder rungs of society while I’ve become a social recluse. I do enjoy cordial relationships with the people I work with — I mean, we’re connected on Facebook: we’re practically married — but these are transactional in nature. When you work in an office, you get to meet like-minded companions and you trudge through the mud together. Freelancers do not really get to cultivate such meaningful relationships.

Also, where work is concerned, when you hit a cul-de-sac, it helps to get a fresh perspective. My mom is my only colleague, and a writer she isn’t, so she isn’t much of a help.

Freelance Freedom

Pro: You call the shots 

Just a few months back I relinquished a long-term bi-monthly magazine project. The clients were friendly. The marketing communication manager was full of praise for the work; and it was a good thousand dollars — and then some — per month into my bank account. It was also an easy gig.

But it was no longer satisfying. I had also farmed out the project to junior writers, but I still had to check every single piece of work. It became a cycle that I dreaded. And so I gave it up. If you told me three years ago that I’d be willingly giving up paying projects I’d have laughed at the improbability.

When I did I felt liberated, no longer tethered to a project that didn’t excite me. Doing so also gave me the breathing space I need to undertake more-challenging projects.

Con: Work-life balance is not a guarantee

In my early years of freelancing, I could pencil in yoga as well as group exercise classes in the afternoon and still meet deadlines. Of course I only had the one project to worry about. As your career gains traction, however, this splendid work-life balance will become increasingly elusive. Freelancers don’t actually operate outside of space and time — we’re on the same clock as our clients, agency partners, etc.

Most freelancers I know have difficulty taking time out for vacations. Even when I’m on vacation, I still have to catch up on my deadlines. There’s no one that I can unload my work onto, and even if there is, would this person deliver good work? Would he poach my clients? These are important considerations.

Freelance Horizon

Pro: The world is your shucked oyster 

When others find themselves in a work rut, they uproot their lives and get new jobs. But the work they have to do is essentially the same wherever they go! Different clients, same job scope. Very soon, the novelty of a new cubicle or job title will wear off. Can you imagine doing a job you simply do not enjoy for 30, 40 years?

Being a freelancer is like being a gypsy without the eccentric dance moves (or maybe with). You go wherever you want to go. I write for a public relations agency, and I get perks like having food delivered to my house. I work with a global ad firm and get to be a humour writer for an ad campaign. I work in tandem with two editors, who take me out of my comfort zone with projects I cannot yet score on my own; and now I have a portfolio that I’m proud of. I get to learn about design production when I’m doing editorial works for a design agency.

Through these endeavours, I become a well-rounded writer, and I’m not just talking about my physical size. Instead of learning from just one  person — a boss — you get to see different points of view, and discover how other luminaries think as well as run their own tight ships.

Ready to make the switch? Check out our next instalment of Making It As A Freelancer Series: Success Strategies.

Sharina Bynes: Braving the World as a Freelance Emcee and Choreographer

Aah, the ’90s: an era marked by the complete domination of cookie-cutter pop stars. It was a brand of intoxicating bubblegum-pop grandeur: cheesy rhyming couplets, all-too-slick choreography, and kitsch fashion pastiches. Thousands of miles away from glittering Hollywood, a young girl, tucked away in her room, would mimic the chanteuses’ every single hair whip, sing with her hairbrush, and believe she’s on top of the world.

No, I’m not referring to myself. That girl is Sharina Bynes. Au fait with pop culture of yore, this vivacious lady drew inspiration from Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and the like to carve a name for herself as a freelance choreographer and emcee.

How hard can emceeing be? Just give me a microphone and I’ll get the job done.” If you think that, you have another think coming. And a blistering glare from someone who can out-talk you in a heartbeat. “Some have the notion that if you can speak well, you can be an emcee,” says Sharina. “But it takes more than that. It takes a kind of delivery, a kind of ability to be able to connect with your audience.”

Sharina goes by the moniker “The Asian Britney Spears”, and certainly those are big Manolo Blahniks to fill. We check in with her to learn about the ins and outs of hosting.

You are a triple threat: dancer, emcee and also a singer. At what age did you discover you had a gift?

Since young, I’d always known I would be a performer one way or another. I had my very first performance when I was five — it was a choreographed dance at Buona Vista community centre. There were ministers in the audience!

Were you always a confident girl?

People see me as someone brimming with confidence, and they also see my cheerful disposition. I believe I have a healthy level of self-confidence, which in my line of work is a requisite. Being only human, I am however, not mega-confident all the time. I do have moments when I doubt myself but I just have to dust off the negativity and not show it.

So growing up, did you have your own make-pretend show?

Definitely! Between the ages of four and seven, I would dance along with Michael Jackson whenever his music videos came on television. I would rewind the cassette tape, and it was rinse and repeat! When I was a teenager, I would lock myself in my room, turn on the CD player and pretend I was holding my own concert. My comb was my microphone!

Mine was  still is  an empty water bottle. So whose magazine cutouts do you have on your wall? Whom do you call your influences? 

Britney Spears! I like to think that she’s one of the reasons why I am doing what I am doing today. I grew up during the ’90s pop era, a time when Michael Jackson, and the bubblegum pop that followed were ubiquitous. I watched innumerable music videos whenever I was done with my homework. Award shows, from Billboard Music Awards to MTV Music Video Awards and Grammy Awards, were my fix. I’d check out different artistes’ live performances, even how they presented the awards. My pop repertoire comprised Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. I knew all their music videos and most of their choreography by heart, and I’d even dance along — in my room and in school! I followed some of their personal lives closely.

All these artistes put in a lot of hard work. Innate talent may be a factor but success takes more than just talent. Also, from these artistes, I learnt that you can’t please everyone. There will be people who love you and your work, and there will be detractors who don’t. It’s not personal: it’s just how the business is.

People will always talk so ultimately you will have to learn to love yourself and the things you do, and not be affected by the negative things said of you.

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Freelance Corporate Event Photographer in Singapore

When did you decide that you want to be a full-time emcee/choreographer?

It wasn’t a decision I made. It just happened. I had a cushy job as a sports operations and development executive. Six months into the job, my manager was leaving and I knew I was going to be taking over her workload.  However, there wasn’t going to be a pay raise. So I gave my notice and I made a decision to get out of the 9-to-5 rat race. I did so and I never looked back. I was 21.

Did you have any professional training as a dancer?

I never had any professional training. I was a street dancer — the concourse at Esplanade was my second home — and I watched tons of music videos. And then came my first gig: teaching recreational hip-hop dance for the teachers and staff at a kindergarten. I also taught dancing on a weekly basis at Boys’ Town. I dove right into the work — I’d come up with new choreography every week without fail!

Choosing the right song is very important when you conduct dance classes. And seeing people enjoy the music and dance to the rhythm with your choreography… it really evokes a sense of achievement.

What about your break into emceeing? 

Right after I graduated from Singapore Polytechnic’s Media and Communication, I worked for a boutique public relations (PR) firm, which had a sister events company. After working as a PR officer for three months, I hopped over to the events field.

I liked the work. But the irregular hours didn’t appeal to me. I had to do up proposals, attend meetings, and be an assistant to my boss who at the time was an emcee. He gave me a few tips. I watched him work, watched how others work, learnt how to spin as a deejay and I simply worked hard. Ultimately, it is all about your personality: How you deliver lines, scripted or not.

I shamelessly told my ex boss that I wanted to give hosting a shot. And chance came! There was one weekend when he was double booked and he selected me as his replacement. Yea me! I received positive feedback and he then referred me to another events agency. It’s kind of like a ripple effect. It was harder back then, trying to get your name out there. These days, there’re Facebook groups, which make it easier for us emcees to connect with one another!

Any sweet memories of your first emceeing gig?

It was a gig at Heartland Mall. I was doing voiceover works for the shopping mall’s promotions. Shortly after, I had another voiceover gig for CLEO magazine, and things started revving up. With voiceover gigs, you don’t have to face the crowd, but you draw the crowd in with announcements. It was nice to have shoppers come up to me and compliment my voice — some even asked if I worked as a deejay! That boosted my confidence. From voiceover gigs, I then moved up to become an event host.

I’d imagine you get questioned about your decision to go freelance and not get a “steady job”? 

My family always probed and asked me why I do not get an office job that pays Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions and bonuses. And it’s true, my job has an age cap: I don’t think I’d be dancing when I’m 40! Right now I do contribute to my own CPF account, although I lose out on employer’s CPF contributions. And having a sizeable CPF balance is key to buying a house in Singapore.

But hey, I’ll worry about all that later. I love what I’m doing, and I honestly don’t know if I can keep this up for life. I should just carpe diem! Life is short  do what you love.

The key to making emceeing a lifelong career? Work hard, work smart, and be humble. Being thick-skinned and having an outgoing personality will help too!

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What are the challenges of the job? How do you overcome them?

My weekends are normally reserved for events and weekday evenings adult dance and Zumba classes. There are times when I work seven days a week. It can be hard to juggle but it’s all about time management and managing your priorities. My friends actually sulk because I don’t meet them as often as they want me to. And I tell them — I can barely make some alone time! I get back home at around 8pm on a weekday, and I still have to finish up my paperwork, which takes an hour or so. Not to mention I have to prepare for different dance routines, come up with lesson plans, reply my work emails, etc.

So to all of my friends who understand — or try to — thank you! 🙂

I still get butterflies in my stomach sometimes before I go on stage. Every show is different; you have to start from scratch, try to win over the audience and make sure they have as much fun as you do. And I do get stage fright. There was an event that had me quaking — my hand and microphone shook while I was hosting an event graced by a senior minister as well as another VIP. I had no idea what caused it! It was a small and simple setting — which probably made the experience even weirder.

I’m sure you handled that situation #likeaboss. What about going on vacations? That would mean giving up a few gigs here and there.

That’s right. It’s simple: no work equates to no money. Going for a vacation means money deficit! I usually try to take two vacations a year. It’s good to get away from work once in a while, and come back rejuvenated and filled with creative ideas. I went to Las Vegas this year, where I saw my long-time idol Britney Spears in person at her Piece of Me show! I even took a few dance classes when I was in Los Angeles: that was my way of paying homage to my inspiration!

What if you get sick?

The show must go on. Pop a pill and just soldier on.

You’ve had days when you had three back-to-back gigs. Have you ever reached the point of fatigue? How do you keep going?

This is not good for health but I take loads of Redbull before the start of an event. Drinking loads of water is a must too. After an eventful — pun intended — day I will reward myself with whatever I feel like eating. And maybe a massage the next day!

Operating as a lone ranger… have you ever been burnt before? 

I have to say I am very lucky to have not experienced a no-payment. I do have to credit myself for being cautious — I always send my invoices prior to conducting dance workshops or hosting events. Sometimes, you may need to do a little bit of chasing, but that’s about it for me.

Tell us about the most memorable gig you’ve had thus far.

Hosting the Yellow Ribbon Prison Run in 2013. It was hitherto my biggest crowd ever of 8,000 runners! And I must have done something right because I got asked to host the event again in 2014, this time with 10,000 participating runners! I was also hosting for a good cause — to give ex-offenders a second chance. And in a society where people judge others by what’s on the surface, it’s important for us to look beyond that.

You’re involved in marquee events like Chingay. How did you manage to get these big gigs?

I got a text from a teacher in St Joseph’s Institution International asking if I would like to do Chingay and I said: “For sure!” There were different segments and I helmed the Travelling Dance segment in 2014. I didn’t perform: I trained dancers for the spectacular event and we were representing the Eurasian Association in Chingay.

It was a big-scale event that I knew would give me a lot of exposure and recognition. Where hosting is concerned, it’s all about who you know and who thinks you can do a good job. So, networking is pivotal. At the end of the day, you want to put your name out there.

How well you do your job no doubt depends on how enthusiastic your students or the participants are. What do you do when they are a little less than energetic?

As an emcee, you need to learn to read the crowd. And if they are not receptive enough, you have to psych them up — it could be the things you say, and how you say it. Even the background music affects the mood.

How do you keep yourself on top of your game?

Have someone to mentor you; someone whom you look up to and seek advice from. I’m thankful that I have one. Also, do not be afraid to ask for feedback — good AND bad. This will help you improve.

Any advice for the young, aspiring emcees out there?

Do what you love and the money will follow. And when you’re successful, or almost successful, stay down-to-earth.

Nazri Mohayadin: The Journey of Losing 45kg

There I was, a few paces from the steely, mammoth X-ray machine. This was 2008, when I was a strapping Military Policeman deployed in the Ministry of Defence where all the Generals and Colonels with their glittering epaulettes sat. My smartly-pressed, olive-green uniform was bespoke: a tailor came, prodded me like a chef would a chicken, and took my vital statistics.

The erstwhile Army Sergeant Major ambled into the building, and immediately I bolted upright. It was a knee-jerk reflex. I puffed up my chest, my then-tapered jaw poised in mid-air.

He passed the metal detection test. Phew! Giving a key appointment holder a pat-down, while mandatory, is folly. I offered up a polite salutation, hoping to uphold the stellar reputation synonymous with Military Policemen.

He inched forward. He scanned me from head to toe. Thoughts inundated my mind: “Is my nametag crooked? Did I forget to shave? Nails! I forgot ’em nails!” I stole a furtive glance at my scuffed boots, which by mid-afternoon was stippled with dirt and debris. By now the Sergeant Army Major was a little too close for comfort. Obviously he had something to say to me.

This was it. Two extra duties were in my future. Here they come.

Without so much of a hello, he probed in a gravelly voice, “What’s your BMI?”

It happens when you least expect it: A snide comment by a total stranger that plunges you into an abyss of rancour. “More rice to go with that?” a stall vendor alludes to your insatiably-enormous appetite. “We have that piece in large sizes too,” a retail assistant may so kindly illuminate. “This is a treadmill,” says a fitness instructor, who assumes you’re so far gone that you’ve never set foot on one.

Perhaps it is a primordial rule — unwritten, unspoken yet undoubtedly enforced — that fat people must be made a butt of the joke. Or rather my butt be made the joke. It boggles my mind how anyone can go up to another person and say, “You’re fat” or “Hey shortie” or “What’s up ugly?”

Men aren’t supposed to be affected by such comments, say societal norms. But I’ve found that men do get upset. I’ve seen former bodybuilders who no longer keep up the training go ballistic when teased about their blubber. I remember watching The Biggest Loser Australia Season 4, and these tough family men of gargantuan sizes —  if they sat on you they could pulverise your bones — had breakdowns on national TV just because they had to step onto the weighing scale.

That is why I read with rapt attention when my ex coursemate Nazri Mohayadin, 30, announced on Facebook he was embarking on a weight-loss journey. Standing at 1.75m and once tipping the scale at 125kg, Nazri was the big guy you could not miss in a crowd. To date, he has lost 45kg and is the picture of health. He boasts a sinewy, enviable figure that is without question the culmination of months of hard work.

In the first interview of our Inspire series, we sat down with Nazri to talk about his enduring, oft-arduous but ultimately remarkable weight-loss journey.

Before and after: Nazri lost a staggering 45kg.

So Nazri, growing up, were you always a big guy?

I was a sportsman during the teenage years, and I represented my school in both volleyball and soccer tournaments. I was as fit as any of my teammates. In fact, I have vague memories of owning a set of abs when I was 15! I did struggle with cardiovascular exercises but I took it in my stride. I was more interested in the game-play aspect of the sports. Where fitness and training were concerned, I did what I could to get by without being whipped by my coaches.

However, due to the stress of GCE O Level, and the subsequent cessation of training, I started gaining weight. I deal with stress by eating. Only junk food will quell my cravings when I’m stressed up. Even though I was going down a slippery slope, it wasn’t clear to me at the time: In my mind, I thought I was eating like how I  had always been eating.

It’s not an excuse, but I do believe genes play a part. Some thin people can eat and eat and eat and won’t ever gain weight. Is it the same case with you?

My dad is tall and maybe slightly overweight now. My mum has been piling on the weight over the years. But no, they weren’t always big. So my road to obesity was entirely my doing and nothing to do with my genes (laughs).

Did you have self-esteem issues back then?

I’ve always struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I am aware of it and truth be told, it is a daily battle. It is no different now, mind you. Things are better but there are days when I really struggle with it.

When I was dating my wife, I was very conscious of what people might say. She is slim, enjoys running and can eat like a lion and not gain weight. Shopping was a chore because nothing fit. At the same time, I didn’t think anything could be done to reverse the situation. In my mind, it was an insurmountable task and thus, I continued to binge eat — it seemed like it’s the only thing I could control.

When did you meet your wife? How was the courtship?

My wife and I were actually primary school mates. We lost contact for the longest time before having a chance meeting. We then chatted regularly on the internet and via text messages. We went on a few dates and subsequently got together. I knew I wanted to marry her the day we got together.

Your wife is slim; you were still a big guy when you started dating/first got married. Did you experience any kind of pushback?

Nah, not really. She was cool and still is. My wife didn’t see my size as a hindrance or an annoyance. She was more worried about the unhealthy aspect of obesity. She wasn’t interested in how I look (thank God). HAHA.

Did she help you along your weight-loss journey?

Yes. I cannot thank her enough for being so understanding. After I made the decision to lose weight, I worked out nearly every day. That meant spending less time with her. It continued when Mika was born too. She always urged me to “just go”. Be it heading to gym, going on a long run or cycle, she has never said “no”. She is my rock. I honestly don’t think I could have achieved so much without her.

You were very vocal about how your motivation stemmed from the arrival of your first-born, Mika Ilhan. Tell us about that defining moment when you decided to lose weight and get healthy.

Initially, both my wife and I were not keen on having children. We see students on a daily basis and the behaviour of some can truly send shivers down your spine. So for the longest time, having a kid was out of the picture. It went on until we were talking to a few friends and we learnt they’re having trouble conceiving. So we both thought that we got to try for one and then try our best to be the best parents we can be and inculcate the right values in our child.

The day my wife confirmed that she was pregnant — I made her take the test twice, then go to a general practitioner’s for another test — immediately the switch in my mind flipped. I decided that I need to take charge of my health to be fair to this child of mine. I want to be able to keep up with him, live to a ripe old age and provide for him in the best way that I can.

I didn’t tell anyone of my decision. I didn’t tell my wife. I just slowly and consciously changed my eating habits. I cooked and packed food to work. I stopped drinking sweetened beverages. I stopped snacking. And within a month of doing that, I lost five to six kg.

My wife is the loveliest person I know. My being big was never an issue. She encouraged me to lose weight but it was never a ‘do it or …’ ultimatum.

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Just curious: How did you and your wife decide on the name ‘Mika Ilhan’?

It’s mainly my idea (haha). I’ve always had a fascination with Turkish-sounding names. At the same time, I was against long names with too many syllables. Mika means “cool”, “smart” and Ilhan means “leader”. When I saw the name, I thought that settles it. Because even when everything else fails, for sure my son is going to be cool.

Tell us about your very first workout.

The first exercise routine I tried was Mike Chang’s barbell workout. It was a pretty simple barbell routine compromising squats, overhead presses, and rows. It was tough! I would sweat buckets and be sore the next day. But I persevered and did it every day for one to two months. That workout planted the seed of weightlifting in me.

What about the subsequent ones?

I started looking into Crossfit-related workouts. I organised group workouts with my friends and we would gather at the void decks. I bought skipping ropes, slam balls, weights, cones, etc. We were doing pretty intense exercises maybe twice a week: squats, clean and press, Russian Twist, wall tosses, skipping, jump squats, box jumps, planks, etc.

I also researched about high intensity interval training (HIIT): Tabata; AMRAPS; and circuit training. My anaerobic endurance definitely peaked during this phase of my life. I could clock a 10km run in under an hour.

There is always this internal dialogue: “Oh people are looking at me; they are laughing at me.” Did you experience this?

At first I avoided the gym because of that. And then I read a quote somewhere that goes something like this: “Laughing at the fat guy in the gym is like laughing at the sick guy on the hospital bed”. It was then I decided that if people were going to laugh at me for going to the gym, it’s more of a reflection of them more than it is of me.

But when I got to the gym… nobody was laughing at me. The gym-goers were either busy doing their own stuff or admiring their own reflections!

Were you ever at the receiving end of vitriol?

Some people have said I’d put on all the weight I lost once I stopped doing all that I was doing. I had a friend who said he wanted to punch me as I wanted to shed some weight to look better. I’ve had people questioning how long I could last. Such criticism rolled like water off a duck’s back.

There were many days when I thought this was just too tough. But I was seeing changes both on the scale and in the mirror, and that was motivation enough for me to keep going.

Any temptations that you succumbed to?

Temptations? Ice cream and a good burger. These two can break me. I can sit quietly in a corner and finish a pint of ice cream. No problem. Give me a pint of Ben & Jerry’s right now and you won’t hear from me for the next 30 minutes.

How do you keep it going then?

Many people are misled into thinking the key to losing weight is to stick to an exercise routine. Or omit carbohydrates from their diets. Losing weight, or gaining weight, is simple math, really. To lose weight, you’ve got to eat less than what your body needs. That is all there is to it. Calculate your daily calorie needs, eat a deficit and you’ll lose fats.

Trackers like MyFitnessPal are your best friend. I track my intake daily… and I swear it is harder to put in an hour of intense workout than it is to track your food intake.

What were your first milestones?

Oh there were too many to name. From being able to squat 150kg to dropping 10 sizes and fitting into a size-32 pair of jeans, and losing 45kg.

I felt incredible joy hitting these milestones. And then the quest to better myself continues. I was competing with myself. It doesn’t matter what others did. I couldn’t care less what they did. Quite honestly, it was a very selfish period in my life. I was focused entirely on pushing myself and everything else took a backseat.

Find what drives you forward, and do not be afraid to use it.
I’m only accountable to myself. And I am my harshest critic.

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What kinds of diet have you tried? How did you feel when you didn’t keep to your diet?

I’ve been on the paleo diet. A no-carbs diet. I was even on the General Motors diet for a week — that was crazy. Oh, that dichotomous, ambivalent feeling of dejection and yet also relief. It was a weird mix of self-hate and self-love.

Editor’s Note: The General Motors Diet comprises a strict intake of fruits, vegetables, and beef on selected days.  

What does your current routine comprise?

I hit the gym up to three times a week. I focus on compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, rows, etc. I hadn’t spent much time on accessory lifts that target specific muscle groups until recently as I was nursing a muscle tear at my groin area. Apart from that, I try to run at least once a week, and on weekends I play one to two soccer matches if time permits.

Your favourite drill? And your least favourite?

I love squats. L.O.V.E. SQUATS. Heavy ass-to-grass squats. My least favourite would be HIIT cardio.

Since becoming fit, you have taken part in marathons/triathlons. Tell us about the experience.

The first major event I took part in was the duathlon sprint: 5km run, 20km cycle and 2.4km run. Honestly, I felt like crying when I crossed the finishing line. And I did that a week after Mika was born. All the emotions I’ve felt in those nine months were distilled into that single, victorious moment when I crossed the finishing line. It was an amazing, amazing feeling.

Now that you’re fit and ripped, do people treat you differently?

Nah. I’m still pretty much the same person. My students have given me monikers like “bufflord”, and “muscle man”. The only difference is that my friend recruited me into two of his soccer teams only recently… because in his own words: “You were too fat in the past.”

Is there any difference in the way you approach life?

Definitely, I’m more positive. These days I’m always up for activities, always keen to try new things. I am more conscious of my food choices. Juggling time between work, cooking my meals, spending time with the family and working out is a herculean task, but I do it gladly.

So, 45kg later, buckets of sweat, endless days of muscle ache later, what is the lesson you’d want others and your son Mika to take away from your experience?

It starts and ends with you. What people say to motivate or bring you down is just white noise if you have a strong belief system and motivation inside of you.

The Day P!nk Called Me Awesome

The clock struck 9pm. The Truth About Love Tour experience was about to begin. Ringmaster Rubix Von Fuchenhurtz hopped onstage, greeting fans and psyching everyone up. His speeches were laced with a good many sexual innuendos but no one seemed to mind. He then asked for a volunteer to join him on stage. Arms immediately stretched out, all belonging to fans eager to get picked.

Rubix solicited the help of his cameramen, who swiftly panned their expensive equipment. Flashed now on the mammoth screens was a live video feed capturing the faces of excited candidates. But there was one that Rubix had his eyes on. A blonde-haired lady, sporting a pixie cut and clad in a jacket.

It was P!nk. A thundering peal of applause and cheers rang out. At first reluctant, she finally got off her seat at Rubix’s behest and appeared to make a beeline for the stage.

This, we later realised, was merely pre-recorded footage.

The Show Is On

The lights dimmed. The ground began to shake as the martial beats of ‘Raise Your Glass’ were played. P!nk could be heard singing the first verse of the song but she was nowhere to be found.

Then, the curtain that had hitherto been concealing the stage from our sights was finally lifted.  The excitement immediately became palpable.

On the stage already was P!nk’s motley crew of backup dancers and singers as well as band members. Three male dancers were upside down, their feet so precariously hanging off the lip of a huge metal contraption. “Why so serious…” went P!nk. The contraption ascended, bringing with it the three dancers.

Dizzying shafts of light spilled all over the arena as the drum beats built to a crescendo. In a blink-and-you-miss second, P!nk is catapulted into the air, her entrance accompanied with explosive jets of gold sparks spraying from both sides of the contraption!

The incandescent smile etched on her face was proof that P!nk had yet to tire of playing at the Rod Laver Arena. The 19th August show was her 13th Melbourne gig and by the end of her Australian leg she would have played 18 shows at this arena alone. The chanteuse bested her own record, having played 17 shows during her 2009 Funhouse tour! There is no doubt she is the reigning queen in Australia.

The opening number was only the first of a slew of jaw-dropping, Cirque du Soleil inspired aerial stunts, which in recent years have become P!nk’s trademark. If you have never watched her spellbinding ‘Glitter in the Air’ performance at the Grammy, search for it on YouTube, stat!

A Highlight

The ‘Try’ performance was a personal favourite. Before the performance, Rubix once again took centre stage, beginning a soliloquy about fetishes. He ended with “… who knows, you might even want to give it a… try.” Then, P!nk came spiralling out from under the stage and very soon she was several feet in the air again.

Once at the zenith, she belted out the pithy track with much gusto, all the while breaking into a plethora of graceful poses. At one point with only her ankles bound, she fell freely and swooped down to brush her dancers’ hands, which were jutting out from a gap of the stage.

During the penultimate verse, she was joined by Colt Pratte, her male dancer in the music video. They reprised the elaborate Apache dance, a routine which saw P!nk getting swung around by the nape of her neck. At one point she even propped her hunky dancer up using only the strength of her own body.

P!nk’s Many Talents

Tempering the fever pitch were the quieter moments, during which P!nk flaunted her vocal prowess one ballad at a time. The opening piano notes of ‘Just Give Me a Reason’ drew yet another round of cheers while screaming fans became rapt listeners during ‘Who Knew’ and sang in unison with P!nk. As a special treat, P!nk also sang Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time after Time’.

P!nk’s aptitude for dancing is one that only those who have seen her in concert are privy to. Throw her in a ring alongside the likes of Beyoncé and Usher and the consummate performer can definitely hold her own.

After a retrospective montage which documented her humble beginnings was screened, she launched into a medley of ‘There You Go’, ‘You Make Me Sick’ and ‘Most Girls’, three of her earliest R’n’B-flavoured hits. She had no qualms showing off perfectly choreographed and slick dance moves.

The evening’s loudest salvo of cheers came during the performance of ‘So What’. Strapped in a gyroscopic harness, P!nk ascended into the air for the last time.  “We’re all going to start a fight!” she sang and suddenly she careened through the air, performing successive back flips while skyward! In all but a few seconds, she whizzed right to the back of the arena, giving fans seated at all corners a front row experience.

For the entire song, she continued to fly around the arena, flashing her million-dollar smile and waving to zealous fans. That was a fitting finale to an exceptional pop spectacle.

A Treasured Memory

As Boromir would say if he were living in this modern era, one does not simply go to just one P!nk show. So, I got a second ticket to see her on 20 August 2013. I had to stand in line in the biting cold, all alone in a foreign land. However, what ensued later made it all worthwhile.


I held this sign up as P!nk perambulated the stage right before the acoustic segment started. See, I knew this was my opening: the lights would come on and fans would lavish her with a myriad of gifts. She would then chat with the crowd right before she sang these three songs: ‘Who Knew’; ‘Time After Time’; and ‘Perfect’.

Three times I held my sign up and three times she missed it.

My hope was dwindling. I knew once she started singing ‘Perfect’ my chance was gone. And so right after ‘Time After Time’ I heaved my sign up again. And then it happened. Out of her mouth came the words “you grabbed my right thumb…” She could not read it in its entirety and so she ambled over to my section and continued reading.

When she was done, I could hear the entire arena burst into a paroxysm of laughter. I reached forward, held up my left thumb and she grabbed it. Mission succeeded. She said she loved my sign and that it reminded her of the witty signs that homeless people held up. She also gamely agreed to sign my ‘The Truth About Love’ CD!

She then returned to her stool but not before turning around to look me in the eye and say: “You’re awesome.”

P!nk.said.I’m.awesome. That is easily 2,000 hours of therapy right there.

If ten, twenty years down the road, you see me just smiling to myself for no apparent reason, it is because I’m playing the scene in my head where P!nk called me ‘awesome’.