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photos & creative direction – Ara Coutts
featuring – Sukki Singapora
hair & makeup – Andrea Claire, Judy Inc.

The Isolation Series – Interview

Her activism with equality and freedom of expression for women in socially restrictive countries earned her recognition by the Asian Women of Achievement Awards. A trailblazer with an extensive list of achievements, we had the opportunity to interview Sukki about her Netflix special Singapore Social and discuss some of her experiences, influences and activism.

How has being an activist and performer of progressive art and freedom of expression for women lead to Netflix?

I think it was a culmination of factors that lead to Netflix! It was post Crazy Rich Asians, which meant the world’s eye was focused on Singapore, and who the real people who lived there were all about. Obviously the show played on the “crazy and rich” idea of having a group of friends who had more unusual lives, but I think as well as that they were looking for people with substance, and a real journey. It’s funny to say this, but I think that doing all the things I’d done leading up to that, channeling my performances to represent a greater yearning for equality and empowerment, really helped secure the role. It sometimes seems like, for reality television, people expect it to be easier, but nothing comes easy without putting in the hard work. The last 7 years have really been me shaping myself into being ready for the opportunities I’m able to take now, whether I realised it or not at the time, and sometimes I didn’t!

Where do you draw inspiration and can you tell us a bit about your process?

The inspiration for my performances comes from everywhere… life, experiences, colours I see, fabrics, music, memories… everything! I spend a lot of time listening and observing elements of life, and in those moments I’ll often find something that begins to transform into an expression of my art. So say for example I see a piece of beautiful fabric, I imagine that fabric underwater as if the waves were wind, moving it in a certain way and, with that visual, a soundtrack will come to me that fits the movement, and then from that it’ll start to evolve into choreography and full costume creation. I sketch out a lot of what I visualise. I used to always visualise my performances on stage, but recently I’ve started to dream in camera angles, which is why a lot of my newest performances have found their way to video format. I love performing through cinematography. It gives the audience a more immersive experience as they can pivot around movements rather than just see them from one angle flat on stage. It also allows me to retake until I’ve precisely got what I wanted to say across, rather than leaving it to live performance. Having said that, of course I enjoy the elements of both!


How did the pandemic change your world? Do you think you’ll return to how life was prior to Covid-19?

The pandemic completely changed my world. As a performer, we live and breathe human connection and performances in public arenas, then suddenly all of that is gone and you have to reinvent your genre. It’s been crazy at times, but an incredible genesis for me. I feel extremely blessed to have been unaffected health-wise by the virus. I think that for those of us who have been able to discover ourselves and go on this transformative journey of realigning our goals, it’s been exactly what we needed collectively. The ultimate leveler. I also look around and think: if this hadn’t happened, would we have been able to rally together in such numbers over things that matter, like black lives? The very fact that people were in their homes, and therefore were all able to step outside their front doors and say something. We had this opportunity to press the pause button on society and redefine what we wanted when we pressed play again. If someone asked me whether I’d want life to return to how it was before Covid-19, the answer would be definitely no. I think we’ve all grown too much, and learnt so much, and been a part of so much for us not to have been changed for the better in some way from this pandemic. I have to admit, though, I’m raring to go and eager to get back out into the new world.

What does it mean to you to be an activist or ally of racial justice and gender equality?

Being an activist of equality is the reason I do everything I do. My personal journey through burlesque turned into something far greater than myself, and given that opportunity to use my platform for good, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, be that as an ally of racial justice or gender equality. Michael Che put it best when he said “can you believe that’s an actual stance you can have? To be for equal rights? There’s people that say: I think everybody should have the same rights as everyone else. And there’s other people who are like: nah I disagree.” And he’s right. I refuse to accept a world where equal rights isn’t the same as human rights, and if I’m not living in that world right now, you can be sure I’ll be out there doing everything I can to make that happen, so that a young child growing up a generation from now can reach their full potential without suffering. It isn’t even a question to me. It isn’t even a stance. It’s a right.


Can you share an experience about improving kindness, gratitude or equality?

I think Singapore Social really reinforced in me the need for kindness. When it came out, one storyline that emerged was that my on-screen friends had “talked about me” without me being present. There were a few factors, such as my incessant perfectionism, that made me not want to watch back a television show that I was in, but one of those factors was that I didn’t want to see them doing it. Because I knew that first of all, it was an edited television show intended for entertainment, but secondly I believe in being kind no matter what, and the power of forgiveness. You simply don’t know what someone else is going through which can cause them, in a fleeting moment, to say something. I don’t believe that these fleeting moments define them, and I also find it impossible to justify being hurt by someone’s actions when I’ve come to understand that every action comes from someone’s own personal growth. Their growth. Not yours. So you shouldn’t take it personally. It’s easier said than done, and I’m still learning myself, but the point is that kindness, understanding and forgiveness is the only real way forward through anything.


Do you have any advice for anyone interested in starting a career in burlesque or performance art?

The best advice I could impart is find what makes you, you, and channel that. Pour the uniqueness of you into your art. Come from a place of honesty deep within you and use that to create. Don’t try to emulate someone else. I think the closer to the pureness of your soul you can bare, the more your art will resonate. Because in the end, even in the most obscure moments, or in those epic sci-fi fantasies we go to watch in the cinemas, the one thing we’re all truly searching for is to see that brief, vulnerable moment of honest humanness reflected back at us so we don’t feel so alone in the world.


An interview with Sukki about her special Singapore Social on Netflix and discussing some of her experiences, influences and activism.

How has being an activist and performer of progressive art and freedom of expression for women lead to Netflix?
I think it was a culmination of factors that lead to Netflix! It was post Crazy Rich Asians, which meant the world’s eye was focused on Singapore, and who the real people who lived there were all about.

Style | Vol.7

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Photos & Creative Direction:
Ara Coutts

Sukki Singapora

Hair & Makeup:
Andrea Claire

Makeup Sponsor:
Charlotte Tilbury

© 2019 Merrymen Magazine.

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