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33 YEARS IN THE MAKING (PART 3)

June 17, 2018 Crystal Phuong 0 Comments

If you haven't read part 1 and part 2, I highly suggest that you read them first before continuing. 
This blog post is going to be a long one. Don't say I didn't warn you.

To summarize my 9 years living in Singapore in one blog entry isn't as easy as I thought. There were so many things happened. After a long time thinking about what to write and what not, finally it's here: the last part of my 33 years in the making!

What brought me to this Little Red Dot? You'll find the answer when you read the part 2 of my journey. Long story short, it was a job opportunity that brought me here (Thanks to William, one of my ex-bosses)!

May 2009 was when I started my job in a consulting and recruitment agency in Singapore. I had a fun group of colleagues and nice bosses, so it was easy for me to adapt to the new environment. The job wasn't too stressful. I was happy to finally make my living-in-Singapore dream come true. But there are always two sides of a coin. Having to live with three other girls in a tiny common room and bed bugs bit you every night was tough. I felt itchy every night I came to my double-deck bed for 10 months, but I couldn't afford to get another place because half of my salary would be gone for the rent. In Singapore, to rent a common room in an HDB Apartment (public housing), it'll cost you S$600/month approximately. If you can do the math, you'll know how much I made that time. There were some months I would double my salary with commissions so that was really nice.

I will never forget one Friday night after I left the office on Orchard Road, I stopped by Forever21, tried out some beautiful dresses from the store and when I looked at the price tag S$69/dress, I put them back to the rack because it was expensive. I left the store with empty hands and a heavy heart. I talked to myself "One day, I would be able to afford to buy any dresses that I like from this store".

Other than being an expensive country, Singapore is a safe place to live. There are tons of opportunities for those who work hard and never give up. Thankfully, I didn't give up after the first 10 months here. I had random people approached me on Orchard (the busiest street in Singapore) and asked me if I wanted to join their modeling agency as a part-time job. Which girl didn't like to be glammed up,  have their photos taken, and get paid? Although I didn't sign up with any agency, I received many photoshoot assignments from the modeling community website that I had an account with. I learned so much about photography, videography, and styling from working part-time with many different people. The left photo below was me in Malaysia. The right photo was me in Singapore after I started modeling five months later.


What can you say? Obviously, Singapore treated me well and that's why I couldn't move back to Malaysia although I had another opportunity waiting for me there. If I decided to live in Malaysia, I would have been married with a few kids already by now.


I was this close to being married to someone at the age of 26. I was excited about having a fairy tale wedding with the beautiful dresses, but in reality, I wasn't ready at all. I wasn't ready to move back to Malaysia, to stay at home and be a full-time mom. I decided to walk away from that one-year long distant relationship and kept it as a beautiful memory for the rest of my life. Two months later, my ex-boyfriend got married. We had no fate, unfortunately.

2010, I left the recruitment company as the company changed its direction. I wanted to look for a job with higher pay. While looking for a new opportunity, I had more time to do many other modeling and dancing gigs.


My favorite photoshoot in front of ION Orchard at 10pm with Willy Foo- Singapore photographer. People stopped by to watch me jumping back and forth and some came to take photos with me. It was so fun.


Another favorite dance photo shoot in Dstudiolab studio. When you know how to dance and how to pose for the camera, you'll get the jobs. Those gigs gave me some pocket money to spend until I met this gentleman, who took the risk and hired me for his advertising company.


Hong (his name) is one of the best managers I've ever had. He saw me when I was just a little hard rock and he polished me to be a shiny crystal stone. Not only did he teach me many things, but also he gave me the freedom and opportunities to do what I did best. He witnessed how heart-broken I was when I went through my nasty breakups. He lifted me up, helped me to move house 3 times over the 5 years I worked with him. Where can you find a boss like that? The photo above was taken after I received the Top Performer Award from the company in 2011.


This photo was taken in 2015. He never ages. That's the only thing I "hate" about him.

Without an employment, life in Singapore is really stressful for everyone and I'm not excluded even until today. When I lost my first job in Singapore in 2010, I couldn't rent a house because I had no working visa. Keef, introduced to me through a photographer whom I worked with, was kind and brave enough to offer me a room at his condo without asking for any rent. I was skeptical at first as I didn't know much about him. He could be a serial killer behind those sweet smiles and his fantastic sense of humor. I had no other choice at that time, so I took his offer. Until today, I still think of him as one of my guardian angels who appeared at my most difficult time. Not only he didn't take my money or advantage of me during the time I was living with him, he even paid for my daily expenses. As soon as I received my salary, I bought him a nice dinner to celebrate and to appreciate my gratitude. Thank you, Keef! I'll never forget you.

I got back to dancing again once I got settled down with my accommodation and job, I was lucky to find a professional dance partner who was 10 times better at competitive dancing than I was. Competing with him got me into the Professional category in a short period of time. I was from Amateur level and it usually took people years to go up to Professional level. We practiced every night after I finished my work and every weekend. My body would cry in pain at the end of the day, but it was so worth it. Besides, I had the best colleagues at work who gave up their weekends and nights to support my dance competitions sometimes.


We won 1st runner-up in the Singapore International Dance Championship in 2011 (click to watch the video) and many other dance competitions. 


If you wanted to watch all our dance videos, check out my Youtube.

Although I was getting busier at work and my dance practices, I still tried to maintain my blog as I wanted to capture the beautiful memories of my life in Singapore. Instead of writing about my lonely nights at home or sad love stories, I started writing about fashion and sharing my personal style tips.  To my utmost surprise, the blog was nominated in Singapore Blog Award and was in Top 10 Best Fashion Blog category in 2012. That changed everything!


Attending the Blog Award and getting dressed by a local fashion brand felt just like a dream.

After the Blog Award, I started receiving invitations to events, parties, collaborations, advertisements with local and international brands. It's something that I'd never expected when I started this blog.


At FANCL's Ballet of the Beauty launch dinner. 


At Audi Fashion Festival- Francis Cheong fashion show.


At BONIA launch party in 2013

Not only the blog got me the opportunities to work with notable brands like Levi'sDaniel Wellington, Havaianas, it also gave me a small role in 2 local drama series Point of Entry and Crime Watch on Singapore TV Channel.


Beginning of 2014 was really tough as I had to pick myself up from a broken relationship that I invested so much in for almost 2 years. But as they always say, one door closes, another one opens. I met an angel in the most unexpected situation.



When I met Ken, I was in a dark place. I had no interest in any serious relationship, I was hurt, and I was negative. Ken was there to listen to all nonsense stories and gave me his advice when I needed. His contentment and positive mindset made me feel so inspired. I became less aggressive, less angry, more thoughtful, more positive the more I talked to him. He made me read "The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness" book. By the time I finished reading, I felt like I was a brand new person. I was much better controlling my behaviors toward negative things and I was much happier. He kept pushing me to achieve my goals. He was the one that encouraged me to go to New York alone and follow my fashion week dream. We first met when we rented the same house and 6 months later, we decided that we no longer wanted to be just housemates. The rest was a history.  Until today, we both still deeply care about the other person and always be there for each other. Where will we be in the future? I don't know. Time will tell. But one thing I know for sure, he always has a special place in my heart.


I made it to New York alone to attend New York Fashion Week for the first time. Thanks to Ken's tremendous encouragement!

He also fed my hungry travel-monster and brought me to see the world with him. He asked me to eat cheese even though he knew I hated it. "You have to try new things"- he said and I didn't take that advice lightly. In 2015, I decided to leave the advertising company that I worked for more than 5 years. Hong- my manager was still there, but he knew there wasn't any growth for me in my career. He wished me best of luck and a month after I left, he resigned as well. Today, Hong is his own boss, running a digital lock business called SG Digital Lock. If you need a digital lock for your home, he is the best person to go to. We no longer worked together, but we still frequently met so that I could bore him with my silly stories and listen to his.

I joined 2 other companies after that but still felt like I haven't found my right path. I was still searching for what I wanted to do in my career. Meanwhile, my blog continued to grow and gave me a lot of opportunities to travel in 2016.

I was invited to New York Fashion Week again, collaborated with a few fashion brands, interviewed by media partners, and partied with the famous fashion designers after the show.


One day I was interviewed by the local media partner. 


Next day, I interviewed the world's famous fashion designer Zac Posen. Never in a million years, I could imagine myself doing that.



I attended Kuala Lumpur Fashion Week for the first time. Thanks to Heidi of Theambitionista, the most hardworking blogger & entrepreneur I know! 

Crystal Phuong- Vietnam International Fashion Week 2016- Fall Winter- Day 1

I also flew back to Hanoi for Vietnam Fashion Week.

From a girl who wished she could afford to buy a dress at Forever21 in 2010 to a girl who won the Herworld Social Media Award- sponsored by Forever21 and had opportunities to collaborate with luxury fashion brands, I certainly came a long way.    

Crystal Phuong x Kimora Lee Simmons: Bomber jacket 3

A special collaboration with one of my favorite US celebrity-turned fashion designers, Kimora Lee Simmons

I was also sponsored by Porsche Design and did a campaign with them on my blog. Totally a dream come true moment.


One of my favorite shoots I did for SocietyA (a muti-fashion labels store).


2017 was a year of self-realization and a big learning curve for me. As much as I loved the company and the team I was working with, it was necessary for me to leave at that time of crisis. I should have left earlier, but I insisted on staying and hoping that as long as I did a good work, everything would be fine. I was wrong. I was a part of the global workforce reduction and as a result, I was asked to leave in March 2017. For someone who takes pride in her work and always so proud of what she's accomplished, it came as the big shock. I was angry, I was disappointed, and I was ashamed of myself at some points. I spent weeks questioning myself what have I done wrong and why this happened to me. Then, I realized that what happened wasn't bad at all. I got what I always wanted- TIME. Time was what I wished I had to travel the world, to run my own business. I spent 4 months traveling while looking for the right opportunity and figuring out what I want to do with my life (multitasking as always). First thing I did was to sign up for a yoga class so I could reduce my lower back pain. I didn't expect that yoga changed my lifestyle so much. I ate healthier and slept better. I felt more energized. Traveling to new places helped to keep my mind stay positive while facing the unemployment status, financial burden and many other issues that come with it. I was optimistic about my next journey. Although I didn't know where I would be, I had faith that it would be much better than whatever I had in the past. 

This time I was right. I'll write more details about what happened in 2017 on a separate blog entry since this post is already quite long. 

10 hours after coming back from the US trip, I quickly went to meet Nikkie to have a final discussion about the job opportunity that she had for me. I had many considerations whether or not I'd take her offer, but Ken was so sure that this was the right place for me. He introduced me to Nikkie by the way. Today, Nikkie is my boss (and my first lady-boss), the best boss I've ever had in my entire career. Not only she is kind and caring but also so smart and extremely competent at what she does. 24th July 2018 will be my first year anniversary with the company. It's true that time flies when you have fun. I can already see that we'll have so many more anniversaries and fun memories ahead. I can't wait to share them with you. 


Photo thanks to DGT Portraits

Many people asked me the same questions "How is Crystal today compared to 2010". The answer is "Huge different". You can tell from the photo above taken in June 2018 vs the first photo posted in this post. I'm still the same girl from that port city in Northeastern Vietnam who loves my family more than anything in life. But my lifestyle and mindset have changed. I have many goals to reach and deadlines to meet. But I learned that many things in life can't be tied to a deadline. If it's meant to be, it'll happen. I'll hold my goals tightly with me and let nature take its course. As long as I'm healthy and I'm happy, life is fantastic! I couldn't be more thankful for what I have and where I am today. I believe that if you fill your mind with positive thoughts and your heart with kindness, your life will change and everything will fall into place. All we need to do is to keep walking! 

I'm grateful for people who walked through my life and left some memories (good and bad) in my journey. I appreciate tremendously the amount of love and support that I receive. Thank you so much for being there for me! To my readers whom we have never met, thank you so much for reading and following my life story! 

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