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About Me

About Me
CrystalPhuong.net is a Personal Style & Travel Blog based in Singapore, written by Crystal Phuong. The blog was nominated FOUR times in Top 10 Best Fashion Blogs in the annual Singapore Blog Award from 2012- 2015, voted as one of the Best Lifestyle Blogs in Singapore in 2013 by Hotelclub.com, and Best Travel Blogs in 2016 by Foodpanda.com. Crystal hopes to connect and inspire young women to lead a healthy and happy life. Be confident, be positive, and be kind.
Showing posts with label LIFE WITH CRYSTAL. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LIFE WITH CRYSTAL. Show all posts


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! 
Crystal Phuong

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When I started writing PART 1 sharing a glimpse of my life story, I didn't think many people would care to read. To my surprise, the responses I received from you guys were so overwhelming. Many of you asked when part 2 would be released. It is now. Are you ready?

April 2005, I boarded a 9am flight with Thai Airways to Malaysia. I still remember it was early in the morning as I had to get up at 6am to make my way to the airport. My parents were with me.  While my mom kept reminding me to take supplements in the morning and to take care of myself, my dad didn't say much. He was probably still thinking if he made the right decision to let me go. Why did I fly with Thai Airways to Malaysia instead of Malaysia Airlines? Well, it wasn't my choice to make. The ticket was booked by the education agency who helped me complete all the administrative requirements for the scholarship. I didn't have a credit card and online booking wasn't available in Vietnam back then. Besides, the agency was responsible for my flight so I just relied on them. Perhaps, it was a cheaper ticket or there weren't many flight options available at last minute. They chose a Thai Airways flight for me. Arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport two hours later, I had to run back and forth in between counters to exchange my new boarding pass, tried to entertain myself for 8 hours at the airport, and found my way to the gate to catch the next flight. I could barely understand what Thai people were saying due to their unique accent. One lady pointed me to the gate A and the other told me to gate B instead. For a girl who had never flown anywhere before, it was terrifying and frustrating. 

8pm Bangkok Time, I boarded the next flight to Kuala Lumpur. It was pouring rain outside. My childhood dream of seeing a fluffy cloud in the sky was completely scattered. All I was wishing for was a good night sleep in a comfortable bed. I told myself "Only 2 more hours to go" and tried to close my eyes imagining a bright and beautiful tomorrow. But tomorrow seemed still far from it. 

I was so excited when I arrived at Kuala Lumpur immigration checkpoint. Little did I know that my university acceptance letter wasn't good enough to enter the country as a student. I needed a student visa which could only be issued when I was already in the country. The agency didn't tell me that I should enter as a tourist FIRST. Well, I couldn't blame them. I was ignorant to learn about this stuff. So instead of ticking the "Tourist" box on the entry card, I chose "Study" and because I didn't have a student visa, the immigration kept me in the interview room with a bunch of other Vietnamese ladies for 2 HOURS. At this point, I was about to cry.  Thankfully, there were 2 people from my University were waiting to pick me up. They spoke Bahasa Melayu (Malaysian language) to the officer and he released me in the end. I felt like a criminal. When I first saw the lady from my University, I didn't know her, I just needed a shoulder to cry on so badly. By the time they drove me back to the house, it was already 2am. 

My first flying experience was so long and crazy just like that. Thankfully, I had a comfortable bed to crash at the end of the journey. 

I had a huge cultural shock when I first came to Malaysia. I couldn't get used to the local food, had never been exposed to multi-ethnicity before. I didn't speak English so well and it was the only language I could use to communicate. The first two years were so tough that I often felt regret and felt like giving up. I was so lonely at times that I had no one to talk to but myself. That's when I started this blog in 2006. The photo above was taken by my laptop camera on a midnight in 2006. I wish I could have a camera back then to capture all those moments.    

One and a half year after I settled down in Malaysia, I was looking to teach in a dance studio to earn some income so I didn't have to ask money from my parents. The only way I could do so was to look for a dance partner and join some local dance competitions to get people notice.  I was lucky to find this angel, Anderson Gary who was funny, kind, and friendly to be my partner. We competed in Latin Beginner C (the easiest category) so we won the Championship. Anderson then introduced me to Ivy, one of the judges who owns a dance studio somewhere near my house. 

Ivy and I quickly became friends and a few months later, I taught my first private dance class at her studio. From a private class of 2 students, Ivy let me take on teaching group classes. My number of students started growing. They became my friends and my family. Finally, I had a surprise birthday party in overseas. It was so memorable. 

My five years living in Malaysia would have been so long and sad without the four years I spent teaching at Ivy's studio. We were able to move to a bigger and nicer dance studio with the numbers of classes that we had. I taught 3 to 4 classes per weeknight, and 2 to 3 classes every Saturday or Sunday. We organized workshops, dance parties, and dance performances every quarter. I had the best students I could ask for. They were not only my students but also my brothers and sisters. They helped me to go through a terrible situation like this one.

With Kim (Ivy's big sister) and Ivy Por (right). Can't say enough how thankful I am for these two. They treated me like a little sister in the family (I would have been their little sister for real if I didn't break up with their younger brother though :D). I felt horrible to break a news to Ivy that I was going to move to Singapore and left her stranded with so many dance classes to take over on a short notice.  One week before my visa expired, the company that I worked for almost a year told me that they couldn't get me a new visa. Ivy couldn't help me to get a visa as a dance instructor either. I didn't know why getting a work visa in Malaysia was so difficult and expensive, but I knew my time for Malaysia was over. 

On April 14th, 2009 I packed my bags again and left Malaysia for Singapore. I wasn't sure if I would live in Singapore or go back to Vietnam and start all over again after this. But at that point in time, there was a job interview waiting for me in Singapore and that's the ONE chance I was going to take.

 You already knew what happened after that, but wait until I share with you part 3.
Crystal Phuong

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A study by Friends Reunited, a British social-networking site, said that 70% of people over 40 years old claimed that they were happiest when they were at 33. It's my 34th birthday today, and I thought there is no better time to share with you these images capturing my most contented moments, on my birthday. Thank you my girl, Zoey Bui for these beautiful photographs!

I looked at these photos over and over again and I still couldn't believe that I could look like this. These photos got me feeling emotional. 33 years are not long in a human's life, but it's certainly a long journey for me to be where I am today. 

Since I started this blog in 2006, I didn't share much about my personal life. But now, I'm at the point where I have nothing to hide, and I believe, the more we give, the more we receive. If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you'll get to know a lot more about me. But if you are new to this blog, this article would be a wonderful self-introduction indeed. 

So here we go!

I was born on November 5th, 1984 in Hai Phong, a small city in the North of Vietnam, near Hanoi. I was quite a chubby baby despite the fact that we were very poor. "We didn't have much food to eat"- said my mom. You can tell how skinny my mom, dad, and my brother looked. 

My older brother tried to hold me as I didn't know how to walk just yet.  

Since young, I already loved to perform either singing or dancing. Attention-craving since childhood, if you'd like to call it that way. Except for the weird hairstyle, I looked quite cute, didn't I? I was always invited to perform singing or dancing in my school, from kindergarten to primary,  This is a photo of me singing a Love song at someone's wedding at the age of 7 probably. How appropriate! 

and this is a photo of me, singing on High school graduation day in 2002.    

Here is another photo of me winning Miss Ngo Quyen high school 2002. It was the first time I've ever won in a beauty contest. To tell you the truth, years before this, I was so embarrassed about my body. I was the shortest one in the class, but my body developed faster than other girls. My fitness instructor and girlfriends often asked me "Why your breasts are so big?", "Why you are so tanned?", or "Why your lips are so thick?" etc. I didn't know how to answer and the only thing I did to avoid those questions was wearing boy's clothes most of the time. I was acting like a tomboy during my high school. If I didn't have to wear Ao Dai (Vietnam traditional dress) for the contest, I'd rather be in shirt and denim jeans. 

I wish I could have more photos taken during my secondary school years, but having my own camera was a dream back then. Most of the old photos here were taken by someone else and I just asked if I could keep some of them. When I was 9 years old, my parents went through a major downfall in their finance and career. They had to sell our house to pay for their debts and we started renting out a smaller house to live. I forgot how many times we moved. I was too small to understand what happened, but I knew we weren't in a good shape so I never asked anything from my parents. I tried to win a scholarship so they didn't have to pay for my tuition. I still remember there was a day my mother had no money to buy food for me and my brother. Luckily, I just won a writing contest with a $50 cash prize. I gave it all to her and we had a lovely dinner that night. 

After 10 years of living in rented houses, my dad managed to build his dream home on his own. This photo was taken on our housewarming day in 2003 and I could never forget how happy I was to finally have a small room on my own. 

Unfortunately, I didn't get to live with the family and enjoy my beautiful room as much as I wished. I passed an exam to enter a college of Ministry of Foreign Affair so I moved to Hanoi in 2002. That year, I started learning Ballroom dancing. My life changed. I was no longer a girl who felt embarrassed of her body and only wore boy's clothes. Dancing made me become more comfortable with how I looked. Who knew big boobs, tanned-skin, and thick lips could be advantages in Latin dance. I joined the first dance competition in Hanoi with my dance partner and we won the Championship. It opened up a new world for both of us. Suddenly, everyone in Hanoi knew us. We were invited to teach, to perform in every Christmas and New Year's Eve party from one city to another. I opened my own dance studio with my dance partner- turned boyfriend, taught 5 to 6 classes a day, and made a decent income at the age of 19. Life was good! 

Well, people thought my life was good. I smiled on the stage or in front of the audiences, but deep down, I was so depressed. I was struggling to deal with the relationship drama (like any other couples),  trying to finish my last year at school, running the dance studio, and acting like a talent management agent for both of us. It was too much to handle. I wanted to escape from everyone. Perhaps, my prayer was loud and desperate enough, it was heard. 

I applied for hundreds of scholarships online, submitted tons of documents, went for a few rounds interview with the Embassy and the school. A few months later, an acceptance letter arrived in my mailbox. I had a long conversation with my family. They didn't want to let me go at first, but they knew that they couldn't stop me. 

April 2005, I headed to the airport and off I flew to Malaysia with Bangkok Airways, feeling so excited about sitting on an airplane for the first time and being surrounded by fluffy clouds and beautiful sunshine (my childhood's dream). Why Malaysia and why Bangkok Airways, you ask? 

Well, that's another long story for another time! For now, thank you so much for staying with me this far!

Read the part 2 HERE!
Crystal Phuong

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I'm back to my blog again after a long holiday. Here is my week in photos. 

Attending Launch Networking Event at Helipad, I've met all great people: actors, actress, film directors, and models. Such a fun night.

Me with my model friends

Me with a famous professional photographer in SG (Willy Foo) and actor, film director-Jason

Went for Salsa  dancing at Movida

with my girl- Lorraine


and a professional dancer from Philippines, hot boy Michael.

Before I flew back to Vietnam.


A beach photo shoot at Sensota with Phill- Switzerland photographer. We did some artistic shoos like this
You might see one of my photos in International Fine Art Photography Exhibition in Switzerland, as what he told me. *roll eyes*

I did an awesome shoot with Willy Foo whom I mentioned from the photo above. He always has some crazy ideas with an amazing technique like shooting in front of the ION Orchard Mall where there were thousands of people. I had to jump up and down so many times to capture these two photographs.

I came back to Singapore at 2 am on Friday, and 3pm, having a pre-bday celebration with a friend.

@ Marina bay. Love the wind and view.

A girls' night out.  I hope everyone had a great New Year celebration, I did! And now it's time to start working again. A brand new journey ahead! 

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[name=Crystal Phuong] [img=https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-2rX6quipNhI/XFfam4j35qI/AAAAAAAADZ0/AFDn5ZbYgqYT6sRbDXwMStFHz5PPDHFMgCK4BGAYYCw/w345-h245-c/Crystal-Phuong] [description=Singapore Travel & Lifestyle Blogger, hoping to connect and inspire young women to lead a healthy and happy life] (facebook=https://facebook.com/crystalphuong) (twitter=https://twitter.com/ncrystalicious) (instagram=https://instagram.com/crystalphuong)