Wednesday 30 June 2021

TIL Gurmit Singh's daughter Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk is 'an ícon in Singapore's queer community' and more power to her

You may have read about kids of local celebrities following their parents' footsteps into showbiz.

But you probably haven't read about Gurmit Singh's daughter, Gabrielle.

She did make the news in 2014 after she went viral with her open letter to Forever 21, calling out the misogynistic rap song being played in a clothing store targeted at women. She was 17 then.

That was seven years ago.

A couple of weeks ago, I was researching my column about Gurmit's Lamborghini when I came across this 2020 Vice article about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, calling her "an icon in Singapore’s queer community".

Wait, what? Is this Gurmit's daughter? I cross-checked her very unique name. Yes, it is.

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Gabbi is a lot of things. Primarily, they're a thing maker, body-shaker, and a rule-breaker; or at least that’s what it says on their website.

Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk, 22, is an icon in Singapore’s queer community. The person behind the extremely popular Queer ZineFest, they're also the organiser of QUEERTHEYEAR! Cabaret, a night of unabashed self expression for queer artists.
Nowhere in the article was mentioned that she is the daughter of one of the most famous people in Singapore.

And then I discovered she was a contributor to Huffington Post from 2016 to 2017 and I was further impressed.

One of her articles was titled Growing Up Straight: A Timeline.

She also has a YouTube channel, which has 23 videos, the most recent published in February last year.

But the video that caught my attention was one published in June 2, 2018, titled "happy pride month - here's my coming out video".

It's a powerful, emotionally raw 13-minute video about her struggle with her sexuality and how she eventually came out to her parents, one of whom is, of course, Gurmit.

To start with, she identified as queer. She said in the video:
Personally, I’m not a big fan of labels. At some point, I said I was bisexual. Then I was like no, I’m pansexual.

And now I kind of just go by queer because I’m attracted to people. I don’t really care about people’s gender when I’m attracted to them.

So yes, I’m queer and it has taken me quite a while to get comfortable saying that I’m queer because I live in Singapore which is very conservative and then I grew up in a Christian household which is also very conservative.
She said that when homosexuality was talked about, it was “always in a bad light like we were sinners”.
In my mid-teens, like 15, I went through a phase where I was super super religious. I was cell reading. I was going to church. I was volunteering. I was reading the Bible every day… That was me trying to pray the gay away.

So I just laid low and pretended to be straight for a couple of years.
She sort of came out to her mother one night, but things got weird.
When I was 18, that was when I came out to my mum. I drunk-called my mother… she’s so lovely. She came and picked me up. In the car, I held it together.

And then we got home and I just started crying. ‘Oh my god, I’m a lesbian! I like girls! And I don’t know what to do and it’s so difficult.'

She kind of just sat by me and nodded and like patted my shoulder.

And the next morning, she didn’t say anything about it.

I never dreamed that my parents would be okay with my sexuality because they’re Christian and because the Christianity that I grew up with was not supportive of my sexuality at all.
But her struggles continued.
A few months down the road, I wrote an article about homosexuality. My parents read it and they were not very okay with it. But they were more not okay with the fact that I hadn’t told them. That I put it online before telling them.
She was probably referring to the Huffpost article mentioned above.
I felt really bad about my sexuality. So in order to work things out, I would start dating boys… Maybe I’m gay because I haven’t found the right straight cis man to warm my heart!

I just went out with a string of “normal” boys who turned out to be really predatory.
But when she went to university in the UK, she continued dating boys, which she described as "horrible". She also started dating girls which she preferred.

She finally came out to both her parents by sending them a video.
I knew things were still weird with my parents. I really love my family. So it really bothers me when things are off with us. And I knew things were off because of me.

So I made them a really long really dramatic video, like I cried a lot and my make-up got messed up. I made them a really long coming-out video where I said I needed to tell them things and address the elephant in the room.

I sent it to them and I basically just lie in my bed terrified that they might disown me.

They both texted me. They were really sweet. They were like “Thank you for telling us and feeling safe enough to tell us and we can tell that it’s something that’s very important to you and we’re glad that you opened up.”

So I came home for Christmas break. During that break, both my parents took me out individually. My dad was really sweet… He was like “I can’t control who you choose to love and I’m just going to support you.” And I was like yay!

I know I’m really lucky because I know a lot of friends who can’t come out to their parents because their parents would not be this nice to them. So I am very very grateful.
She said she came out to her parents a year and a half before making the YouTube video, so it was likely aound the end of 2016.

What I find poignant is that I know Gurmit went through his own struggles with his Sikh parents when he converted to Christianity, especially his father; and later, his daughter would struggle with her sexuality partly due to the Christianity she grew up with.

I hope she's in a better place now.

Also on Gabbi's YouTube channel is this amazing video of her performing her obviously NSFW poem, Things to Say While You're Sucking His Dick. It was not what I expected.

She is clearly a very passionate, funny, talented young woman with a cause.

More Singaporeans should know about Gabbi Wenyi Ayane Virk and not just because of her famous father.

Monday 28 June 2021

Should you get the McDonald's BTS Meal even if you're not a fan of BTS?

Dear non-BTS fans,

How do you even exist?

How do you live in this world and not be a BTS fan?

I mean, I can understand if you are a non-MBS fan who does not know Marina Bay Sands is not in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

But a non-BTS fan? That’s like the law of physics in a Fast And Furious movie – you’re non-existent. #JusticeforHan

However, for the sake of discussion, let’s say you do exist and the BTS Army hasn’t hunted you down like the dog that you are yet.

Let’s say you can’t tell Jungkook from Joo Koon MRT station.

Let’s say you think Dynamite and Butter are the same song. Break it down!

Let’s say up is down, orange is black and Robinsons is back – whatever.

Even if you don’t stan the only Korean act to ever top the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart – three times! – you must have heard that McDonald’s belatedly launched its much-hyped BTS Meal in Singapore last Monday, delayed by some deadly virus that has been going around.

At long last, Singaporeans get to experience what is basically an upsized nine-piece McNugget meal but with two “special” dipping sauces, namely Cajun and Sweet Chilli, allegedly picked by the boyband themselves and inspired by McDonald’s South Korea.

Surprisingly, no butter. A missed cross-promo opportunity? No sticks of dynamite either.

So how special are the “special” sauces?

Let me put it this way. The Cajun sauce isn’t going to transport you to the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s just honey mustard.

The Sweet Chilli, on the other hand, takes me back to my childhood because that was when I used to put Sinsin chilli sauce on everything.

But if you’re ordering the BTS Meal for the food, you’re missing the point.

Remember those bad old days when we used to queue at McDonald’s for the Hello Kitty toys like how people are now queuing for durian and Sinovac? We got our priorities right back then.

The food was just the necessary evil that came with the mouthless cat.

For the BTS Meal, it’s all about the special BTS Meal packaging.

And McDonald’s knows this as it tells you upfront on its app and website: “BTS-branded brown bag is not available in Singapore.”

What you do get is a BTS-branded McNuggets box, a very large BTS-branded cup and I suppose the little tubs for the sauces.

There are hundreds of listings for these items on Carousell. I don’t know how many people are actually buying them though.

At least one person is selling a McNugget that the seller claims is shaped like BTS member Jungkook. Or an MRT station if you can’t tell the difference.

Not to be confused with the McNugget from a BTS Meal that resembled a character from the online game Among Us and was apparently sold for US$99,997 (S$134,000) on US eBay.

It seems that people would do anything rather than eat the McNugget.

One Singaporean managed to craft a pair of shoes out of the packaging from six BTS Meals. That’s quite a feet.

What amazes me is that for all this, the BTS Meal itself is priced at $8.90, just 40 cents more than the non-BTS upsized nine-piece McNugget meal.

The only caveat is that the BTS Meal is only available for delivery to avoid a repeat of the krazy Hello Kitty kueues of yore.

That means a delivery charge of $4 if you use McDelivery or you can use another food delivery service.

As it has been a week since the launch, the hype has died down a bit and ordering online should be easier now.

So even if you’re not a BTS fan, why not?

You may be able to recoup some of your cost by selling the used packaging on Carousell to someone to make footwear with.

The way I see it, you have two options.

It’s either the BTS Meal or the unholy crime-against-nature mutant abomination that is the KFC Cheesy Zinger Triple Down.

And that has even less right to exist than you do.

Break it down!

- Published in The New Paper, 28 June 2021

Monday 14 June 2021

No, Gurmit Singh wasn't driving his Lambo when he was caught speeding at 131kmh

Well, in the Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi video, he did say “faster go and vaccinate”.

But perhaps not 131kmh fast.

Yes, that was the speed Gurmit Singh was caught driving at on that fateful April 12 night along Woodlands Avenue 12.

Fastest in Singapore and JB, and some say Batam?

At least he was not naked (presumably), unlike another road user who was arrested by police last week for riding a motorcycle without a helmet – or any clothes.

Even worse, no mask.

The naked guy has since been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health.

As for Singh, he was fined $800 last week and banned from driving for three months. He apologised on Instagram for what he did and said: “I hope to do better.”

If he was speeding, he must have been driving his Lamborghini, right?

After all, if the man who plays Phua Chu Kang is famous for anything else besides playing Phua Chu Kang, it’s owning a Lambo.

It’s like Ann Kok and that iconic see-through top she wore at the 1996 Star Awards. People still talk about it.

Whether she likes it or not.

The Lambo is Singh’s see-through top.

It all kind of started in July 2011 when The New Paper reported: “After a local magazine published in May a picture of his Lamborghini Gallardo that he bought last December, he has been called ‘arrogant’, even by a friend.”

Singh told TNP:
“I was very saddened by that remark. It’s very easy for people to jump on the wrong idea or label me as ‘hao lian’. I don’t like to be seen as pushing it in your face like, ‘Oh, look at how successful I am.’ People see me driving the car, but they don't have to announce it to the world.”
He later explained to another publication:
“Once I got (the car), I started sharing with a few friends and by the time I shared with my sixth or seventh friend, one person said, ‘So show-off.’

“I went, ‘No, I’m just sharing happy news, I want you to be happy for me that this guy from a poor Punjabi family who slept on the floor for all his life now drives a Lamborghini.’”
He sold the car after two years. It may be gone but not forgotten.

In 2017, a CNA reporter interviewed Singh and wrote: “This is when I decide to discuss the Lamborghini, a car he owned a few years ago when Mediacorp was still at Caldecott Hill.

“My newsroom used to be close to the open-air carpark and the roar of the engine signalling his comings and goings would penetrate the walls. Publicly, he was called a show-off.

“When I raise this, I sense his struggle to hide how such talk perturbs him.”

Singh told the reporter:
“I know you guys in the compound could hear the Lamborghini. I didn’t do it on purpose. It’s just how the engine is. I wasn’t trying to show off. I wasn’t pressing the accelerator.

“To me, it’s not about materialism. I understand what’s been put into it – the effort and the blood, sweat and all that. It’s not just superficial. It’s like driving the Batmobile.

“It’s like people who buy handbags… I don’t get it. But I know they do. So I respect that.”
More recently in 2019, during the Not Again Podcast with Gary Tan, the subject came up again, but it was a less defensive conversation.

Singh raved about his Italian supercar to the interviewer:
“It was great having a Lamborghini for two years. I drove it every day. It’s my favourite car of all time. Love it to pieces.

“I love it so much that one day when my wife said, ‘Get, we have to get toilet paper.’ I said, ‘Okay, I’ll go buy.’

“We have the family car and we have the Lamborghini, right? And I took the Lamborghini, drove to the supermarket, bought the roll of toilet paper, came back.

“She said, ‘Did you just drive all the way just to buy toilet paper?’ I said, ‘Yes, what’s wrong with that?’

“And then I asked her, ‘Do you want to buy anything else? I can buy it. Item by item, please.’ She said no! That’s how much I love the car.”
He added:
“I’m a simple guy, you know. I love Lamborghinis, but I’m a simple guy. A simple Lamborghini guy. It’s a contradiction, I know. Oxymoron.”
In the same podcast, Singh reminisced about how he first fell in lust with the vehicle:
“When I was a little boy, I watched Tom Selleck in Magnum PI, a detective show. And he would drive a Ferrari. I said, ‘What a great car!’

“So fast forward, when I was able to rent a Ferrari for the weekend, I drove it. I was so happy… I couldn’t afford one yet. So I thought I’d rent it.”
Then he spotted a Lambo.
“Oh, there’s a Lamborghini as well. So I went to rent a Lamborghini. I tell you, when I sat in a Lamborghini, without even turning the engine on first, I already felt it was way better than Ferrari. It felt like a jet. I felt like Batman.

“And when I turned on the engine and sat that low, and I drove it with that low throttle sound – my goodness, my hair all stood up. Hair that I didn’t know I had all came up and said, ‘Hello! Hello!’

He might have just described what’s called a cargasm.

Also in 2019, he told 8 Days: “Till this day, I’m still missing my Lamborghini!”

But he can no longer afford one after an “epic reduction in salary” when he ended his full-time contract with Mediacorp in 2014 after 20 years.

So if Singh was not driving his Lambo, what car was he caught speeding in?

According to The Straits Times, he was “believed to be” driving an Audi A8 L.

Sure, apart from the “flapping sound” Singh claimed the car made, the Audi luxury sedan is okay.

But it’s no Batmobile like the Lambo.

Who knows? If he makes many more of those Covid-19 videos for our Government as the pandemic drags on, he may be able to afford the Bull again.


- Published in The New Paper, 14 June 2021