This August, colourful radio DJ Charmaine Yee charms us with her infectious laughter and savvy advice on life, love and work.
Fresh-faced Charmaine Yee is the girl next door, just more famous and twice as pretty. When the Kiss 92FM DJ and FOX Sports Asia TV presenter arrives to Marmalade Pantry, Oasia Hotel, in her pastel-pretty mermaid dress and denim jacket, it’s hard not to stare.
But this former CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School prefect is used to it–it seems she’s always had a flair for the dramatic. “People think I did sports but I joined English Language, Drama and Dance instead.” The self-professed “loud kid” was vice captain of Blue House and vice president of ELDDS, and at 13 was told by a teacher, Jerilee Leong, that her voice would be her asset (she’s hoping to reconnect with Ms Leong for a story, if any of our readers know how to get in touch!)
Her friendships from school have lasted the distance, too. “We would walk in a big clique,” she laughs, “and those girls are still my best friends. They’re the ones who text to tell me there’s a spelling error on my Instagram, or give me their honest opinions on my dress or hair. I really treasure that.”
Our coffee orders arrive; Charmaine’s is an Oriole Coffee Magpie blend cappuccino, with earthy chocolate and nut notes, a cuppa that’s just like her, she quotes, “People who like cappuccino are warm-hearted but oblivious–their friends have to remind you to wipe the foam off your mouth!”
There’s a Jennifer Lawrence-like playfulness about Charmaine, but getting into the industry hasn’t been easy. She reflects, “At 22, I was told I didn’t have the ’right package’ for the entertainment industry. For three years, I would wonder why I was passed over while tall, gorgeous leggy candidates got the job. Yes, there is a stress to be a size 0 girl, but I learned to be happy with myself and be in my element.”
Her long-time stint in radio has kept her on her toes, teaching her to be instantaneous and quick-witted, while the new foray into TV is more glam but scripted. “I always wanted to run a business before 30, maybe a marketing firm, and now, I am my own business,” she smiles. A previous venture, a fashion blogshop with her ex-boyfriend, didn’t work out, as she had no time to really focus on it and the market was saturated by the time she started. The experience was valuable, she concedes, adding with a hearty chuckle that she also learnt something else–” don’t start a business with your boyfriend!”
With a small appetite but huge love of food, Charmaine posts plenty of her drool-worthy meals from around the world. Waitressing at her first job at the now-defunct Seah Street Deli (Raffles Hotel), she is critical about service only because she has been through it. “I spilled Dr. Pepper on a customer and apologised a million times,” she shudders in memory at her 16-year-old self. “He still came back though! Accidents do happen, but recovery is important. Poor service–the kind where you drag your feet or don’t smile–that’s what really turns people off.”
Luckily, we don’t think Charmaine will be running out of smiles anytime soon.