Sukki Singapora is telling me the names of her cats–Ivan and Seven of Nine–and the Star Trek: Voyager reference completely flies past my head. “When I was a child, I played with dinos and watched sci-fi films with my dad,” she giggles. She’s giddy with anticipation at the Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, and confesses to enjoying Babylon 5.
The ’Katy Perry of burlesque’ and ’Asia’s answer to Dita Von Teese’, Sukki is as big a geek as you can find. She was top in Science at school and was working in IT before the creative side of her personality took over, and her performing career was born.
At just 26, Sukki is famous for legalising burlesque in Singapore, co-founding the first Asian Burlesque Festival, getting invited to Buckingham Palace, and paving the way for young women looking to express their sensuality through the new-old art of burlesque. But she’s also the same petite girl who had (and still has) really strict parents, was dorky (“speccy, bracey, totally uncool” ) and nicknamed the Scooby Gang along with her studyholic friends in school, whether in Singapore or the U.K. (her dad is Singaporean, mum is British; both
We pause in the middle of our whirlwind chat when the lunch spread arrives. The excitable Sukki loves food, especially cake–“if I were a cake,” she muses, “what you see is what you get, but with layers. Something quirky in appearance but with a refined taste. I’d be a rainbow kueh!” True to form, she doesn’t deprive herself of food, immediately wanting to order everything on the menu but eventually settling for waffles and wings with maple syrup–“mains and dessert in one,” she coos, tucking in with her fingers.
Sukki is a social media fiend, personally managing 34.3K followers on Instagram, 6K on Twitter and 44.6K fans on Facebook alongside YouTube, Vine, Tumblr and Snapchat accounts. “I love social media,” she declares a little self-consciously, noting that “people demand access to your life. I don’t hide anything and I put myself out there because my fans are my friends. I know it sounds cheesy, but I have a lot of young female fans who I think of as my sisters.” Although she’s had her share of hecklers and sensationalist media, she
says, “I try not to be cynical of the industry, and to set an example by responding with decorum.”
Of being Asia’s first professional burlesque performer, Sukki feels the “massive pressure to get it right.” She went full-time just two years ago, and sees female empowerment at the core of burlesque. “For me, it’s about showing that you can be a strong woman, be respected in your career, and be tasteful.” She’s aware that her celebrity status has ushered her into an entertainment industry that “demands a size 0” , so she stays fit by going to the gym. “Don’t do anything crazy because of pressure,” she admonishes. “And let’s get something straight–corsetting doesn’t reduce your waist size and doesn’t change your ribs, so don’t do anything drastic. What it can do is make stiff ribs become more flexible so that you can wear smaller corsets.”
Sukki’s competitive Asian spirit is never far from the surface, no matter which industry she’s in. Bigger sets, gorgeous corsets, being in a different city every two weeks–it’s part of the job. “No matter what path you choose, just be really great at something,” she concludes.