Upon first meeting Audrey Ooi, one would be quick to simply write her off as a cutesy princess type. But as proven time and again, Audrey is living testament to that age-old adage of never judging a book by its cover. We caught up with Audrey as she explains how she juggles between business and babies, and why she looks to former First Lady, Michelle Obama, as inspiration.
At the time you started your blog, FourFeetNine, blogging and social media in general were still very new. How did you come to start your blog?
I just fell into it really. I started blogging in 2004 because I was waiting to go into uni and I had a lot of free time. I kept blogging even whilst I was overseas because it was a way for me to keep in touch with people from back home. While I was in uni, I had interned with a few advertising agencies so it was only natural that I joined one after I graduated. Because there were very few bloggers at the time, I didn’t know that my agency hired me because I was a blogger. So, I guess everything just kind of fit because my interests already lay in blogging and the digital space. I just didn’t know the path that I would eventually take.
You were with your agency for four years. What made you decide to leave?
The very honest answer is that I was very burnt out. Agency life is really quite demanding and often times, I’d be working till really late and I’d still be sending out emails even at three in the morning. I just really needed a break. I was also getting married at the time, so I thought I’d leave to focus my attention on the wedding and getting married. Even after I got married, I continued to work with another ad agency but as a freelancer. But it wasn’t until I fell pregnant with my daughter that I thought “Okay, I really can’t do this anymore” and that’s when I left advertising for good. Even then though, I still continued to blog.
Having been blogging for quite some time now, how do you maintain the momentum to generate fresh ideas and content?
I guess for me, my blog has always been very personal. It’s based solely on what’s happening with me and my life, which sounds very narcissistic but that’s always been the direction I’ve taken from the very beginning. In terms of content, I guess as I progress through life and as my lifestyle evolves, my blog evolves with me. When I was a student, my blog was more of an open diary. But now I write more on topics that I really care about like parenting and women’s issues. But for me, what really keeps the momentum going is knowing that I do have influence and knowing that I can reach people through my blog and possibly make a change. Whether it’s making them change their outlook on something or giving another perspective, knowing that I do have a voice is what keeps me going.
Being an influencer and having that voice, do you ever feel any kind of pressure to act or be or even look a certain way?
I don’t feel pressure to look a certain way because I feel that my blog has been quite real in terms of how I look. I’m not always this poised and put together and I talk about that frequently on my blog. What I do feel is the criticism and negativity. For example, I was going through a bit of a down period a few months ago. I think generally as women, and as mothers and wives, we have so many roles that we tend to forget to think about ourselves. Like sometimes, when I’m running through the motion of my day-to-day, I tend to forget what it’s like to be myself – not as a mother or a wife or an employee. At the time, I was feeling really down but I also felt that I didn’t deserve to feel that way because so many others have it so much worse. So, I wrote about that and about how I was feeling and was just being very honest. Even then, people were still judging me. So, the pressure I feel really comes from that – the negativity and judgements.
How do you navigate that?
I used to get very affected by it but now, I guess I’ve gotten used to it. Over the years, you develop thicker skin and I feel that it doesn’t matter as much anymore especially because I don’t actually know these people. Don’t get me wrong, I do still feel it sometimes but it doesn’t affect me as much anymore. After a while, I’ll just be like “Whatever lah!” and just brush it off.
What would your advice be to people looking to take the path you’ve chosen and be a lifestyle blogger?
If you want to do this seriously, I think you need to be aware of not necessarily the consequences, but the side effects of this profession. Yes, you do get fame and you can earn a good living from it. But you need to figure out where you want your privacy to start and where you want your public face to end and you have to be okay with that.
How has being a mother impacted the way you work and handle yourself professionally?
Being a mother definitely influenced me while I was designing Colony. Because I feel that mums really have it a lot tougher at work, I wanted to provide a place for mums (and parents) to bring their kids to work, if they needed to. We also wanted to provide the facilities that would help working mums and dads to take care of their kids and play the roles of parents as best as they can. I also feel that the way I work has become more fluid. Where I was working 9 to 5 before, I now have to juggle between my work schedule and my children’s schedule. I’ll fit in meetings and appointments during school hours and have it finish in time for me to pick up my kids after school. So, I guess it’s me trying to juggle different things and work more efficiently.
Having founded Colony with your husband, what’s it been like working with him?
Honestly when we first started, I think Tim was more excited to work with me than I was! I was very worried that it would affect our relationship. And I feel that it has changed because before this, our roles were very clearly defined – he took care of all the finances and I took care of the kids and the household. Now that we’re working together, I feel that I’ve encroached into his territory. But he hasn’t encroached in mine yet, I’m still handling the household! There was a lot of friction and teething problems in the beginning because it was a change, but we’re slowly getting used to it. But it’s nice working with Tim as well as we do get to spend a lot of time together and I sometimes bring the kids in to work to surprise him. It’s also nice knowing that we built Colony together.
What’s next for Colony?
I would love to create a child day-care connected to Colony. But it’s still very early and I don’t know what the demand is. But if demand is high, I would really like to create one.
Which female icon influences you?
Michelle Obama. Even though she’s very influential, she still gets a lot of hate. But the way she addresses it, is so full of grace and so gracious. Sometimes I tend to lose my temper at haters and get very defensive, so I really admire that in her and try to emulate that for myself. I also like how she stands on her own two feet and is her own person despite the fact that her husband was once President of the United States.
What motivates you to keep going?
Honestly, I’m not a very career-driven person. It’s just not who I am. But I know the kind of person that I want to be. I have strong ideas about the kind of mum and wife I want to be and the kind of good that I want to do in this world. I’m also good at finding things that make me happy and brings me joy. My kids obviously bring me joy, so I want to be there for them. I guess those are the things that motivate me.
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