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Why the S-hook ah lian is a sign that we can move past stereotypes

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Old 08-10-2018, 03:21 PM   #1
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Why the S-hook ah lian is a sign that we can move past stereotypes

It has been a rather exciting week for Singaporeans who like their social media.
Yes, the seaweed shaker fries are back. Yes, our national broadsheet is currently embroiled in a somewhat explosive scandal.
But from what I see, none seem to have captured our imagination quite the way Lerine Yeo, perhaps better known as ‘The S-hook saleslady’, has.
It all started when a Facebook user recorded and posted a short clip of Yeo hawking clothes for her online boutique on a live stream. While such clips are not entirely uncommon these days, it was Yeo’s delivery that struck social media gold.
Brandishing an innocuous S-hook, and deftly putting it into the holes of a T-shirt she was modelling, she declared in a mix of Singlish and Hokkien: “You can hook your kuey png lah, your wantan mee lah, your whatever, you can hook, OK? No problem!”
And Singaporeans were hooked, alright.
The video quickly went viral. It’s been shared some 34,000 times and currently has more than 2 million views on Facebook.
Yeo has also since been enjoying a bit of a media blitz, going on radio shows to demonstrate her spontaneous sales pitches, granting media interviews, and even becoming the punchline of an Ikea ad.
Some believe that the response to Yeo and her seemingly unfiltered ah lian persona is our way of laughing AT her, and not WITH her. And for that, it’s taken to show that Singaporeans are not quite kind enough to see a person beyond the stereotypes that they fit into.
There’s no question that casual stereotypes are a thing in Singapore.
How many of us, as children, were cautioned not to slack in our studies lest we end up as road sweepers, with the implication that sweeping the roads is an unworthy profession?
And then there are the ah bengs and ah lians, and the mats and the minahs – people who, by virtue of the way they speak and carry themselves, are typically seen as uncouth and referred to in less than flattering tones.
But at the same time, this is also why I actually think that Yeo’s claim to fame is not simply a case of Singaporeans wanting to make an ah lian the butt of their jokes.
Sure, her ideas are wacky, and her colourful language is at first a jolt to the senses.
But one also gets the sense that people admire Yeo for not being afraid to put herself out there and be herself. She doesn’t seem at all troubled by the baggage that being seen as an ah lian carries. These are qualities that Singaporeans may appreciate more, for the fact that we ourselves are wont to be politically correct and pragmatic.
A look at the responses on social media seems to support this. Although there are the expected gripes about her poor command of English, many of her fans have lauded Yeo’s creativity and are praising her for being genuine and enterprising.
Could it also be that, perhaps, they will now look upon ah lians with slightly kinder eyes, and come to think that people are often much more than the stereotypes we may try to fit them into?
As much as she may have become somewhat of a meme in the past couple of weeks, I hope Yeo gets to enjoy greater longevity than the average Internet fad.
She certainly deserves it, with her determination and hustle.
Her online clothing boutique appears to be making brisk business on the back of her newfound fame, and she has also signed a contract with local comedian Mark Lee’s artiste management company.
It appears that she’s not about to fade quietly from the public’s consciousness, and as the S-hook ah lian herself might say, that is very no the problem.
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