True Stories

True story: "How I became a 'Crazy Rich Asian'"

Adele*, 34, is wealthy beyond most people’s dreams, but she wasn’t born into a rich family; instead, she befriended some of Asia’s most privileged families and moved her way up into their world, eventually marrying into one. She shares her story with Melissa Wong
 

Photo: Crazy Rich Asians Movie/Facebook 

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been hooked on the idea of being part of the ultra-wealthy class. After I got into a prestigious junior college, I found myself surrounded by students from some of Asia’s richest, most successful and most powerful families.

For two years I got a first-hand look into their lives, from the way they spent their time to the places they frequented and the people they socialised with, and I must admit, I was obsessed with the idea of being a part of that world.

 

Moving up the social ladder

Photo: 123rf

One of my close friends in junior college was a girl called Brenda*.

Her father was a property developer and her mother, a well-known socialite. Her family accepted me as one of their own so I was constantly hanging out with Brenda and her cousins at country clubs and upscale restaurants.

I didn’t have a lot of money to spend at the time because I was still in school so Brenda’s older, rich cousins usually picked up the tab.

As the years passed, Brenda and I remained close and I became good friends with other guys and girls in her social circle.

Of course, most of them were super-wealthy, too. Through them, I got to fly in private jets, ride in luxury sports cars, holiday in six-star resorts, and attend glamorous parties in some of Singapore’s biggest mansions.

By then, I’d already started working for a luxury fashion house so the scene wasn’t unfamiliar to me. In fact, most of the people I socialised with were also my clients.

To this day, I still can’t believe how incredibly rich some of these folks are.

I know people who have bowling alleys and mini movie theatres in their homes, manmade waterfalls in their backyards, whole teams of housekeepers, butlers, personal guards and chauffeurs, and millions of dollars worth of jewellery and sports cars. You really have to experience it to believe it.

I seemed to have no trouble fitting into this world. Sure, I hadn’t studied at an Ivy League University, didn’t drive an expensive sports car or live in a mansion, and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but most of the time, I felt accepted.

 

Marrying into money

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Then men I dated were mostly from my social circle.

A few really liked me but couldn’t take our relationship further because I hadn’t been born into a family like theirs; they knew their parents and families would not approve of me.

It was hurtful to hear but wasn’t something I bothered too much about because I understood the pressure these guys felt to live up to their parents’ expectations –and as far as I was concerned that was their problem, not mine.

When I met Jonathan* I knew that he was different. He didn’t care that my family wasn’t like his or that I wasn’t going to inherit a ton of cash and property.

He was an entrepreneur who had gone to elite schools all his life and received many lucky breaks along the way because of his connections, however, his parents had grown up poor and basically worked hard for their wealth, so he was not under the same pressure as his peers to get involved with someone who had been born rich.

At 35, Jonathan had already studied, lived and worked overseas in London and New York.

Back in Singapore, he opened a couple of food and beverage businesses with his close friends.

His parents, who were also business owners, took a liking to me and supported our relationship from the start. So when Jonathan proposed to me two years after we met, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

I don’t want come across like I’m bragging, but I really am living a fairy-tale life.

I don’t have to work but I continue to do so because I love my job and the independence it gives me. Even if I left my job tomorrow and never worked another day in my life, I know that I’d be okay financially.

 

Living her dream life

 

Photo: 123rf

As well off as we are, Jonathan and I don’t flaunt our wealth. You will never see me dripping in diamonds, I don’t spend all day at the spa and I definitely don’t own countless pairs of shoes or a million dollars’ worth of designer handbags.

Yes, Jonathan and I do wear a lot of designer clothes but we also buy high-street labels, we love our hawker food as much as we love fancy, Michelin-star fare, and we’re just as comfortable visiting friends who live in HDB flats as we are friends who live in bungalows. If we spend a lot of money on anything, it’s entertaining at home. We love having our friends and colleagues over for dinner and always make sure to splurge on the food.

Jonathan and I could afford to live in a landed home but instead we opted to buy a three-bedroom condo after we got married. We are certainly not stuck-up or pretentious and we don’t look down on anyone; in fact, we have many friends who aren’t as wealthy as us. Our own rich friends aren’t stuck-up either. I could never associate with snobby, superficial wealthy people who looked down on others or threw their weight around and acted like they were entitled.  

Jonathan and his parents get along well with my family, even though my family couldn’t be more different from his. That was another big ‘must’ for me, because the last thing I wanted when I married Jonathan was for his family to feel that they were superior to mine because of their wealth.

All my life, I fantasised of being part of the upper class and marrying into an extremely rich family, and now I’m living the dream. I still have to pinch myself sometimes. It wasn’t so much wanting to own or be surrounded by beautiful or material things; it was the lifestyle that fascinated me, and knowing that I could afford just about anything I wanted.

I know that I’m in a privileged position and I use my status to help the less fortunate wherever I can. I do volunteer work quite regularly and, a couple of times year, I donate money or gifts to orphanages and aged care homes.

Helping others is a humbling experience; it makes me thankful for everything I have. Unlike a lot of people who were born into this kind of immense wealth, I don’t take anything for granted.”

 

*Names have been changed

 

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