Chances are, you’re already following the likes of Audrey Tay (@audreytayy), Willabelle Ong (@willamazing) and Kim Lim (@kimmylecute) on Instagram. Young, wealthy and social media-savvy, these Singaporean women have over 130,000 followers in total and give us normal folk a glimpse into their enviable lives – fast cars, open bars and everything glitzy in between.
Want to be an Instagram star like them? All you need are some $15,000 Hermes Birkin handbags, a generous variety of Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo shoes, and frequent holidays to beautiful destinations like Morocco and the Maldives.
Such envy-inducing posts are part of a voyeuristic trend on social media – one best encapsulated in the now-infamous blog Rich Kids Of Instagram. The two-year-old Tumblr blog (whose founder is anonymous) collects posts by the world’s wealthiest youngsters and is chock-full of photographs of their private jets and diamond-encrusted watches. These are accompanied with jaw-dropping captions like, “Always tip your private-jet captain $10,000.”
Is this show-off culture the new normal? I speak to Audrey, Willabelle and Kim to get my head around the lives of Instagram’s rich and famous.
‘EVERYONE IN SCHOOL HAD BRANDED BAGS’
It was a pink Bentley that kicked off Audrey’s journey to social media fame. “It started after I posted a picture of my 18th birthday present from my dad – a Bentley Continental GT that was customised in hot pink. Before I knew it, I had lots of new followers,” says the 20-year-old, who arrives at our interview in calf-high Christian Louboutin gladiator sandals. She’s also toting a pink Lady Dior handbag from the latest Fall/Winter collection.
The youngest child of businessman Peter Tay, the executive director of the SUTL group of companies, Audrey has over 2,600 followers on her Instagram account. There, she shares pictures of her shopping sprees, regular travels, and her family’s stable of nine cars. The newest set of wheels in the collection? A white Porsche Turbo, which she got as a 20th birthday gift, that replaces her Bentley.
Her love for fashion started when she was a student at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). “There was a lot of peer pressure to dress in a certain way. Everyone around me carried branded bags to school and wore designer shoes,” recalls Audrey, who has just finished her diploma in business management at the Singapore Institute of Management.
Her first purchase, a large pink Balenciaga bag for her school books, set the wheels in motion. Today, she owns over 80 designer bags, which include brands like Hermes, Dior, Chanel and Saint Laurent. Prices for an Hermes Birkin bag start at $12,000 – Audrey owns eight. She also has over 40 pairs of shoes – everything from sky-high Christian Louboutin stilettos to Chanel slippers. Cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong are her favourite places to shop. She flies (business class) to these places every two months, usually with her mum, with whom she is close. She travels so frequently that she has the store managers of overseas Chanel, Dior and Hermes boutiques on Whatsapp.
They contact her personally when they receive new merchandise – even reserving pieces for her until she’s able to fly in to pick them up. Her biggest shopping spree? A trip to Paris three years ago during which she picked up 10 designer bags, four of which were from Chanel.
‘I FEEL THE PRESSURE TO SUCCEED’
Audrey’s dad pays her bills right now, but she plans to support herself when she starts working. “My parents are incredibly humble people. Though they don’t often say no to me, they’re always telling me about the value of hard work and earning your own dollar.” She adds: “My dad works so hard… I feel the pressure to succeed so I can take care of my own bills.”
Her snaps of her luxurious lifestyle have set tongues wagging. She says that people have criticised her using anonymous accounts and written mean comments about her family and boyfriend on Internet forums. But she has no intention of stopping her Instagram postings. “I brush away the negativity because my intention has never been to brag. It has nothing to do with showing off. I look through Instagram to find out what’s new in the fashion world, and I want to share my new buys as well,” she tells me. “I just hope that other fashion lovers are inspired by my account.”
She’s aware that she leads a privileged life. “I know that I own stuff that isn’t in the reach of everyone,” she says. “But I like to post things that make me happy. I’m careful that my captions are never mean or disparaging toward others.”
Quick to highlight the positives of Insta-fame, she says that she often taps on her followers whenever she’s in a fashion dilemma. “Sometimes, when I’m shopping, I’ll post a picture asking which bag I should buy, and people give me their opinions,” she says. “Honestly, what’s not to love about having over 2,000 like-minded people to interact with?”
‘I’M NOT SWAYED’
Audrey’s sentiments are shared by Kim and Willabelle, both of whom have garnered tens of thousands of followers, thanks to their gawk-worthy Instagram accounts. Fashion blogger and student Willabelle shares photographs of her immaculately styled outfits and shots of the beautiful places she travels to. She tells me: “I usually fly once every two to three weeks – I recently returned from Munich, London and Milan.”
The 20-year-old, now a mini celebrity with more than 83,000 followers, has even been featured in Teen Vogue US. Her Instafame started when she found herself on Instagram’s Popular Page a mere month after she started using the app, thanks to a snapshot of her shoe collection.
She currently owns over 300 pairs of shoes from brands like Jeffrey Campbell, Valentino and Oscar de la Renta. The approximate value of her shoe stash? Over $100,000. Naysayers have called her out for showing off and criticised her style as “weird” and “ugly”, but she rarely gives them a second thought.
“I’m not swayed because I know I’m incredibly lucky to be able to share my stuff with the world. It’s also brought me incredible opportunities,” she tells me over the phone from Perth, where she is finishing her final term at university. She has collaborated with brands like Canon, Swarovski, Topshop, River Island and SK-II on paid sponsorship schemes. Clothing brands have also provided pieces for Willabelle to style on her account – “Nearly three quarters of my wardrobe is sponsored,” she reveals.
In between classes, Willabelle posts pictures of her press trips (sponsored by the brands she works with), her beautiful #OOTDs (her personalised Louis Vuitton bag and Chanel purses feature regularly), and her shoe collection, which she admits is her Achilles’ heel: “Shoes can make or break an outfit – that’s why I have so many!”
‘WOULDN’T YOU DO THE SAME?’
Kim, 24, admits to having over 200 pairs of shoes. The daughter of local billionaire Peter Lim shares snaps of her fabulous lifestyle with her 44,000-odd Instagram followers.
“I’m trying to cut down on shoes,” she tells me over the phone from Los Angeles, where she is on holiday. “I’ve already bought 10 pairs on this trip!”
Her fave brands? Givenchy, Chanel and Saint Laurent. But the (literal) jewels of her gigantic shoe collection are two pairs of customised Christian Louboutin heels, completely covered in Swarovski crystals.
Both Kim and Willabelle are quick to deny that they’re just showing off . “I’ve seen rich kids who post pictures with extremely braggy captions – that’s appalling,” Willabelle says.
“Fashion and travelling are things I enjoy, and if I’m able to fund them through blogging, then I’m killing two birds with one stone.
“Plus, I don’t ever take anything for granted – I’m grateful for everything I own and rarely mention brands in my posts,” she adds. It’s a sentiment that Kim echoes when I ask how she feels about people comparing her account to the notorious posts on Rich Kids Of Instagram.
“I don’t make any extra effort to style my photos or choose expensive clothes or shoes just to take a photo,” she says firmly. “I dress down and eat char kway teow too – it’s just that I don’t show that stuff on my account.
Instagram is a glimpse into the moments of my life that I find interesting or exciting. “You tell me – wouldn’t you post the same stuff if you were in my position?”
CHECK OUT MORE FROM ‘SINGAPORE’S RICH KIDS OF INSTAGRAM IN THE VIDEO!
This story was first published in Her World magazine, December 2014 issue.