The Internet is one crazy playground. Not only are retail fixes mere clicks away (poor wallets) and infinite information within one’s grasp, the world wide web with its vast expanse and reach is quite likely also the most efficient enabler when it comes to reconnecting one with one’s past. As it did in the case of Marlene and me.
You see, Marlene was my classmate for the most part of (our Malaysian equivalent of) elementary as well as high schools. At the time, we weren’t particularly close. I was intimidated by her confidence and gungho personality while she, well, let’s just say I was neither the easiest nor nicest person to get to know. In fact, I’ve been told I was quite the snotty
bitch brat back then (not by Marlene, of course). Suffice to say, we had our individual cliques and that was that.
Years later, as in two years ago, I stumbled upon her super duper oh so fabulous blog, Chocolates Cookies & Candies and immediately reached out to Marlene whom, by this time, was a much sought-after photographer with a deft hand at product styling. Indeed, her work has been featured in numerous high-profiled e-magazines. Just take a peek at her photo gallery and it’s easy to see why.
Anyway, we bonded over Rick Owens (we’re both groupies), and she was the one who introduced me to the inimitable Isabel Marant, AND the fact that Marlene exudes the coolest vibe ever when it comes to personal style – keep scrolling down to understand why I said that – et voilà, we became friends. Finally.
Was it not a natural progression that I should feature an interview with Marlene here on my blog? Imagine my delight when she agreed to humour me. Hurray for old acquaintances and new friendships🙂
Here are her answers to my questions.
(1) What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of completing a post?
That would be my latest project – The Sisterhood of the Travelling Jacket (bit.ly/1IcL0Gt). Trying to put together a video, film and photograph 6 women living in various cities of the UK, Greece and France, interview various individuals, edit their work, coordinate the whole shebang and truly putting myself out there. I did think on many occasions that I’d lost the plot. It’s a collection of personal and inspirational stories from 7 women including myself. I wanted to show how any woman can be a hero and make a difference in other people’s lives. I figured let’s move on with the times by using social media as the platform to empower women and reach out to many who have nowhere to turn. The jacket was the dot that connected all the women. I knew there were many who suffered from a multitude of serious issues but had no one to talk to. So I wanted to put something online where it’d give them a source of comfort and hope.
(2) How different is the blogging landscape now compared to when you created Chocolate, Cookies & Candies in 2010?
It’s definitely far more competitive these days with every man, woman and their dog/cat having a blog.
(3) What’s the one thrill of blogging which has remained constant for you throughout the past 5 years?
The people. I’ve met fellow bloggers and readers. They’re what kept me going. Blogging is a commitment. It looks easy but it’s pretty darn hard work for little returns. On the other hand, it’s provided me with a lot of opportunities that I never thought I’d have.
(4) If you were a baked treat, what would you be?
Millefeuille. I bought a slice every single day from my favorite bakery in Nice. The owner thought I was a glutton. She was right.
(5) If I opened the door to your fridge, what might I find?
Pork belly, kimchi, Kikkoman onion dressing and lettuce leaves. After 6 years of living in Hampshire, I’m seriously deprived of my usual Korean cuisine. My favorite thing to do is grill the pork belly with a sprinkling of salt for 45 minutes. Dip it into a bowl of onion dressing (trust me, it tastes far better than it sounds) and wrap it with a lettuce leave. Pop the whole thing into your mouth. Divine!
(6) You get one do-over, what would it be?
Banish my fears. They’re all in my head anyway and nearly all never became a reality. I’d make more mistakes and take more risks. It’s taken me 40 years to learn this.
(7) Mythology or Criminology? Why?
Neither. I’m a realist who can’t stand the sight of blood.
(8) What’s on your bucket list?
– to speak at TED talk
– be recognised for my work
– make a difference
– revamp the Sisterhood project and take it global
– film a video about Borneo and its people
– trek into the depths of China to film and photograph the ethnic minority groups
(9) Complete this sentence – No Hermès … is worth the expense unless you can afford and appreciate its workmanship.
(10) Everyone has his/her own reason for starting a blog. What compelled you?
My mom made me do it. It was the only way she could see what I’ve been up to since I decided to move half way around the world. If my parents could insert a microchip under my skin, they would. I’ve backpacked into jungles, rural off the beaten tracks, etc.Those were the days before cellphones were ubiquitous. They once told me I gave them the most grey hair ever. I hope my daughter doesn’t follow in my footsteps.
(11) What has been the toughest project you’ve undertaken for your blog?
That’ll be the answer on question one.
(12) Can you introduce yourself? With as many details as possible🙂
I’m Marlene and a childhood friend of Sheela from the age of 7. Born in Borneo, moved to New Zealand as a teenager and we’re now living in a medieval city an hour from London. I have a technical background in telecommunications and quit when my daughter was 1. I’ve been self employed since, trying to juggle motherhood with work. If my geeky ex-colleagues find out what I do these days, they’ll be shocked. From data communications to fashion, photography, handbags and writing.
(13) Is it ever hard riding the line between writing what you want and writing what’s expected?
Not so much for the blog because it’s my personal space and I can express myself freely but it’s different when I’m working for others.
(14) Is it hard wanting to write about so many different things and yet maintain a certain consistency?
I’ve got the attention span of an insect. I’d go crazy if all I ever do is talk about fashion.
(15) What things would people be surprised to find that you like?
Pretty teacups. I think most people are used to my martial arts loving/grunge/biker nature and go like……what????!!! when they see my floral teacup collection.
(16) Before CCC was born, how were you expressing yourself?
Photography and little scribbles in photo albums. I used to keep a journal of my backpacking adventures too.
(17) Writing and hunting down collectible bags aside, what else do you enjoy doing?
I think 12 years of doing consignment have whittled my own passion for handbags down to a more lukewarm level.
(18) Your personal style has a touch of grunge to it, and you’re, more often than not, in Black or Grey. How is your home decked out?
When it comes to interior decor, my husband and I have completely opposite styles. While I feel most comfortable in dark colors, my home has to be bright, well lit with white decor.
(19) Finally, do you feel people tend to take fashion much too seriously?
Some do and some don’t. Personally, I have a pragmatic approach to fashion. When you’ve experienced serious trauma and deaths in the family, clothes and shoes are negligible.
All photographs courtesy of Marlene Lee, with many thanks for your infinite patience.