Who is she: Brenda Tan (@wordweed)
Instagrammer and YouTuber Brenda Tan first made waves on the scene with her viral double eyelid surgery video seven years ago, and is now one of the most relatable full-time content creators in Singapore today.
We had a chat with the eloquent 26-year-old, who shares her thoughts on apartment hunting, sexual harassment and how she keeps it real on camera.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
1. What are your hobbies?
I love to pick up new hobbies to broaden my horizons! So currently, mine are pole dancing at SLAP Studio and bouldering at Boulder Movement to stay active.
Image credit: @wordweed
I’m also trying to be more dexterous and have an outlet for creativity as well, so I’ve also picked up pottery at The 8th Floor, a ceramic studio in Aljunied.
Image credit: @wordweed
2. Last Netflix show you loved and why
This long-running American sitcom called ‘Grace and Frankie’. It focuses on two older women and the friendship between them, which is refreshing as most shows focus on younger millennials and their stories. Here, the ladies find out their husbands are romantically involved, and the show manages to cover important topics like microaggressions and ageing – all in a heartfelt package.
3. Three words people use to describe you
Bubbly, charismatic, eloquent.
4. Three words you’d use to describe yourself
Also eloquent (hehe), genuine, saucy (I like that word!)
5. What’s the meaning behind the handle ‘wordweed’?
It was my blog name when I was younger, when I was trying to figure out something that emotionally moved me.
So, the thinking back then was that weeds are flowers too, despite being hated usually. And that idea of resilience despite the environment resonated with me, as even till today I feel the same way about writing and about the need to find my voice. I’m the kind of person that can’t repress myself that way in terms of sharing my voice with the world as a content creator.
6. How did you start becoming a creative / host / content creator?
When I was 12, blogs were huge things, remember the age of Blogskins? I started blogging then and by the time I was 15 years old, I had a small readership.
After JC, I watched a lot of YouTube videos, so I thought: why not take a camera and edit something? The first video was one on my Bangkok haul. After that, I wanted to do double eyelid surgery and found out there were little to no resources online – only reviews, but from the USA.
My dad suggested doing a video which tracks my process of recovery from the surgery. It was such a great idea as there was a gap of content and education then, so the video did really well. That marked a turning point when I started doing videos consistently.
7. How does your on-screen personality differ from your off-screen one?
On camera, we might get more performative or shy and when I first started, it felt weird for sure. I was only 18, 19 years old, and cringed when I watched my own videos, like “Why is my voice so high?” Now, I’ve done it for 6-7 years and have grown more comfortable in my own skin.
It helps to know that there are real people on the other end of the screen, so it doesn’t feel like shouting into a void.
8. Which piece of content (on YouTube, TikTok or IG) are you most proud of?
This YouTube video on sexual harassment.
While slightly more contentious versus my usual lifestyle videos, it started a long overdue conversation. I was feeling vulnerable about putting myself out there when posting it, but glad many women sent in messages on their experiences. It was not nice to know that it was such a widespread issue, but the fact that awareness was raised in order to make things better in future was gratifying.
9. Who are some other content creators that inspire you?
I try not to fixate on one person to prevent comparing myself to them. What I do is to get inspiration for different aspects, from editing style, to how to talk to the camera, fonts, formats and so on.
For instance, I love watching this Polish YouTuber Karolina Zebrowska, she presents memes in Edwardian costumes and that presentation is very interesting to me.
10. Which beauty YouTubers do you like?
Coming down with Covid recently made me watch Korean and Chinese YouTubers, who’ve such a sophisticated way of doing makeup.
11. If you could only wear one beauty product forever, what would it be?
Maybe brows or concealer! Looking fresh and natural will always be a timeless look 🙂
12. If you could choose only one social media platform to use for one year, what would it be and why?
Wow, this is a tough one. I love longform content despite it being on more of a lull versus trending shortform platforms like TikTok and Instagram. YouTube has a certain beauty to it with the creativity and planning needed, and there’s such a diversity of content online, be it educational to quirky.
But if I had to pick for a whole year, I’d have to go with IG. It’s quick and easy, plus easy to connect with others.
13. Has anyone ever confronted you / praised you / or come up to you IRL about your videos?
Luckily, I don’t get too many haters, maybe as my content is largely wholesome? *laughs*
Once incident stands out, though. At a party, a stranger told me she watched my videos and could add on to my input when we had a shared conversation with friends. I felt she already knew me, and appreciated how that allowed me to form connections quicker, like plunging straight into the deep stuff beyond small talk.
At another beauty event, it was especially heartwarming to see people come up to me, telling me they came down for the event specially for me and how much they enjoy and watch my content. That made my heart so full!!
Some folks also shared how they appreciated my coming out videos as it inspired them to do similarly in their life, and that’s very humbling.
14. Can you tell us one quirky, fun fact about yourself.
I’m allergic to Coca Cola haha.
15. What advice would you give to aspiring content creators?
Maybe this is cliche, but really, find your niche and voice! That’s what helps you stand out; I’ve a friend who does only Nerf Gun reviews and he is so targeted he gets a good following for it.
Also, be consistent and don’t be discouraged if your content doesn’t get good reception at first. These things take time and persistence. Lastly, I’d say not to pigeonhole yourself and try to enjoy your content creation so it doesn’t feel like work you have to do.
16. According to your videos, you’ve been apartment hunting. Why do you choose to rent?
For me, renting a place of my own is about peace of mind and relishing my individuality. When I stayed in New York alone or had my own dormitory in school, it was hard to go back home after as I felt reduced to a child. Work-wise, it made more sense too as home can be a little noisy with my brothers.
At first, my mum and dad were reluctant for me to move out, but they came around after they saw I had a clear, solid plan.
17. What are the top three criteria in finding a space for you?
Firstly, I’m looking for enough space, which is not easy to find as many places I’ve seen are small studios. Secondly, flow – where I can see myself doing my daily routine. A balcony would also be nice. Thirdly, convenience – I prefer it to be near the MRT and near to somewhere I can walk Noodles, my dog.
Brenda and her beloved dog, Noodles. Image credit: @wordweed
18. As travel is opening up, which country would you like to go, and why?
With Noodles, it’s not as easy to pack up and go, but I am going to KL next week! Looking forward to it after two years of no travel. It’s kinda like a spontaneous trip without much planning – just plain chillin’ so that we don’t have to deal with the stress of itinerary and checklists.
19. What job do you think you’d be in if you weren’t a content creator?
Maybe a playwright? I considered being a screenwriter for the film industry, as I really enjoy watching documentaries and maybe making ones in future. Particularly love Netflix’s Street Food, which featured this great crab omelette in Bangkok, and even had a Singapore episode which focused on traditional rice flour cakes and chicken rice.
20. Any current social issues you think deserve a greater spotlight right now?
Besides LGBTQ+ and harassment issues, which I’ve shared my views of on my platform, I also care about sustainability. Yes, it’s a big word and sometimes greenwashing (a surface marketing strategy of eco-friendliness done by organisations), can be performative. For me, I do try to support small-batch, local creators who do handmade, sustainable products – like Bamboo Straw Girl.
I believe we need a less stressful way of talking about sustainability, and if my reach can help, I want to be a bridge between introducing green ideas to people, so they can do further research and perhaps lead such a lifestyle on their own terms.
This post is part of our larger feature on content creators. If you’d like to be featured, or have a nominee in mind, please drop us a note at [email protected].
Cover image adapted from: @wordweed