Who is he: Founder of Dear Straight People
Coming out can be a daunting, almost frightening, process for many in the LGBT community. That feeling is amplified even more in Singapore where there is still a long way to go before the nation can achieve true “equality”. However, Thailand-based Sean Foo and his online publication Dear Straight People have been hard at work giving queer folk in Singapore a voice to be heard and to help them in their journey toward self-acceptance.
1. What are some of your hobbies?
I have very ‘basic’ hobbies lol. I enjoy watching TV shows and movies, going to cafes, and having a night out on the weekends.
2. What did you do before starting Dear Straight People (DSP)?
I was in my final year of University when I started DSP.
3. What do you miss about Singapore?
The thing I miss most about Singapore is the sense of home and comfort. As much as I love living in Bangkok, Singapore is still my home and it always will be.
There is a warmth and familiarity that Singapore provides that cannot be found elsewhere. It’s the simple things like not having a language barrier, having a similar way of thinking, or knowing that in Singapore, I have decade-long friendships that I can always fall back on.
4. Where is one underrated place in Thailand that tourists have to visit?
The Ancient City! It was a bit out of the way but it was very much worth the trip; I spent almost an entire day there and I had a lot of fun there.
Ancient City is this massive museum park that features replicas of many of Thailand’s most famous landmarks. I had a lot of fun learning about the various Thai monuments and taking photos of the many archaeological marvels there.
Maybe I was lucky but it also wasn’t crowded when I went, which I really appreciated.
5. Three words that people use to describe you:
Different people have very different impressions of me but I would say that the one thing everyone will agree on is that I’m direct.
6. Three words that you would use to describe yourself:
Direct, ambitious, and independent.
7. What led you to start DSP, and what is it that you do there?
I remember chancing across a blog post about self-acceptance from an openly gay Korean American named Dustin Sohn. As someone who struggled a lot with self-acceptance, his coming out story really spoke to me and that was what inspired the direction of Dear Straight People; to tell stories of the LGBT+ community.
One of my biggest regrets in life is wasting 10 years of my life trying to be someone that I’m not. So I hope that the stories told through Dear Straight People will help others in their journey to self-acceptance.
I am the sole founder of Dear Straight People so I do everything there lol.
8. Who are some other content creators that inspire you?
There is no single content creator that I look up to in particular.
I draw inspiration from everyone. Good content can come from anywhere and I follow some pretty lesser-known content creators.
9. What was the most memorable moment in your career?
Image credit: Sean Foo
That would be producing Getaway since it is easily the most ambitious project I’ve ever taken on.
10. How do you deal with haters?
Image credit: Sean Foo
I block them.
11. Have you had anyone come up to you about the coming out stories and if it has inspired them in any way?
I’ve received many private DMs and emails over the years from people who were inspired by the coming out stories I’ve written. People also come up to me in person to tell me that they follow or enjoy my work.
12. Aside from Dustin’s story, were there any other inspirational coming out stories that you were proud to help tell over the years?
Two stories come to mind.
One is my feature on Gillyn & Jolyn. That story became really viral and it even got picked up by some Chinese media outlets!
Image credit: Gillyn & Jolyn/Dear Straight People
But virality aside, I really liked how uplifting the story was. It was almost like a fairytale, and I remembered feeling very moved when I was writing their story. I also thought it was quite well-written lol.
The second is my feature on Faliqh and Kaal.
Image credit: Dear Straight People
There isn’t a lot of positive gay Malay media representation. The visuals of Kaal’s mum having a meal with Kaal and his partner in particular, is particularly powerful and significant.
13. What was the inspiration behind creating Getaway?
I’ve always found it interesting that boys love (BL) dramas, which have become the most popular form of gay media representation in Asia, do little to reflect the gay experience.
I’ve also found it peculiar that BL is a genre that straight people connect with, and my goal has always been to produce LGBT+ centric content to reach the masses.
So I saw it as the perfect opportunity to tell a story to raise visibility and understanding of Singapore’s LGBTQ+ community in a genre that appeals to both straight and LGBT+ people.
14. How would you describe Getaway to people who are unfamiliar with the boys love genre?
Like all BL dramas, the heart of Getaway is really the romance between the two protagonists, who are polar opposites of one another.
But the thing that really sets Getaway apart from other BL dramas is that it serves as a form of insight into the ‘gay experience’, as many parts of the story were drawn from my personal experiences, as well as those of my friends.
Reading the many positive reviews of Getaway praising the series for being hilarious, relatable and authentic has been both heartwarming and reassuring.
15. What was going through your head in the moments leading up to the premiere of Getaway, and how do you feel about seeing your labour of love out there?
In all honesty, I felt like puking the entire day leading up to the premier.
The last time I was this nervous was when I published my own coming out story. But this was even more nerve-wracking because while I have been creating LGBT+ content for years, this is the first time that I’ve made myself so visible.
The fact that Getaway has my creative fingerprints all over it (producer, scriptwriter, actor) made me even more nervous because if the reception was bad, I don’t think I could ever recover from it lol.
Thankfully, reception to Getaway has been generally positive so far so that has been a huge relief. That said, the positive reception does put pressure on me and I continue to worry about whether people will like the upcoming episode(s).
16. What were some of the challenges you faced when producing Getaway?
Behind the scenes at producing Getaway.
Image credit: Sean Foo
In all honesty, everything was a challenge. I knew going into it that it was going to be a challenging experience, but I grossly underestimated just how stressful it was going to get due to my inexperience.
I was deeply involved in every aspect of Getaway from start to finish. But everything from producing to script-writing to fundraising to acting was a new endeavour for me. So my lack of experience definitely made everything extra challenging.
That said, producing Getaway was a priceless learning experience and I’m really grateful that everything panned out in the end. If we get the opportunity to do a second season, it will definitely be a much smoother process because I now know what to expect.
17. How was it like acting for a big production like this? Was it your first time?
Acting was the thing I was the most stressed about, so I actually got Steven [David Lim] to conduct acting workshops for the cast before the actual shoot.
When Steven insisted on not over-rehearsing us during the workshops, that was very hard for me to take as I’m someone who over-prepares in general.
In retrospect, Steven was of course correct and if I get the opportunity to act again, I would let loose more so that I can enjoy the process a lot more.
18. Were there any parts of Getaway that were inspired by true events?
Getaway is not autobiographical by any means, but many parts of the story were drawn from my personal experiences, as well as those of my friends.
Some lines in the coming-out scene, for example, were actual lines from my own coming out experience with my parents.
19. Do you have any advice for those who are struggling to come out of the closet?
Everyone’s situation is different but if I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.
20. If you can share one thing you wish straight people would know? “Dear straight people, I wish..”
Image credit: Sean Foo
Social media isn’t reality.
There is a growing sense that the LGBT+ community no longer face discrimination due to the pro-LGBT sentiment you often see on pop culture and social media. But what you see online isn’t a reflection of the lived experiences of many in the community.
Likes and shares are really just that: likes and shares.
Watch Getaway on YouTube
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: Sean Foo